Student Blog: Poster presentations and reflections from the last week!

The students left last Saturday from the program, and everyone has been taking some time to rest. We had a great last week of the program with some osteology and QGIS workshops, but mostly working on final posters and preparing for presentations.

Mustafa and Katey reflect on some of the last week:

“Sleep was perhaps the hardest thing to come by in the last week. Most of us had our data and were interpreting the results; that is no easy task when your results tell you two very different things. However, some of us who were using isotopic analysis were still waiting on data! Waiting for data as the poster-presentation drew closer taught us one very stressful lesson – research is unpredictable, and you can best prepare yourself by being flexible. Thankfully, the data came just-in-time and our isotope-students breathed a sigh of relief as they plotted their graphs, and their posters were printed.”


Students work together to identify teeth in an osteology workshop


Madi shows how she made a map of the Greek colonies on Sicily using GIS after a QGIS Workshop by Meagan Duever at the Digital Humanities Lab


Ashley confidently presents her teeth identification skills during the post-program osteology exam


Students took a post-program osteology exam in the morning on the last day to showcase everything they learned this summer

After a busy week of workshops and final data collection and analysis, it was time for the poster symposium! The students practiced their talks in front of the whole group Thursday afternoon and took the feedback from that experience to practice even more!


Mustafa presents his summer research on dental histology at the poster symposium


Katey points out an important figure on her poster to describe how isotopic values are interpreted to discuss diet in past populations


After presentations, visitors mingled with students to learn more about their research projects


Ashley explains her project to Dr. Susan Tanner from UGA


Victory photo after the poster session!


We truly had a great group of researchers this summer!

We wanted to take time in our final blog post to acknowledge the efforts of those who helped make our projects, and this program, a success! Although the success of each student’s independent research project was a focus of this program, the research experience and professional development were at the program’s core.

First, we would like to thank our Italian collaborators for their hospitality and for making the data collection process productive yet a learning experience for us. Next, we would like to thank the staff and faculty at the University of Georgia for their panel discussions, workshops, lectures and continuous support that not only taught us skills we will carry forward but led to the eventual success of our projects. Then, we would like to thank the graduate students who worked with us on this program. Starting with Carey Garland and April Smith, who worked with students (Mustafa and Ashley, respectively) on their projects during our time at UGA, helping with data collection, interpretation, and the posters. Next are Elijah (Eli) Fleming and Katie Reinberger. Eli, we thank you for your help in bridging the language barrier in Italy, the lectures, workshops, presentation, and for helping us with data collection while ensuring that we learn from the questions we ask. Katie, you have been with us from day 1! Thank you so much for your lectures, workshops, and presentation. But more importantly, thank you for troubleshooting, helping with this blog, printing the posters, being a supportive mentor, and for all the small tasks you did that we didn’t notice. We appreciate you!

Finally, we want to thank our project directors and mentors. Dr. Reitsema and Dr. Kyle, thank you so much for being supportive and wonderful mentors. Our research interests, critical analysis skills, data interpretation, and level of writing are far better leaving the program than they were coming in – all thanks to the two of you! From the moment we submitted our first research proposals, they encouraged us to think broader, read more, and write better. You challenged and pushed us to become better scientists while providing us with the skills necessary through the various workshops you conducted and organized that helped us succeed in our projects. We are so grateful for your efforts and are lucky to have role-models like you.

With gratitude,

Mustafa and Katey


Student Blog: Eating and dancing? in Athens

While everyone is sad that we are only a week from the poster symposium and the end of the program, the students have been keeping busy in their free time exploring Athens, GA for delicious food and some of the fun, local events. In the lab, we’re working on extracting collagen from as many samples as we can and analyzing as many teeth as possible in the last few days. Students have had some workshops on how to write scientific abstracts and put together posters in preparation for next Friday’s symposium. Everyone is looking forward to the opportunity to share their research and project results with the UGA community and the general public!

