The study of modern human origins and evolution is a multidisciplinary endeavor that closely integrates data from the fields of archaeology, biological anthropology, geochemistry, geochronology, geology, and paleontology. In order for today’s students to become tomorrow’s leading researchers and teachers, they should be trained in the most up-to-date field and laboratory techniques and taught how data drawn from diverse sources are integrated. The Middle Stone Age REU Site in Ethiopia will engage undergraduate students in an investigation of the time period from 40,000 to 90,000 years ago in a region with archaeological sites that preserve the stone tools made and used by these ancient humans, the remains of the animals that they hunted, and a record of past climates. The foraging behaviors practiced by these ancient humans facilitated our species’ migration out of Africa during this time interval.
Students will be recruited from a mix of two- and four-year colleges and participate in web-based seminars and conferences that will provide multi-disciplinary training before they begin their field, museum, and laboratory studies. Students will learn how to design research projects that emphasize data collection and analysis. Students will design a research project, carry out data collection and analysis, and present their results at a national meeting and prepare an article for publication. This project includes:
- Training in various disciplines and field and lab techniques during the fall semester webinars;
- Approximately one month of field work in Ethiopia starting in late December and concluding in late January. Depending upon the student’s winter and/or spring semester class schedule, the student might miss one or two weeks of classes at their home institution. Students will reside in a fully-staffed tent camp and excavate MSA archaeological sites, conduct pedestrian surveys, and learn a variety of field techniques. Living in a foreign country and different culture has both its challenges and rewards. The work can be tiring and involves physical labor under hot field conditions. Each US student will be partnered with an Ethiopian student for peer-to-peer learning. All students will participate in a brief one or two day community development project that will likely center on making improvements to the local village school.
- One month during the following summer of either:
- research with archaeological or paleontological materials at the National Museum, Addis Abba, Ethiopia; or
- research in a US laboratory in:
- archaeology (Univ. of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR; Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick, NJ; Univ. Texas Austin)
- geochemistry (Southern Methodist Univ., Dallas, TX)
- chronology, including amino acid racemization, cabon-14 dating, uranium-series dating (INSTAAR, Boulder, CO; Illinois Geological Survey, Champaign, Il; Univ. Texas Austin); or
- archaeomagnetism (Univ. Texas Austin)
- Presentation of research results at a US national scientific meeting in the following fall.
The timetable will cover approximately one calendar year:
– May-June: application due, and selection of students begins
– Fall semester: students participate in weekly web-based seminars
– Late December to late January: students participate in field work in Ethiopia
– Summer: one month of museum work in Ethiopia, or one month of research in a US lab
– Fall: presentation of research results at a national meeting.
For US students, the project will pay for all expenses* associated with the field work, museum or laboratory research, and travel to and participation in a national meeting. In addition, students will receive a stipend for their month of field work, and month of museum or laboratory research.
*Students are responsible for providing their own passport and paying for any required inoculations and medications. They must also carry their own health insurance.
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