Anthropology Field Notes

University of Delaware Anthropology Fieldwork by students and faculty

Relocating My UD Studies and Myself to Jordan During a Pandemic

Madeline Sizemore, a UD student majoring in Anthropology and Political Science and minoring in History and Global Studies

Last December, after a harrowing year of politics and pandemics, I decided that I wanted a fresh start to 2021. So, a couple of days after submitting my last final, I boarded a plane to Amman, Jordan. My father works at the American Embassy here in the heart of Jordan, which means that I am one of the few lucky people able to relocate during this pandemic. Since all of my classes next semester are online, I used this opportunity to create a sort of DIY study abroad for myself since my original study abroad program in Prague had been canceled, postponed, and then canceled again. However, these things tend to work out for the best and I am now enjoying my time in a country and culture almost as old as humanity itself!

Madeline (right) traveling to Petra

Beautiful architecture carved into the cliffs of Petra

COVID-19 has made it difficult to fully embrace my new home, but I have already had the pleasure of exploring part of this beautiful country during my short time here. As an anthropology student, it is nearly impossible for me to experience travel outside of an anthropologist’s point of view which can be considered to be a blessing or a curse depending on your viewpoint.

Just a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the famous city of Petra, an archaeologist’s dream. Although my studies focus mostly on cultural anthropology, I found myself acting like a wannabe archaeologist, crawling into dark caves and climbing over large piles of boulders to try to spot all the evidence of the past left behind. I can assure you that Indiana Jones references were not spared. I also had the pleasure of having tea with a Bedouin woman in her tent (socially distanced, of course). Although the language barrier was something of a limiting factor, I was happy to learn more about the traditional culture of the region, including an intensive course in tea drinking etiquette on which I probably deserved a C+.

In the coming months, I am looking forward to applying the knowledge that I gain from my online anthropology courses to the real world around me so that I can further enrich the time I spend here. In a time of so much disappointment and uncertainty, I am grateful for the chance to put my tuition money to good use in my attempts to use what I have learned from studying anthropology to understand and explore the rich culture and history that Jordan has to offer.

Switching Summer Research Gears During Global Pandemic

Amy Ciminnisi, UD Student of Anthropology, Museum Studies, Women and Gender Studies

This year in 2020, everyone’s initial summer plans flew out the window, and mine were no exception. Last semester I was named a Plastino Scholar and was supposed to conduct short-term fieldwork in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this summer. Unfortunately, due to safety concerns and UD’s temporary restriction on university-funded travel, I had to postpone my time in Malaysia until winter break or after I graduate. Thankfully, it was relatively easy for me to switch gears and find an opportunity for the summer. I applied for and was selected as the Non-Profit Management Intern for the New York International Children’s Film Festival! Since June, I have researched and tracked hundreds of funders for grants, written Letters of Inquiry to foundations for education programming, learned to use Salesforce to track membership campaigns, and aided in researching new membership benefits to accommodate NYICFF’s virtual programming during the pandemic.

Here’s a link to the festival page It’s very much behind-the-scenes!

Changing Summer 2020 Social Services Internship

Sam Side, UD Anthropology Student

This summer I initially had an internship with the Delaware Department of Social Services.  Originally, I was  supposed to be helping social workers and seeing what they do on a day to day basis, but since COVID, we had to go virtual. I transitioned to aiding the Delaware libraries with their job center and helping people develop resumes and find jobs.   The pace is slow since not many people have been making job spot appointments due to many different reasons right now.  But it has been interesting to go through resumes and think about what skills make employees desirable to employers. It is also interesting to see how people are going about finding jobs or changing their careers during a pandemic.


Northampton Furnace- Day 13, Nov. 22

Our last class in the field!  We focused on finishing Test Units 4 and 5, but the weather did not cooperate.  The rain came early and the temperature dropped.  Despite the miserable conditions, we excavated Test Unit 5 below the demolition layer finding a few nineteenth-century artifacts and several rodent burrows.   By the end of the day, we finally located the bottom of the foundation wall in the south half of the trench (Test Unit 4).  Only one mortared course remained. The foundation wall seems to have been disassembled and robbed of stone from the interior.  We also finished digging shovel test pits to the north and east of the structure finding a mix of eighteenth and nineteenth-century artifacts, but we did not find any features. Unfortunately, we were not able to wrap up all the excavation and documentation that day.  Therefore, we came back on November 26th and finished the remainder of the mapping and photographing before backfilling the last units.

