all photos Cassandra Corrado/Catalyst
New College Professor of Anthropology Uzi Baram teamed up with Time Sifters Archaeology Society to host the Archaeology Fest on Mar. 17. The event was spread out from the Anthropology Lab to the front of Cook Hall, where several organizations set up tables, interactive displays and games to spread knowledge of archaeology. The event is one of many across Florida that are a part of Florida Archaeology Month. The theme for this March’s archaeological events is Civil War education and its connection to archaeology.
Baram, who serves as the Director of the Public Archaeology Lab, hopes that events like A Day at the Lab — which was geared toward children — and the Archaeology Fest will increase community involvement with archaeology, as well as with New College and its students. Although Baram spearheaded the project, he said he could not have done it alone.
“Sherry Svekis is our part-time Lab Supervisor, and if she weren’t helping there would have been no way that this event could have happened,” Baram said. “She called the organizations and made sure that everything was in order, and was a huge part of putting the event together.”
The organizations that Baram and Svekis brought together included most of the local historical organizations in the Tampa Bay area. They also brought individuals including a representative of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Willie Johns. Johns made a speech about Seminole history during the Civil War and its connection to archaeology. He hopes to see the success of a project to bring Seminole skeletons dated to the Civil War back to Florida. Currently, over 60 skeletons are at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Baram told the Catalyst that he was encouraged to begin work with public archaeology by the work of three alumni.
“They were all really interested in working in public archaeology, and when the Anthropology Lab was built it became much easier to do outreach projects,” he said. “It’s good for the students and for the community — it’s one thing to read about public archaeology projects, but when you’re in front of someone and they ask a question and you realize you have the answer, that’s a different thing. And it’s beneficial for the community, because they get to learn about a fairly underrepresented subject.”
It was observed by many that the event garnered more attendees than the previous archaeology event, A Day at the Lab. There were 22 student volunteers working the Archaeology Fest and several dozen people circled through the exhibits throughout the day, despite the early hour of the event. The increase in support for public archaeology showed Baram that his goal is being achieved — that archaeology is becoming a subject of interest for not just a few people, but the larger public. Baram hopes to see more events like the Archaeology Fest happen throughout the year, but it is a matter of funding.
“I want people to see that this is a worthwhile subject area to support, and not just some enigmatic field,” Baram told the Catalyst. “At an event like this, people get to work with others who are knowledgeable about whatever exhibit they’re working with. There is a lot to take away from the organizations that are here, not only for the community visitors but for the students and other faculty here as well.”