Athens, Georgia is the epitome of a college town. It is wonderfully tailored to the life of college students and we are extremely grateful for that. During the week, we spend most of our time on campus. We travel between the anthropology labs, the libraries, and varying other labs such as the Georgia Electron Microscopes Lab and the Center for Applied Isotope Studies for our projects. The equipment and mentors available in Athens immensely help in the success of our projects.



Ashley works on the SEM for her project on microwear


We eat most meals in the dining hall with other REU students, UGA summer camp participants, and, most recently, the incoming Freshman class on campus for orientation. At peak meal times, the number of people can be overwhelming, but it’s worth braving the crowds for the occasional sweet and sour chicken day. All-you-can-eat meals help sustain us through long days of lab work and data analysis, but luckily Jittery Joe’s coffee shop is open on campus in case we need an afternoon caffeine boost!

During the weekends, we explore the city, typically using our local guide, Katey, who is a student at the University of Georgia. Some of our favorite weekend activities include going out to eat, going to the pool at Katey’s house, and shopping at some of the cute boutiques in Athens. One of our favorite restaurants to eat at on the weekends is The Grit, which only offers vegetarian and vegan options. Also, they have a dessert called “Chocolate Death” that is as delicious as it sounds.


Another one of our favorite adventures was our trip to an aerial dance studio, at which our graduate student, Katie, has taken lessons for over 15 years! All of the students, in addition to Dr. Reitsema, Dr. Kyle, and the graduate students, took a class in the art of trapeze. The experience was amazing! We were taught some beautiful tricks on the trapeze and got to perform them to Mustafa’s killer playlist. The class gave us an opportunity to relax as a team and learn something together other than anthropology.



This past weekend we all ventured downtown for AthFest, an annual festival with vendors, local artists, and live music! Despite the heat and the high humidity, there were plenty of people walking around. After exploring the shopping tents from vendors in Athens, we ended our day by listening to a great local country band called The Tuten Brothers. AthFest was definitely a great way to end our second week at UGA!

Madison and Ashley



Student Blog: Living in the lab and the library

Students have been working hard with data analysis and submitting samples to CAIS for isotopic analysis. We’ve got a little over a week and a half left before our final poster symposium!

Adjusting to life in Athens was definitely difficult; especially without access to morning/midday/after work café! When we came back, we hit the ground running and all began tinkering with our personal projects and brainstorming what we needed to start putting them together. Some of us started work on isotopes while others spent countless hours pouring over books and papers. We also began attending an interesting array of talks held in Baldwin Hall. It ranged from hard science (such as dental micro-wear, dental histology, bioarchaeological basics, descriptive statistics, statistical applications, isotopic analysis, and ancient disease) to lessons on how to navigate the academic world (like writing cover letters and statements of purpose, applying and surviving through graduate school, applying to internships, field experiences, and volunteering).



Students work in the UGA Digital Humanities Lab in the library on data analysis

Most days, most of us have time set aside to work on our personal project as the poster presentation looms on the horizon. For some, that entails settling into the Digi-lab, located in UGA’s impressive library, and working on compiling, sorting, and finding meaning in my data. This means learning very many things about statistics and their applications in a very little amount of time. The results of the projects are still coming along, but everyone is having the same experience so it’s definitely a group effort. Becoming better scholars together has been such a privilege!


Being able to work in the lab has also been absolutely amazing. However, it requires a lot of patience and dedication. After being taught the many meticulous steps of how to extract collagen from the bone samples we collected in Italy, we have learned just how finicky these samples can be. Even so, we’ve become much more confident working in the lab and making some tough calls on when a sample is ready for the next step in the process. Thankfully, we are able to bounce our thoughts off of one another and come to a decision together. The three of us have come to work rather well together in this process, and have become quite the well-oiled machine when it comes to making acid changes, cleaning and rinsing samples, and checking the pH level of these samples once they have been put in the oven to dissolve.