The south half of TU 4 looking north showing the mortared stone wall

Finishing mapping the trench in the cellar hole.

The well-camouflaged stone wall of the “corn house.” The foundation stones are covered in green moss.

Even though the fieldwork was finished, the students successfully presented the preliminary results of their hard work at Hampton National Historical Site on December 7th.   Over the winter and early spring, we hope to analyze the recovered material culture and write a report detailing of our findings.  Stay tuned.

Thank you to all the field school students and Brittany Bednash who helped to write this blog.  Please contact Adam Fracchia ( if you want to find out more about the project or have any questions.

The hardworking 2019 field crew.


Northampton Furnace- Days 11 and 12, Nov. 8 and 15

We reached the bright orange subsoil (a non-cultural soil layer) in the north half of the trench (Test Unit 4), but no wall.   The excavation of the south half of the trench unearthed a range of artifacts, including a slate pencil and nineteenth-century ceramics.  We finished the excavation of the Test Unit 3 and began the slow process of mapping and photographing the unit.  In Test Unit 5, we excavated several layers of soil with several interesting artifacts like a stoneware marble and a lice comb fragment before finding a demolition layer of stone and mortar.  To the southwest of the dwelling, we also found another wall feature which likely corresponds to the “corn house” depicted on the 1843 Barney map.

West wall profile of the north half of TU 4 (left side) and TU 2 (right side). The mortar and rock layer is visible just below the sign board as is the bright orange subsoil.

TU 3 showing the north and west foundation walls

A slate pencil found in the south half of the trench, TU 4

Demolition layer in TU 5

Northampton Furnace- Day 10, Nov. 1

We resumed excavating the trench, finding several slumping layers of soil but no wall.  One of these soil layers contained a large amount of small mammal bone.  Unfortunately, we failed to find any artifacts within the small builder’s trench in TU 3 that could help us date the stone wall. We also documented evidence of extensive rodent activity that has mixed soil layers even at the base of the foundation wall. To explore the wall further, we opened TU 5 on the other side of the stone wall.   We hope this unit will explain the nature and sequence of the structures.

Stone foundation wall of the dwelling

Artifacts from TU 3

Northampton Furnace- Day 9, Oct. 25th

The weather finally changed from hot and humid to misty and mild. We had an appropriate haunting hike through the fog to the site just in time for Halloween.  Our shovel test pits have not yielded any trace of buildings or artifact concentrations. The excavation of Test Unit 2 and the trench continued, along with Test Unit 3. We continued the search for the foundation wall in Test Unit 4. In Test Unit 3, we possibly located the builder’s trench along the west wall, a pit in the southeast quadrant, and subsoil along the north and east walls.

Misty hike to the site

Excavating Test Unit 2 and the Trench

Northampton Furnace- Days 7 & 8, Oct. 11 and 18

We continued to excavate Test Unit 3, with the intention of finding the floor of the dwelling and the builder’s trench. These features did not appear within the unit, however we did find a fragment of an iron fork, along with slag, glass, ceramic fragments, and nails.  The unit had a mix of eighteenth and nineteenth-century material culture.  We believe the mixing of these artifacts is due to the rodent activity in the unit.

In Test Unit 2, we were unable to locate the foundation wall.  Instead, we located a possible pit for a post . Within Test Unit 2 we found nails, thimbles, scissors, mortar, plaster, slag, ceramic fragments, bricks, and animal bones.

To cover more surface area and aid in the efforts of locating the foundation wall, we started to excavate a trench (Test Unit 4)  just south of Test Unit 2 and leading into the cellar hole. Within the trench, we found many animal bones, nails, glass and bricks.

Beginning the excavation of the Trench, Test Unit 4

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