Personal Statement - Archaeology and Anthropology 5

Archaeology and Anthropolgy Personal Statement 5

I admit what first drew me to archaeology and anthropology as a child, was watching films like ‘The Mummy’ and ‘Indiana Jones’, but my interest grew and I began to investigate further. I am particularly interested in how human skeletons reflect the society in which they lived. I am fascinated by the inferences one can make from bone markers and cemeteries, such as levels of nourishment and infant mortality rates in that society. The context of bones can also be used to show social attitudes of the time. For example, during my time at Silchester, we uncovered remains of infants in a gravel layer suggesting they had been discarded without proper burial. This would imply that infant deaths were not uncommon. One possible explanation is that the availability of medicine was low.

Through investigating these subjects I have begun to see and appreciate the diversity of present and past cultures. My study of philosophy has helped me begin to grasp the absolute necessity of, and difficulties with, cultural relativism, particularly in social anthropology when participant observation is used as a research method. By this I mean the ethical issues that arise when immersed in a culture with fundamental beliefs and ideas differ radically from our own. A hypothetical example would be if a culture practised something one deemed unethical, animal sacrifice for example. It becomes much harder for the researcher to be able to remain objective about that culture when personal ethics may prevent them from full participation. Although I have not done any anthropological field studies, my time excavating at both Silchester and Marcham has left me with an excitement for physical participation.

My work on excavations, such as Silchester, has not only taught me many practical skills, like how to trowel and set out a quadrat, but also the great importance of keeping meticulous records and accounts of artifacts found, significant changes in soil and visual evidence of possible structures. This point has been impressed upon me on further research into museum artifacts for my Independent Research Report, entitled ‘Should museums return the artifacts in their possession to their countries of origin?’ I found that many objects, particularly those that may have come from collectors, were given to museums with little or nothing known about their provenance due to a lack of record keeping. Therefore, these artifacts become almost meaningless as nothing can be inferred from them. The frustration of finding an artifact on the spoil heap, out of context, was deep rooted at both of the digs I attended.

For me, it seems clear from the articles I have read recently, both in magazines like Current World Archaeology and journals like Antiquity, that there is an enormous interdisciplinary overlap between topics such as archaeology and anthropology and that, depending on the situation, these may be linked to further disciplines like chemistry, economics or even engineering. Through this extra data it can then be possible to make further conclusions around the find - for example the material it is made of compared to materials found on site gives clues as to whether the object was brought to the site or made at the site. This could indicate either trade routes or that the site had skilled artisans capable of producing the find. I feel my experiences so far in subjects such as chemistry can help in the future in the interpretation of finds as it gives me a foundation in isotopic analysis which can be used to find out where people grew up, how old finds are or even what the main constituents of a person’s diet were.

I also volunteer at a care home near my school which has taught me how much societies can differ in generations through changes in cultural influences such as war, music and dominant ideologies. I also enjoy a range of other activities including singing and sailing; which led me to be lucky enough to participate in Cowes week over the summer.

 

 

Universities Applied to:

  • Oxford University (LV64) - Offer (AAA) Firm
  • University of Exeter (VL04) - Offer (AAB) Insurance

Grades Achieved:

  • Biology (AS/A2) - A
  • Chemistry (AS/A2) - A
  • Philosophy (AS/A2) - D2 (A*)
  • GPR (AS/A2) - D3 (A)