Student Notebooks

Blackfriary, Ireland: Sawyer

August 5, 2015

Hello, I am Sawyer Boigenzahn from Mondovi, Wisconsin and I am a student here on the Blackfriary site. I currently am attending St. Mary’s College of California finishing up my undergraduate degree in anthropology with an emphasis on archaeology. I am also studying communications with a focus in cinematography. I am really interested in religious orders and how they operate.

I was discussing with a professor about finding opportunities to get field experience and she mentioned that the AAA website would have various links I could follow. It led me to the IFR website which in turn led me to the Blackfriary. I loved how there was an emphasis on bio archaeology, and in a context that I can’t really get back in the United States. It also has an emphasis on religious orders and the archaeology around them. That was something that was really important for me in my choice of a field school. I made my decision and I arrived to Ireland with goals in mind. I want to gain an overall knowledge on how to properly excavate human remains in different contexts, especially an inhumation context. I want to also become familiar with how to handle disarticulated human bone as well as how to properly refer to the burials. The public always seems to refer to skeletons by nicknames but I want to learn how professionally handle these types of excavations.

I have been here three weeks now and I am thoroughly enjoying the experience. So far I have been working on excavating architectural features along the front of the church. I also was helping with a graveled surface which I found difficult to excavate as it was very fragile. Towards the end of my second week we began to excavate another trench. It has been speculated that it may or may not be a drainage ditch (but honestly to me it looks just like a collapsed wall). The choice of stone is particularly interesting as it is not the type I have read would be used for a drainage ditch. I have really enjoyed planning the medieval pathway. It was hard at first but once I was shown what I ought to look for it became easier. It’s really cool to be able to try and visualize what the church would have looked like back when it was being constructed. As we are excavating more and I am being exposed to history lectures and interpretations of the site it is amazing to think that these people didn’t live on dirt floors, but shaped the contours of the earth to suit their needs for a civilized and elegant structure (for example the medieval pathway I was able to help with). I am really looking forward to helping excavate a full inhumation, partial burial, or even disarticulated human bone.

My experience up to this point has been very positive and fun! The staff here are excellent at training you and helping correct any mistakes you make. It is very comforting to know that everyone here is really good at their job and know what they are doing so they are definitely qualified to assist you. Even though my time here hasn’t come to an end I already know that I want to come back. My goal at the moment is to gain more field experience while I am away at school so that I can return as a student assistant. This experience has been worth every penny I spent and more. Everyone on site is really passionate about the work being done here and I am honored to be a part of that work.

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