Archaeology Lab

ANP 476: Internship in Anthropology


In the summer of 2015 I took ANP 464: Field Methods in Archaeology and in the fall of 2015 I took ANP 476: Internship in Anthropology. This internship allowed me to attain real life-learning experience in the field of Anthropology. Due to this, I was able to gain several hands on skills, which will benefit me in my academic and future career. The skills and knowledge that I have gained has given me the opportunity to conduct my first research at MSU and on maker’s marks.

After ANP 464, the bags of artifacts were taken to the Anthropology and Archaeology Lab for cleaning. Along with the other students, I learned to carefully wash and handle the artifacts. Although it may seem very simple, careful handling is very important so small artifacts do not get lost or misplaced with others. By cleaning them we were able to determine the type of artifact it was; particularly important when it came to sorting and bagging them. It also made it easier to write the accession number on them.

Accession number is a unique number given to a specific collection of artifacts; it is written on the artifacts and bags. It starts with the year, site number, bag number and then level. It is helpful in two ways:

  1. When an artifact is misplaced and needs to be put back in the correct bag.
  2. Cataloging artifacts and bags into the system; in our case an Excel document. When looking for a particular artifact or bags of artifacts, the Excel document makes it easier to locate what level and bag number it is in.

Aside from washing the artifacts, I learned how to identify them based on the type of materials they were. Some of the artifacts recovered were:

  • Nails
  • Metal wires
  • Window glass fragments
  • Lab glass fragments
  • Ceramics (with and without maker’s marks)
    • Stoneware
    • Porcelain
    • Whiteware
  • Buttons
  • Shells
  • Bricks

Among the different artifacts, ceramics were the hardest for me to identify. Lisa helped me learned how to identify them based on the thickness and whether they were glazed or not. Also, some of the ceramics had maker’s marks and designs on them, which was what my research focused on. Therefore, by learning about ceramics I was able to apply it to my topic.

Maker’s marks, also known as backstamps, are how companies mark their products.



This ceramic was manufactured from Charles Ahrenfeldt Limoges.

After washing and identifying the artifacts, I had the opportunity to learned how to label, bag, and catalog them. By sorting them together (e.g., buttons with buttons and lab glass with lab glass) I learned how to sort and bag them into the correct bag size. I learned what the accession number meant and where to write them on the artifacts. This allowed me to make sure that I was not writing them on top of a marker’s mark or design. This was important because writing them in certain areas of the artifacts could affect future research. Also, when taking a picture of the artifact, by writing the accession number on the side or even with a tag you are not writing on an area that might be important or present in the photo.

Cataloging was among the hardest duties in the lab. Finding the vocabulary to describe the artifacts size, shape, and color was difficult but it was a challenge worth taking. Although I’m still learning, I’ve become descriptive and detail oriented than before. However, what I enjoyed about cataloging was being able to examine them closely to make sure we weren’t missing any designs or letters. For example, writings or designs on glass fragments were difficult to see unless they were large and apparent. For some, I had to hold them up into the light to discover the writings and designs, if they had any.

I learned how to handle, identify, label, bag, and catalog the artifacts. I was able to use these new found skills in my research focusing on the collection of maker’s marks found on fragments of ceramics. This was another positive outcome of the internship applicable to my attendance in the field school to the lab and research.