Team searches for socio-economic differences in Arrow Rock excavation

Friday, October 7, 2011
Indiana University graduate student Amanda Rollins gets a tip from Peter Warnock, Ph.D., on how to best scrape the side of the latrine wall for remains Friday, Oct. 7.(Sarah Reed/Democrat-News)

They took samples from a clean face of the latrine in hopes of finding high-quality preservation of remains.

Led by Peter Warnock, Ph.D., of Missouri Valley College, a team of archaeologists returned to an excavation site in Arrow Rock to further study diet and disease on the American frontier. Amanda Rollins, a graduate student at Indiana University, scraped the face of the soil and sifted it into small plastic collection bags. If the feasibility study goes well, the group can return to do a project on a larger scale.

Ideally, after the group examines pollen and parasites from the latrine site, they hope to research differences between lower and upper class residents. The research is an extension of the work begun by Timothy Baumann, Ph.D., who is the curator of collections at Indiana University. He's a former MVC associate professor of archaeology.

Missouri Valley College students take turns examining a latrine site in Arrow Rock Friday, Oct. 7.(Sarah Reed/Democrat-News)

"Having the opportunity to work in a town with the historical significance like that of Arrow Rock is advantageous to our students ... ," Warnock said, as the project provides hands-on fieldwork experience.

His team of students from MVC and Leicester of the United Kingdom collected fragments and sifted through earth to closely determine any findings.

Parasite remains from archaeological sites could address questions of past behavior and environment, according to Karl J. Reinhard of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In "Parasitology as an Interpretive Tool in Archaeology," (American Antiquity, 1992) Reinhard states parasitology research laboratories were established in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Warnock has analyzed materials from latrines dating to approximately 587 B.C. excavated from Jerusalem. He's also studied diet and disease from areas such as Israel and early Colonial Philadelphia, according to a recent press release.

The MVC team has focused on studying materials from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Slaves and lower class citizens most likely used the Arrow Rock excavation site. The team hopes to compare their findings to other socio-economic groups who resided in the area.

In addition to this research, Warnock heads MVC's Pigs and Yams Society -- which promotes anthropology and cultural interaction at MVC. The society offers an atlatl competition before each home football game. An atlatl is a prehistoric projectile weapon. Two hours prior to the game, participants can test their skills with the dart-thrower at a cost of $1 for three throws.

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