Tom Maddox from CAIS shows the participants how the mass spectrometers work


While we have been exposed to the process of extracting collagen in our own lab, we had yet to observe how that collagen is processed for stable isotopes until our tour of the Center for Applied Isotope Studies. This UGA facility is home to one of the largest isotope lab in the country and one of its scientists, Tom Maddox, walked us through all it has to offer. After explaining how the mass spectrometers there are able to analyze stable isotopes, he showed us how this happens on the actual machines themselves. Being able to see inside of these machines was beyond cool. We’d say this experience was definitely one of the highlights of the REU so far, especially knowing how the work that scientists like Tom do actually incite policy changes and are used in everyday life. This tour sparked discussion about the paths of our own careers and how we hope that we too can change people’s lives.



Students learn about how the computer reads the information from mass spectrometers 


In the meantime though, you can find us in the lab or the library, fervently working on our projects.

Signing off,

Safaa & Autumn

Transition from the Field to the Lab

We all arrived back in the U.S. a week and a half ago, but immediately hit the ground running with the next phase of our work! We’ve been so busy with workshops, lectures, and time in the lab. Four of the students (Abby, Katey, Autumn, and Mustafa) will spend a lot of time at the Bioarchaeology and Biochemistry Laboratory doing collagen extraction for carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur isotope analysis, and dental histology. Ashley has been going to the SEM Lab (Scanning Electron Microscopy) for her dental microwear project. Madi, Safaa, and Keh are spending most of their time running statistical tests on the paleopathology data for their projects on childhood and adult stress at Himera. Below, Katey and Ashley recount their last week in the field and some of their excitement about the first week back in Athens.

With great sadness, we had to say goodbye to our wonderful Italian collaborators on June 9th. We truly could not be more grateful for our time in Italy. To finish the last week of our data collection in the field, us students worked dutifully to analyze as many individuals as possible. The last week we collected data from a few interesting burials, including ones that had been buried with unique material culture. Some of our favorite parts of the week included: creating casts of individuals’ teeth to take home for analysis and working hard to hone in a few of our different skill sets, like siding teeth and long bones, and putting those newfound skills to use. Casting is the process of making negative impressions of the tooth that will then be filled with a material, known as epoxy, that hardens to create a replica of the tooth surface. That tooth surface can then be studied to identify qualities of diet and health.We will miss nicknaming bones and teeth to help remember them better and then getting everyone else to call them by our nicknames: e.g. Nuchal crest = the nuke.



Autumn works with Norma on recording the wear on teeth


Our knowledge of human osteology, genetic traits on teeth and bones, and pathologies has grown vastly throughout our weeks in the field. We were even given the opportunity the last week in Italy to teach visiting students from a nearby archeology field school about what we do at Himera. The other archaeology field school was run by Dr. Bill Balco of the University of North Georgia. Last summer, the REU students visited his survey site at Monte Bonifato, so this year his students came to visit us.


autumn teaching

Students took turns teaching a different part of data collection in the field to Dr. Balco’s field school students


The past week and a half we’ve been very excited to get into the lab and begin the second phase of our REU back in Athens. Specifically, we got to learn how to use new equipment and procedures for our projects. The casts made in the field will be studied under a scanning electron microscope, that uses high magnification to take images of microscopic features on the surface of the teeth. These features will then be analyzed to determine what kind of food type created them. This can be insightful because diet of individuals is an accumulation of the daily activity of eating and can be insightful into the lives of past people.



Abby, Autumn, and Katey learn how to test the pH of their dissolving collagen samples 


Another way to study diet will be conducting collagen extraction on bones to us for stable sulfur isotope analysis to try and determine if there was fish consumption at Himera. The collagen extraction method we are using is new to all of us, which makes us excited to explore the new method and spend more time in the lab. As a group, we are looking forward to getting settled into life in Athens. Though we miss Italy dearly, it will be awesome to have access to steady Wi-Fi, the UGA library for books, and to be able to interpret all of the data we have been collecting for the past few weeks.



Mustafa looks at a thin-section of a canine under a microscope to see tiny enamel defects that may indicate a stressful childhood


We have been cherishing all of the memories from Italy. To name a few, our daily dose of Lorenzo, café crema, loving eye rolls from Norma and Giorgia, all the adventures to Cefalù, the view of the water from Prosit, the Italian Association of Patella Appreciation, and all the gelato. Our adventure still has lots to come, so stay tuned to hear more about our experiences in Athens.



