Pepper Heimann has been accepted into and fully funded for an 8-week field school this summer titled, Archaeological Investigations of Colonial Maryland. This program is a collaboration between St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) and the Maryland Archeological Conservation Lab (MAC Lab). The goal is to provide anthropology undergraduates experiences in archaeology including the latest scientific and methodological approaches to fieldwork, artifact curation, materials analysis, curatorial interpretation and public engagement with scholarly content. This is part of a National Science Foundation funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF-REU).

The Archaeological Investigations of Colonial Maryland program is an ongoing collaboration between chemists, archaeologists, historians, and museum curators from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab. Additional funding, mentorship, and scholarly interest comes courtesy of Mrs. Nancy Dodge: the current owner of the former West Ashcom plantation at the Cremona Estate, Mechanicsville, MD.

Our summer 2023 project centers on the West Ashcom plantation. Established in 1651, West Ashcom is a veritable time capsule for the colonial lifestyle, oppressive institutions and all. Undergraduate interns, myself included, will engage with traditional excavation methods, such as shovel test pit (STP) surveying, alongside novel mapping technologies, such as drone photography. In the lab, interns will chemically analyze artifacts with the latest in characterization technology, including Infrared Spectroscopy and X-Ray Fluorescence. Undergraduates can expect additional training in artifact curation and museum studies as well as a $4,800 total stipend, housing coverage, meal coverage, travel coverage, and (if they so choose) course credit.

I caught wind of the AICM program through our department’s BannerWorks. At the time, I was doing research with Dr. Robert Phillips via the Teacher-Scholar Program and balancing coursework in my major classes. Even then, though, the summer 2023 project seemed like an incredible opportunity. I sent my application, which cited coursework I’d done in the anthropology program, my ongoing research with Dr. Phillips, and my brief career at Ball State’s Applied Anthropology Laboratories, with tempered expectations. Imagine my surprise when I was selected! I was one of only twelve applicants accepted into the program nationwide.

For undergrads, I can’t stress this enough: look for research opportunities outside the classroom! I would’ve had no chance at AICM without my archaeological training and Teacher-Scholar experience. Humanities majors can (and should!) reach out to the Applied Anthropology Laboratories and the David Owsley Museum of Art ASAP. Internships and undergraduate research will put you a step ahead of your coursework and make you all the more attractive to grad schools, employers, and future collaborators.

AICM is about more than career-building, for me; it’s about history, scholarship, and equity. For all the mythos and glamor of colonial America, what do students, Ball State or otherwise, really know about daily life in the 17th century? While I’m ecstatic to excavate West Ashcom for its own sake, I’m most driven by a curiosity for yesteryear and a critical eye for misinformation. If our research, this summer, can make crystalline our understanding of colonial life and, more specifically, the stratified world of 17th century Maryland, I can call it an assured success.


For more information, please visit the Ball State College of Sciences and Humanities for more information and read more of the accomplishments of past students!