Our summer field school provides training in archaeological excavation techniques through the exploration of unique historical and cultural landscapes in Rhode Island and South Carolina. Previous sites have included St. Giles Kussoe, the New World plantation established by English lord Anthony Ashley Cooper in 1674, and an 18th century plantation owned by British merchant George Rome.
The field school has three primary goals: To train students in fundamental archaeological field methods and excavation techniques, to have students work closely with experts to tackle a real-world research project, and to show students how the past is related to the modern cultural experience of different regions through historic preservation.
My goal is for students to see how archaeology can help us to appreciate the complexity of our history. I want them to see that many parts of the colonial landscape survive to this day, and that we need to preserve and explore these remnants to tell the full story of our shared past.
Dr. Jon Marcoux, associate professor
Gretzky was interested in the field school long before she became a Salve student. She had a prior interest in archeology and felt it would be an influential learning experience.
Gretzky’s field school was based in South County, Rhode Island. She recalled discovering a silver-plated spoon at one of the units where they were conducting digs. “It was so different from the nails and pottery shards that we had been finding,” she said. “It was really neat to discover.”
The field school cemented Gretzky’s interests in the field of cultural and historic preservation, and she plans to eventually pursue a graduate degree in anthropology. “No matter where I end up, archaeology will be a part of my life,” she said.
Gretzky said the field school is an experience that anyone with an interest in archeology or preservation should pursue. “It is a lot of work, but there is something very satisfying about getting into the field and putting all of that theoretical knowledge into practice,” she added.
Kilroy said the field school was one of the reasons she chose Salve. “I didn’t want a program that was all classroom and lecture based,” she said. “With the field school, I was able to get out of the classroom and get my hands dirty.”
Kilroy’s field school was based in Charleston, South Carolina. During their experience, students were given the opportunity to learn and employ different survey methods. “We had a routine and regular schedule, but every day was different because we never knew what we would find and in what direction the dig would take us,” she said. The students also utilized equipment such as the cultural and historic preservation program’s drone to help them in making new discoveries.
Kilroy particularly enjoyed the tour of the Charleston Museum, where students had the opportunity to visit the museum’s archives and were introduced to the processes of conservation and interpretation. “Seeing the end result of archaeological projects gave our own field school a broader context and enhanced the overall experience,” she said.
McNeill’s field school was based in Charleston, South Carolina and focused on Charles Towne Landing, the site of the first English settlement in the area. The team used ground-penetrating radar to determine which units to examine further, and spent their days measuring units, digging through layers of soil and taking careful notes of their procedures and discoveries. “The excavation process was done very meticulously and required step-by-step documentation and attention to detail,” McNeill said.
McNeill recalled the team finding their first feature where they believed an old post may have previously been located. “To a passerby it probably just looked like dark patches in the soil, but that was the first evidence of life and culture that we found, so I was really excited,” she said. The team also found items such as pipe pieces, nails and pottery shards during the course of their time in Charleston.
“To excavate actual cultural artifacts is an experience I honestly wish everyone could have,” McNeill said. “I don't think I can recommend attending field school enough.”
Vargo-Willeford participated in the Rhode Island field school, where she joined a team of students in excavating units to uncover and record various artifacts. She specifically enjoyed learning first-hand from Marcoux. “It was a lot of fun to interact with a professor outside of the classroom and in their area of work,” she said. “Dr. Marcoux really works to help you learn about and understand the processes.”
The field school has helped to sculpt Vargo-Willeford’s educational path. “I thought I wanted to go more into preservation and architecture, but after the field school I found that I really loved archaeology,” she said. She recently participated in a second field school program through the University of Pennsylvania.
Vargo-Willeford said she appreciates the diversity of the digs and encouraged students of all backgrounds to explore field school opportunities offered at Salve and beyond. “Even if you're not looking at archaeology as a future career, it is still something that gives you new skills, experiences and knowledge,” she said. “Taking part in the field school was by far the best decision I have made during college.”