Goodbye for now, Sicily!


Your resident tooth girl and nuke expert,

Ashley and Katey

Student Blog: Projects and Data Collection in Italy




Andrew Ward gave a great tour of Selinunte and colonial life in western Sicily


We had a trip to Selinunte on Sunday where we got a tour from Dr. Andrew Ward and learned about the Greek colony! Selinunte was destroyed by the Carthaginians around the same time as Himera, so it was interesting to learn about the similarities and differences in organization and history. We are going into our last week of fieldwork and are working diligently to collect as much data as possible before heading home on Saturday. Mustafa and Abby describe the student research projects below and what data collection has been like in the field.

It has now been over two weeks, and after studying over one hundred individuals from the East Necropolis we have learned much about daily life in the colony and the bioarchaeological research process. Although intense, this process is extremely rewarding and all of us have found it to be one of the most exciting experiences of our academic careers!








Dr. Laurie Reitsema and Ashley look for periostitis and other signs of stress on the long bones


For many of us, one of the biggest contrasts between the classroom and the field is the role that discussion plays in interpersonal interactions and our data collection. Coming into the program, we expected to be looking at skeletons and inputting responses independently. However, after working at the various stations on site we have found that in archaeological fieldwork, there are no ‘right’ solutions. Rather, we discovered the best approach is to work through and discuss potential interpretations with each other. Unlike a classroom, where independent work is encouraged (especially on tests!), in the field each of us is a component of a greater mechanism, contributing opinions and knowledge to the bigger project.



Students work with Dr. Britney Kyle on interpreting the teeth pathologies of this individual


Another favorite aspect of research at Himera is the active collaboration between our Italian and American professors. Whenever an intriguing find is discovered at a station, our professors will turn not only to the human bone manual (the Bone Bible) but to each other. The varying backgrounds and interpretations of our multinational instructors allow for engaging discussions that bring us one step closer to reconstructing life at Himera. Witnessing (and practicing) the differences in methodologies has been an excellent learning experience that has allowed us to critically engage with how we study humans in the past.



Nyakeh works with Dr. Kyle on biodistance analysis and identifying teeth


Earlier in our blog, we posted a photo of our view of the Temple of Victory, which was built after Himera successfully defended itself from the Carthaginian invasion of 480 BCE. Every day, the ruins of the temple remind us that the individuals we are studying are the people who called this land their home 2500 years ago. Having the opportunity to tell the story of the Himeran population through various bioarchaeological methods, while standing where they once stood, is an exciting yet humbling experience for us. This project involves each student pursuing an independent research project, that adds to our knowledge to answer the question: What are the biocultural consequences of culture contact between human populations?

But what does “biocultural” even mean? From what we have learned through our research and lectures (especially from our graduate assistant, Katie), a biocultural approach involves seeing human populations as both biological and cultural, with an understanding that the social influences we face are ultimately embodied by our biological characteristics (essentially, showing up in our skeleton). Each one of us has worked very hard centering this theory while designing our research projects; so, to end this post, we wanted to share with you our projects and the methods we are using to investigate them.

Note: Stress, in this case, is a physiological response that your body has to infection, nutritional deficiency, trauma, etc.

  • Abby is using isotopic analysis to understand weaning and childhood nutrition practices. Weaning is the process of moving a baby from a diet of milk to solid foods.
  • Ashley is studying microwear on teeth to test whether there is a difference between male and female diets, either resources or the way things were prepared. Microwear is essentially the scratches on your teeth due to chewing food.
  • Autumn is using carbon and nitrogen isotopes to learn more about the Greek diet at the colony and comparing it to other colonies in the Mediterranean.
  • Katey is using sulfur isotopes to test whether Himerans consumed marine resources; a subject of much debate in research.
  • Mustafa is looking at cross-sections of teeth to determine if individuals who survived into adulthood were more likely to have stressful childhoods, or if facing stress events during childhood meant that they would die younger.
  • Madi is also looking at stress markers in the skeleton to better understand if facing stress during childhood makes someone more likely to survive to adulthood or die earlier as a child.
  • Nyakeh is researching a variety of Greek colonies in order to compare how stress influenced the lives of colonists during the Greek era.
  • Safaa is looking at stress between three age groups to determine if more stress led to a lower age at death.

