Aspiring archaeologists get hands-on experience in Haiti, St. Croix

Student News

When Tia Williams unearthed a rusty metal fragment during an excavation of a former Danish slave plantation in St. Croix this summer, she wasn’t sure what she’d found.It was a 19th-century Danish West Indies coin—one of the key finds discovered during a four-week field expedition that gave a select group of Howard University undergraduates hands-on archaeology experience.
“I was working some distance from the remains of the slave cabins, sifting by myself, when I found it,” recalled Williams. “I didn’t know it was a coin, but they were all excited. They told me it was really special.”
Williams seems to have a knack: She also found the remains of an 18th-century ceramic tobacco pipe that bore the mark of its Dutch manufacturer.
Williams was one of four Howard students who were part of a unique multi-university expedition funded by the UC Office of the President’s UC-HBCU Initiative, which is building partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Organized by J. Cameron Monroe, associate professor of anthropology, the internship is part of a concerted effort to attract the “best and brightest” prospective graduate students to UC campuses, said Monroe.
“UC really needs these students—they’re bright, socially minded students who are interested in culturally relevant questions,” said Monroe, who is involved with several programs focused on diversifying the field of archaeology. “They’re going to go to graduate school at Harvard, Yale, Princeton—wherever they want. This is UC’s opportunity to try to attract them here.”
Williams and her classmates spent four weeks in the field—two students spent two weeks in Haiti with Monroe before joining their classmates and UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow Justin Dunnavant in St. Croix. The internship included an additional week on campus, where they cataloged and analyzed some 2,000 artifacts they discovered. Each participant left UCSC with an ongoing research project they will pursue this …

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