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Eckerd Professor and Students Excavate Archaeological Site in Thailand

posted on 09/26/2013

This summer, six Eckerd students accompanied Associate Professor of Anthropology Scott Burnett, Ph.D., on a five-week archaeological trip focused on the excavating of the site of Promtin Tai in central Thailand. The site, which spans both historic and prehistoric periods, was used as a cemetery during the Iron Age. The primary goal of the project was to analyze human remains and mortuary goods from the site to reconstruct human health and behavior in the past.

EC Prof. Scott Burnett and Katelyn McGlynn '14
Prof. Scott Burnett and Katelyn McGlynn '14 excavate a rhino mandible

Professor Burnett, along with Thanik Lertcharnrit, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Anthropology at Silpakorn University, Bangkok, and Troy Case, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Anthropology at North Carolina State University, co-directed an international team consisting of 24 undergraduate and graduate students from the U.S. and Thailand. The six Eckerd students were Michelle Baldwin '15, Elise Barnes '14, Ellie Finkenaur '15, Katelyn McGlynn '14, Jess Mullins '14 and Meaghan Rondeau '15. This trip was the third field season to the site since 2009.

EC students Jess Mullins '14 and Ellie Finkenaur '15
Ellie Finkenaur '15 (foreground) and Jess Mullins '14 (kneeling in black shirt)

Elise Barnes '14, who is majoring in anthropology and minoring in biology, was one of only eleven students nationwide to receive the Jane C. Waldbaum Archaeological Field School Scholarship in the amount of $1,000 for summer research. Here, Elise shares her reflections on the trip to Thailand:

This summer, I spent five weeks in central Thailand excavating the archaeological site of Promtin Tai near the modern town of Lopburi. The field school we attended, which focused on the historical and Iron Age components of the site, was a collaborative effort with undergraduate and graduate students from Eckerd College, North Carolina State University and Silpakorn University in Bangkok. As one of six Eckerd students who accompanied Dr. Burnett on the trip, we acquired basic excavation and laboratory skills. While we weren’t able to completely excavate the few burials we found, we did find the most isolated human bone fragments of any other season. We also found some large animal remains, including a Javan rhino jaw and several crocodile teeth.

EC Elise Barnes '14
Elise Barnes '14

Despite the disappointment in not finding more complete skeletons, the experiences that I had and the skills that I gained while in Thailand are something I will never forget. It was extremely rewarding to work alongside Thai students and learn more about their culture. We also had the opportunity to see parts of the country. We visited temple ruins in Ayutthaya, one of the former capitals of Thailand and a city deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Khao Yai, where we explored the national park that was full of wild elephants, gibbons and macaques.

After the field school ended, Dr. Burnett and I traveled to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand where we spent one week collecting data on a documented skeletal sample at Chiang Mai University Medical School. My senior thesis will be based on the data I gathered to measure the wrist bones of 100 individuals in order to determine their gender more accurately.

Before attending Eckerd, I never thought I would have the opportunity to visit Thailand. While other colleges may offer the opportunity to travel, a student may not know the professor before going on the trip. In my case, I had the advantage of traveling to Thailand with a professor with whom I had taken several classes.

The faculty-student mentor relationship that I have with Dr. Burnett is something unique to Eckerd. He has dedicated countless hours to helping me achieve my goals and pursue my interests by guiding me through every stage of this endeavor, including: helping me choose a research topic, reading grant proposal applications, assessing data collection, and now, editing my thesis. Dr. Burnett goes far beyond his required job of teaching to help students like me excel and gain more experiences in the field.

Eckerd emphasizes the strong commitment by faculty to mentor their students by giving each student individualized attention. I am extremely grateful for everything that Dr. Burnett and Eckerd have done for my education.

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