Blair explores archaeological excavation research

Caleb Blair is taking a break from baseball and homework this summer to excavate Illinois woodland sites in search of artifacts. 

Caleb Blair sorts artifacts from a dig site.
Caleb Blair sorts artifacts from a dig site.

The Cornell College junior received one of only ten research positions within the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates program at the Center for American Archeology in Kampsville, Illinois.

“My favorite parts have been getting to know all the other students I am working with, as well as actually getting to participate in an actual archaeological excavation,” he said.

Blair participated in the program from June 9 through Aug. 3 where he focused on a mix of geophysical surveying, archeological excavation, ethnography, and paleobotany to explore human-plant interactions across the 10,000 years of human occupation of the Illinois Valley. He says the research experience was very intense and required more than 70 hours of work a week, but it was well worth it.

“This opportunity means a lot to me, it is not only a chance to finally do real archaeological fieldwork, but it is also a stepping stone to get into a field school next summer that focuses on my personal preference for study, classical archaeology,” he said.

The archaeology and classical studies major from Dubuque, Iowa, also says he’s never seen geophysical surveying before, and he enjoyed trying it for the first time. 

During the final week of the program, Blair presented his findings to the public. He’ll also present research in October at the 2019 Midwest Archaeological Conference, Mankato, Minnesota.