I had my first opportunity to engage an undergraduate laboratory assistant and mentee this year through the University of Michigan's Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program. This awesome program provides first years at Michigan a year of credit and/or work study aid while they assist in ongoing research in one of hundreds of labs. I interviewed Senna Catenacci in September and even during that first meeting, I knew we would have a great year.
Senna learned the ins and outs of debitage analysis, from identifying flakes to ascribing the phase and tool type associated with each flake. Debitage is the term used for pieces of stone removed during the production of stone tools. Senna weighed, measured, and categorized nearly 5,000 pieces of lithic debitage from three late Holocene sites. I had excavated some of this material, but a good deal of the debitage Senna looked at came from collections held at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. These materials were collected through Section 106 cultural resource management compliance excavations and had yet to be categorically assessed. Senna completed hundreds of hours of important, painstaking work that allowed her to document subsistence behaviors via stone tool production at these sites using a combination of statistical and geospatial analyses. She presented her results in April at the UROP spring symposium, and hopes to continue her analysis next year with additional previously excavated collections.
I have learned so much from Senna. Her patience, hard work, and attention to detail were inspiring to me. Her astute questions always provoked new ideas and new conversations about Alaska, archaeology, and human behavior in general. Senna also helped me to become a better mentor and improved my ability to communicate complex archaeological ideas. I hope we can keep working together as I finish my dissertation research and and she pursues her bachelor's degree at Michigan.
Bree is an Alaskan Archaeologist and Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wyoming.