So, why are all these questions important? Stay tuned for a blog post on the significance of these questions in the next few weeks!

The students gave their elevator speeches in a public town square – even some local community members stopped to listen!

Sunburnt and full of carbs,

Mustafa and Abby



NSF REU 2018 in front of Temple E at Selinunte


Student Blog: Life in Italy on the REU



REU Field School 2018 at the Temple of Victory in Himera

Students are working hard in the field and becoming quite proficient in identifying bones and teeth. We’ve successfully completed a full week of data collection and are part way through the second, so we are getting into quite the groove. Most afternoons are free for students to work through proposals and read articles, but some days we have lectures and workshops right after work. Below, Nyakeh and Autumn have described some of their favorite parts of Italy and what they spent some of their free weekend doing!

What we soon learned about Campofelice di Roccella was that it was placed on a very large hill surrounded by mountains, and our legs have strengthened because of it while walking around town. On the way up to the town, the roads seem nearly vertical. Some of us have run up and down the hills for the past week, to run off some of the extra food that we have stuffed ourselves with at the local restaurant every night. There, we receive three courses for dinner. The amazing tastes of Sicily have treated us to superfluous amounts of pasta, pizza, and the crowd favorite panella: homemade chickpea patties.


Some of the students at their trip to Palermo

Campofelice has treated us wonderfully, but we were excited to explore some of the other cities. Francesco (our good friend and the son of the B&B host, Lorenzo) took us to Palermo, a very large city to see the university he attends, University of Palermo. After seeing the lecture halls and some of the buildings he spends his time in, Francesco then took us to the lunch at Trattoria Carpaccia, a seafood and pasta restaurant. We tried octopus and the main course was tortellini stuffed with spinach and cheese. We spent the rest of the day, exploring cathedrals, walking around the city, and shopping – enjoying all the sights, sounds, and tastes that Italy has to offer.


Students learned a lot about funerary customs at Himera from Matteo’s lecture and tour of the museums at Himera – here they look at a sarcophagus, one of the only burial structures not made from reused materials (many individuals were buried in reused pots or under old tiles)

This type of day isn’t exactly a typical day as a part of REU though. Usually, our day starts early in the morning with a hot coffee or tea made by Lorenzo. We adore the choices of croissants (cream, Nutella, jam, plain), but we do miss the American style breakfast some days! Once we’ve finished grabbing our morning fuel, we pile up into several cars and jet off to the field site, with Lorenzo and Francesco as our drivers. On our first Monday and Tuesday of fieldwork, we had the pleasure of listening to Matteo Valentino’s and Stefano Vassallo’s lectures and tours of the museum to learn more about their archaeological work on the site of Himera over the past several decades.


Students listen to Stefano Vassallo’s lecture and ask many questions about life at Himera and the history of the site

These talks, despite the language barrier (which we were able to overcome because of Eli’s spectacular translating skills), were vital to providing context to our own bioarchaeological research of the site. Monday afternoon was spent setting up our field site for data collection with Dr. Kyle leading the biodistance station, Dr. Reitsema conducting the paleopathology station, and our Italian collaborators Norma and Georgia running the skeletal analysis station.


Georgia, one of the Italian collaborators, works with Katey M. on identifying teeth

We have all started the process of rotating through these stations, putting our crash course on osteology at UGA to good use! While we were all a little hesitant in the beginning of the week with identifying bones and teeth, we have slowly gained confidence in our skills, thanks to the instruction of our leaders. The process of identifying bones, providing sex and age estimates of the individuals, and recognizing pathological signs on these bones can be difficult because of their poor preservation and our lack of experience with doing so. Thankfully, our eyes are becoming used to this process and we look forward to becoming even more skilled in doing this! Nonetheless, we have already identified our favorite bones and teeth, some of which you can find below!


