From the Field: Alumni Insights
This summer, two UWF alumni toured the UWF Archaeology and Anthropology Terrestrial and Maritime Field Schools. Here, they share their insights from the field.
By Patrick Mulhern, 2018 University of West Florida Graduate, B.A. Psychology
I had the privilege of witnessing firsthand what the students of the summer maritime field school have been working on underwater. Unfortunately for me, the visibility was about two feet in the water and I was unable to truly grasp and comprehend what Elaine, my guide, was trying to show me. I am impressed with the fact that each student diving in that kind of visibility is capable of maneuvering and working in conditions like that. Being submerged in a different environment and not being able to see perceive your surroundings takes a tremendous amount of patience, know-how, and skill in order to stay calm and collected to work at the dive sites these students have been working on all summer. After a little time in the water and after taking the advice from the divers' briefing, I took a second to breathe, think and then act in order to get acclimated to the environment I was submersed in. After defogging my goggles, I had an easier time allowing Elaine to show me areas of the grids the students were working on. I could tell that she was passionate about what she and her fellow students were studying in the waters. As she pointed out that I had just touched wood from a wreck that happened so many years ago, I was excited to be a part of the experience, for even a split second.
These students understand that the preservation of these sites is vital to the survival of these ships and the integrity of the sites for future investigations. I didn’t fully understand exactly what the students were doing in order to protect the sites, but they all understood what needed to be done and exactly how they were executing their mission. I want to give props to the divers because they were, again, working with such poor visibility in the water due to prior days' rain. Without proper training, I would not have been able to work properly under those conditions. Yet, these students seemed to be working with ease as a team to finish their jobs in the last days of the field school.
By Arthur DiNardo, 2017 University of West Florida Graduate, B.F.A Graphic Design
Through this experience, I was able to observe the UWF summer field school program, both on land and in the Pensacola Bay. Coming from a design and visually-based background, it was fascinating to see how human presence in the local environment affected the layout of the field schools. Seeing the solid structure of the research platform jutting out from the Pensacola Bay made me feel like we were visitors in an alien land. The platform would bob slightly with the waves, reminding us that the platform floor we stood on was only fleeting upon the waters, which have been here in perpetuity.
On a previous field school this summer, the excavation was on land, or rather it was in someone's front yard! Nestled in a quiet neighborhood was a plethora of archaeological evidence from what is thought to be part of the original Luna Settlement. With the cooperation of the residents, UWF students and faculty meticulously arranged a site in various portions of the property and took care not to disturb necessary infrastructure, such as gas lines or tree roots. They designed this effort ahead of time because the nature of their discipline is preservation, as reflected in the pristine measurement and digging techniques of these researchers.
It is through all of these efforts and years of study, by people from multiple disciplines, that they come together for the sole purpose of knowing the (historical) truth. This process speaks to a basic human instinct of curiosity. This whole operation is designed around its subject and setting, which isn’t something that is readily seen. It’s something someone discovers along the way.