Field School in Archaeology Pays Off in CRM

Samuel Sims

My very last act as a Kennesaw State University undergraduate was to fulfill my internship requirement. I chose to intern as a field technician at Edwards-Pitman Environmental Inc. (EPEI) over the summer. It was exactly the hands on experience that I was hoping to gain.

Edwards-Pitman is a cultural resource management (CRM) firm that works mostly in Georgia. Being in archaeology class you often hear about CRM and if you have Dr. Terry Powis, it comes up often, due to his background in the field. Dr. Powis’ field school is even CRM based and that gave me a small taste of what it is like. But I must advise you, doing actual CRM work is like Dr. Powis’ field school but in overdrive and turbocharged! This internship allowed me to see first hand what all the hoopla was about.

Being a CRM field tech can be very fast paced and is almost always rugged. You may be walking behind sound barriers which haven’t been visited by a human being since they were erected. Or maybe it’s rural Georgia and you must trudge through thick vegetation only to run into a stream you must fjord. Or perhaps you are walking along a noisy interstate, feeling the full force of the sun for several miles. I say all this not to scare anyone away, but to give a real sense of what the hardest parts of the job entail. On the flip side, there are easy days. Often, large portions of shovel test are in paved, developed areas and those are simply written off as undigable. Other times you have ample time to do all the shovel tests for the day and you take frequent long breaks. Regardless of the work situation, the crew chiefs are very considerate of your well being and take environmental conditions into account.  This summer was freakishly hot with regularly high humidity, so the crew chiefs were regularly checking in with their techs, taking regular breaks and making sure everyone was hydrated.

The vast majority of my time was spent in the field, but I did get a small amount of time to work in EPEI’s highly equipped lab. My work there solely consisted of labeling and inventorying artifacts from past projects. This is pretty tedious work, but it’s essential that it is done correctly to ensure that the artifacts are curated properly. Though lab work isn’t my cup of tea, so to say, but I enjoyed doing it as it gave me a greater appreciation for the work. It also is a bug free, air conditioned work space which was a nice break from the field!

One of the coolest things about working in CRM is that you are actively doing preservation work. I truly believe that work itself is of utmost importance and the folks at Edwards-Pitman share that value. It is nice to work in a crew of like minded people and have an accomplished feeling that you’ve done work towards the greater good. I really enjoyed working with people of vastly higher skill level than me. I had a suitable, albeit amateur, skill level coming into this, but it gave way to so many learning opportunities. It seemed like at every turn I had a question and there was always someone there with a good answer. There is also a decent amount of commingling of people with varying levels of experience and/or education in the field. Being around these people gave me hands on experience that is inherently lacking in a classroom.

When I changed my major to anthropology I envisioned myself doing work that looks very similar to being a CRM field tech and I must say I couldn’t be more satisfied with my experience, bugs, heat and all. Since my internship was the very last class I took, it felt very much like a
culmination of all my past experiences at Kennesaw State. My internship with Edwards-Pitman was the perfect, pretty ribbon to wrap up my college experience.

Edwards Pitman Environmental, Inc., Smyrna, GA

Jeffrey Roberts

Interning at Edwards Pitman Environmental, Inc. was an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Not only did I have the opportunity to work and interact with archaeologists from different backgrounds and with years of experience, but I also had the pleasure of experiencing the field that I have been studying from a totally new perspective. The lessons that I learned from my time interning at Edwards Pitman were vital to my development as a student of anthropology and archaeology. Cultural resource management plays an important part of Edwards Pitman’s main mission. However, with the knowledge that I have gained from this internship, I am more confident and better equipped to become successful in whatever profession my education leads me to.

Cultural resource management includes associated lab work. The processes of cleaning, identifying, organizing and cataloging are just as vital to the overall mission as the field work is. Much of it is tedious work that requires an attention to detail and patience. A typical day in the lab may start out with washing artifacts that were collected in the field. Some days it may be a few artifacts, and other days it may be a few hundred. From there, each artifact needs to be bagged, labeled and organized in a way to make it easy to find. This step seems to take up the most time. I found the most rewarding part of the lab to be identification. Identifying artifacts, whether they be historic or prehistoric, requires investigation, research and occasionally an informed judgment call. Sometimes there is consensus on the identification of an artifact and other times there is disagreement. Each person brings unique insight and experience when attempting to identify some artifacts. On a few occasions, I was able to identify objects that other archaeologists were unable to identify. This brought to my attention the importance of a variety of viewpoints and opinions when it comes to archaeology as well as other fields in anthropology.

I spent a large amount of my time at the internship in the field, assisting field technicians find and assess archaeological sites through survey and shovel tests. Field work isn’t for everyone because much of the work associated with CRM takes place on roadsides, in deep woods and along river banks. Hazards we typically saw on a random day included snakes, spider webs in the face, impassible ravines and cliffs, and more briars and thorny vines than any person should every have to deal with in a lifetime. The work can be grueling and during much of my time in the field, I worked in temperatures above 90 degrees. That being said, my time in the field with Edwards Pitman was among the most beneficial experiences I have had since I began studying anthropology. There are some things that cannot be learned in the classroom; things that can only be learned by experiencing it firsthand and CRM is one of those things.