Katie R. helps with data collection while Maddi identifies bone fragments and Keh studies the teeth of this individual

Mustafa and Autumn – Patella – this small lump of a bone known as the kneecap allows for the movement of the knee joint

Katey M. – Thoracic Vertebrae – mostly because it is shaped like a giraffe, there are 12 of them in your spine!

Abby and Katie R.– Scapula – this is your shoulder blade and has many complicated (but cool!) projections that allow for muscles to attach

Ashley – Upper and Lower M2 molar – these particular molars will be used in Ashley’s project to look at dental microwear, studying the scratches and pits that food leaves on teeth when people eat

Safaa – Lunate – this carpal (one of the wrist bones) is shaped like a moon and is often well preserved which allows us to look at osteoarthritis in the wrist

Ciao for now!

Autumn & Nyakeh


View of the Temple of Victory from where we eat lunch in the field


Student Blog: Orientation and Traveling to Italy!


View from the panoramic walkway at the edge of town

We have just finished our first day in the field and the students are extremely excited for what comes next. To learn more about our students this year you can check out “Meet the Students” to read their blog profiles. Here is the first student blog: written by Madison and Safaa, to share their experiences at orientation in Athens, GA and traveling to Italy. Today was the first day of three weeks in the field where students will get hands-on experience of collecting information from archaeological human remains. We’re looking forward to the rest of the summer!

Getting into such an interesting and competitive program is pretty exciting, so arriving for orientation was slightly nerve-wracking. My stomach was in knots when I made it to Athens, GA, but I started to feel better as soon as I met my fellow REU participants, and when we went to group dinner I immediately felt like we were all long-time friends. All week we hung out and ate so much amazing, local food, and each night we would congregate in a hotel room and get to work writing about our projects. It made orientation for the program a breeze, and I value the closeness that we have cultivated from it!


Alumnus Adam Kazmi presents on Himera in the ancient sources and his research from the 2016 season

During the week we learned about intricacies of the field, being culturally conscious abroad, presenting ourselves as scholars and how unique our program is; as REU participants, we are not field school students, but more like professionals in training. We also worked with our primary professors to create an independent project that draws on our academic strengths while also enriching our knowledge on parts of the Bioarchaeology of Mediterranean Colonies Project that we are learning more about.


Students receive an introductory lesson on osteology and how to identify and side human skeletal remains

While it has been slightly intense to conceptualize publishing a poster in an 8 week window, the clear instruction from the fantastic Dr. Kyle and Dr. Reitsema, along with the companionship from my fellow participants have been confidence boosting. We have all worked hard to have this amazing opportunity, and we can not wait to get to work in Sicily!

Our first leg of the journey to Sicily began with a shuttle from Athens to the airport in Atlanta. Once we arrived, we checked into our flight and checked our bags. From New York, we boarded our 8 hour-long flight to Rome, the longest leg of the trip. Luckily our flight had movies and games with which we could entertain ourselves in between naps and meals. From Rome, we landed in Palermo, Sicily and traveled by van to the town of Campofelice di Roccella.


Walking tour of Campofelice di Roccella

Traveling internationally is not necessarily something to look forward to—it is long and exhausting—but ending up in a town as beautiful and scenic as Campofelice made it all worth it. Then the hardest part began—trying to stay awake for the remainder of the day to avoid jet lag! Luckily, the graduate student assistants, Katie and Eli, offered to show us around town to keep us from napping. This town is definitely the perfect setting to do work!


Safaa and Madison

Anthropology NSF REU in Austin, TX!

We had an incredibly productive time at the 87th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropology from April 10-14th. You can check out the program here to see all the abstracts of the students from our 2017 field school. Two of our alumnae from 2016 also presented on other projects they’ve worked on! It was great to catch-up with our students and meet some of the 2018 cohort!

