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GS Student Unearths Medieval Skeletons on Archeological Dig

date:Mar 20,2013 source:互联网 editorial staff:linan clicks:

The School of General Studies of Columbia University is the finest liberal arts college in the United States created specifically for returning and nontraditional students seeking a rigorous, traditional, Ivy League undergraduate degree full or part time.

GS is also home to the oldest and largest Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program in the United States, the Joint Program with Jewish Theological Seminary, and the Dual BA Program Between Columbia University and Sciences Po.

On a hot summer day in Millau, France, in late July of 2012, GS student Leslie Quade was invited to exhume the remains of a juvenile human skeleton from the medieval era. Working at a dig site as one of only two undergraduates in a group of approximately 20 French anthropologists and archaeologists, Quade used trowels, paintbrushes, scalpels and dentist’s tools to carefully unearth the skeleton layer by layer.

Quade never expected her summer would include digging for human remains, but while studying abroad at Reid Hall as a part of the Columbia-Penn Program in Paris, she found out about a bioarchaeology workshop that was taking place in Grenoble, France. Though unable to attend, she reached out to the program’s director, Dr. Stephan Naji, a University of Bordeaux post-doctoral fellow, to see if she could volunteer in some way. After a long series of emails in which she explained her background and interests, Naji invited her to spend two weeks working in his bone laboratory.

“The agreement was that I would work in the laboratory, washing and analyzing previously excavated bones from the site. Despite my limited experience, however, I was invited to participate in the dig, and I jumped at the chance,” Quade said.

According to Quade, who is an Evolutionary Biology of Human Species major, the excavation team was eager to take time to guide her through the process.

“I was inundated with information about the study of human remains by my mentors, who were constantly quizzing me on specific bones. What made the preparation for the excavation even more challenging was that the information was communicated in French,” Quade said.

Exhuming a skeleton is no simple procedure. As Quade explained, one must find a way to remove as much of the dirt and stones that surround the bone pieces as possible, while leaving behind that which is holding the bones in their place. This is made even more difficult with a juvenile skeleton, whose bones have not yet fused, meaning that there could be as many as 100 more bones to excavate than with an adult. The idea is to methodically remove one layer of dirt at a time, taking photos of each layer, to provide future researchers with as much original information as possible about the position the body was found in.

“This information can help shed light on how the person was buried, the culture they came from, and maybe a little about the individual themselves and their specific role in society,” Quade said.

Quade’s experience has had a profound effect on her academic interests and will undoubtedly impact her future career as well.

“Exhuming skeletons is like a complicated puzzle. Prior to my time in Millau, I was more interested in the analytical side of biological anthropology. My experience was so gripping, however, that I have chosen to focus future study on juvenile osteology within the field,” Quade said.

The field site will be open again in the summer of 2013, and Quade has been invited to return to continue her work with Dr. Naji. She also hopes to be able to conduct research for her senior honors thesis in France with Naji in the 2013-2014 academic year.

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