Research from the 2017 Field School:

  • Possible scurvy at Himera: a differential diagnosis of extensive cranial porosity. V. ERANEZHATH, B. KYLE, K.L. REINBERGER, L.J. REITSEMA, S. VASSALLO, P. FABBRI.
  • Identity in colonial Himera: An assessment of nonmetric dental variation between grave styles. A.R. POSTON, B. KYLE, L.J. REITSEMA, S. VASSALLO, P. FABBRI.
  • Examining the effects of early-life stress on mortality at Himera by analysis of enamel defects. S.A. BULL, B. KYLE, L. REITSEMA, D.H. TEMPLE, P. FABBRI, S. VASSALLO.
  • Sex Differences in Oral Health at the Greek Colony of Himera. E.B. DANELLA, B. KYLE, L.J. REITSEMA, S. VASSALLO, P. FABBRI, C. BATCHELDER.
  • Local or migrant? Insight into culture complexity using stable oxygen isotopes at Himera. C. VIOLARIS, L.J. REITSEMA, K.L. REINBERGER, B. KYLE, P. FABBRI, S. VASALLO.
  • Diet and Culture at the Greek Colony Himera. C. BATCHELDER, L.J. REITSEMA, B. KYLE, K.L. REINBERGER, S. VASSALLO, P. FABBRI.
  • Evaluating lead isotopes in Mediterranean paleomobility research: A case study in 5th c. BCE Greek Sicily. K.L. REINBERGER, L.J. REITSEMA, B. KYLE, P. FABBRI, S. VASSALLO, G.D. KAMENOV, J. KRIGBAUM.
  • Examining the Osteological Paradox: Skeletal stress in mass graves versus civilians at the Greek colony of Himera (Sicily). B. KYLE, L.J. REITSEMA, P. FABBRI, S. VASSALLO.BAUM.

Reserach by 2016 Alumnae:

  • Did Holocene Brazilian shellmound builders experience higher rates of trauma: a world- wide sample comparison. J.A. TYLER, M. HUBBE.
  • Biological and Cultural Influences on Caries Prevalence between Sexes among worldwide Skeletal Series. J.R. STAMER, K. MARKLEIN, M. HUBBE.

We are gearing up to start a great summer and are putting final touches on reserach projects and travel plans. Check back soon to see the student participants of the 2018 field school!

Final Student Blog: Data Analysis and Preparing for Presentations

Here’s the final student blog of the 2017 NSF REU Bioarchaeology Field Season! All of the students have been working incredibly hard to put the finishing touches on their projects. The presentations will be Friday afternoon before we say goodbye on Saturday! We have been so impressed with everyone’s work this summer and are looking forward to the great things these students will do in the future!

IT’S THE LAST WEEK AND WE ARE SO SAD TO GO! Whatever shall we do with our summer now that our REU is over??


The last week has been defined by sleepless nights, a lot of data analysis, and constantly working on abstracts and posters. By last Saturday, all of the students had received most of their data, which was quite the crunch time when everyone is trying to finish posters and abstracts this week. Let’s state the obvious here: data analysis is hard. You would think that the second that beautiful graph displaying data points appears that it’s all smooth sailing from there; that you could infer anything and everything from that one, simple graphic. Well, it’s a bit more difficult than that. You start searching through the preliminary articles you found, looking for the methods and ideas that they put together that will be useful to you. You make long lists in your notebook of helpful citations and constantly have at least seven tabs open in Chrome. But, as you keep sieving through your data and articles, you realize that you are the academic, coming to conclusive interpretations.


Vinu works on putting together a flow chart for his differential diagnosis project

But wait, there’s more!

As the program draws to a close, we have been designing posters to present our research to a general audience. Condensing our research process to a limited amount of space is challenging…maybe just as difficult as interpreting our data and thinking about the implications our findings have for understanding the ancient Mediterranean. It is, however, an immensely rewarding experience to produce a poster that represents the culmination of about two month’s hard work. After several rounds of revision by our advisors, we will soon be prepared to communicate our findings with the world! We are optimistic about how these presentations will go and are looking forward to practicing them Thursday.


Chrysanthi loads her samples onto the Gas Bench to be analyzed for oxygen isotopes

Near the end of the program, we have also had time to reflect on our experiences this summer. First off, we cannot express enough how rewarding and influential this program has been on all of us, regardless of what our interests were coming in and what experience we had before. It gave us all a chance to think about what we really like – and find difficult – about the research process and exposed some of us to opportunities in bioarcheology that would never have been available otherwise. We will all come away from this summer with new skill sets and a deep appreciation for researchers, scholars, and academics who do this every day (re: it’s hard).

We (Alex and Chrysanthi) would like wrap up this final blog post with a few words to thank everyone who were incredibly helpful in the second half of this program:

Let’s start with our wonderful and incredible advisors: Dr. Reitsema and Dr. Kyle. Truly, we could have not asked for better mentors and guides through this research process. The way they think, lecture, and offer advice has been an amazing resource to us. Not only that, but we feel as if we have built close relationships with extremely knowledgeable academics.

Next, is Katie, our amazing graduate student assistant. From osteology lectures to showing us around the Center for Applied Isotope Studies, Katie has been there every step of the way.


Alex, Simon, and Chelsea work together to identify features on the ulna during one of the osteology workshops

We want to say a special thank you to the scientists and technicians at CAIS who worked incredibly hard to help us get our data in time for analysis and the presentation.

We are filled with so much gratitude towards everyone that we have had the pleasure of meeting and working with this summer. We can’t wait to see where this experience takes us in the future (beyond Austin, TX in Spring 2018 for the AAPAs!).


Alex and Chrysanthi

P.S. special shout-out to Eli, we miss you!


Throwback to Sicily!

Student Blog: Life in Athens

We’ve officially gotten gelato and pasta out of our systems, and have gotten into a clear routine here in Athens. Currently, Chelsea and Chrysanthi are awaiting results from the isotope lab and Vinu, Alex, Simon, and Erika have officially conquered statistics in Excel! Abstracts and posters are the current priority right now. Late night writing and peer review sessions are back, reminding us of the first week of the program when we wrote our proposals. We have come so far since then, having developed so many lab and field skills, and an overall understanding and appreciation for bioarchaeology. It’s crazy to think we only have about a week left here, but we are taking in every moment we have here in Athens.


Dr. Kyle leads a lecture on statistical analyses

A typical day at UGA starts with waking up around 7 or 8 and grabbing breakfast at Bolton Dining Commons. Sometimes Chelsea and Chrysanthi leave breakfast a little earlier to take care of things in the lab, but most of the time we all walk from breakfast to the anthropology labs together. Those of us from smaller institutions marvel at the architecture and size of UGA but we sometimes wish it didn’t take 20 minutes to walk anywhere on campus. Our work day starts at 9 and includes numerous workshops from Drs. Reitsema and Kyle about bioarchaeological research methods, current challenging topics in anthropology, and ways of communicating scientific research to the public. We also partake in osteology workshops with Katie, ensuring that we don’t lose the valuable information we learned in Sicily. When we are not in workshops, we prepare samples for isotope analysis, or assemble the cast force (a team that makes teeth impressions and dental casts), and work on our individual projects. We have gotten into the habit of ending the workday with a bubble tea from downtown Athens.


Three members of the Cast Force assembled to finish casting all the teeth


Chrysanthi uses a mortar and pestle to crush the enamel samples into a fine powder before pretreatment

After quenching our bubble tea thirst, we return to our lovely dorms to continue working on our project or take a quick breather. The dorms are in an older building called Mary Lyndon hall and even have not one but two parlors! We usually eat dinner around 7 and come back to the dorms to work some more. Often we work in the parlors, where we have gotten to meet many of the other REU students who are also living here over the summer. Eventually we retire to bed where visions of lab samples and statistics dance in our heads.


Cheslea carefully checks on her collagen samples in the oven

On the weekend we enjoy a combination of both work and play. Chelsea and Chrysanthi head into lab some and everyone else works on analyzing their data. Since the dining hall isn’t open on the weekend, we get to explore the Athens food scene. Some of our favorite places have been Mama’s Boy, Trappeze, and Thai Spoon. After returning home after a delicious dinner we will usually hang out together, unless we decide to splash around in the fountain in the rain (which has only happened once so far). All said, Athens is an amazing place to learn in and explore, and we are so lucky to get to stay here!

Go Dawgs!

Erika and Chelsea