Anthropology Students Get Glimpse of Limelight

While working last summer in the archaeological field school with Assistant Professor of Anthropology Ken Tankersley, undergraduate students were given an opportunity that included more than just digging around in their usual stomping ground at Shawnee Lookout Park.

The students could experience firsthand the filming of two documentaries at Sheriden Cave in Wyandot County that promised to run on two major cable television specials.

Tankersley, known for his work with documentary filmmaking, invited the students to participate in the filming of two separate documentaries: “History of the Earth,” a five-part series on the History Channel that will air in April, and

“Catastrophe: Survival Earth”

that aired on the Discovery Channel late last year.

“I told them during the summer we’d be working on several documentary films, and asked if any of them wanted to be a part of the process,” Tankersley said.

A number of the students jumped at the chance.

“I wanted to go because it sounded like a fascinating opportunity that doesn’t come up everyday,” said Tyler Swinney, a senior anthropology major who participated in Tankersley’s field school. “Not only was it a very fun experience, but it gave me more experience in anthropology as well.”

The students took the three-hour drive to Sheriden Cave on two separate occasions to sit in on the filming. The students went only on the premise of observing how the professionals film archaeological findings for a documentary, but when they were told to don hardhats and sit in as extras for the filming, the experience came to life.

Some students were recorded in a number of takes carrying buckets, shovels and other equipment up and down the cave stairs.

“Before, I was just watching documentaries and I never participated in them. Since this experience, I can understand the content more and see where the filmmaker is coming from. It gives me a better understanding of the whole process,” said Andras Nagy, a junior anthropology major who also acts as the president of Anthropos, the undergraduate anthropology student organization. Nagy drove up with Swinney and fellow field school student Megan Kaiser for the filming. “Being behind the scenes was great.”

The filming was a success for everyone involved. The film producers got their shots and the students got an experience they’ll likely never forget.

“I like when my students can learn by doing work in the field; it’s more hands on,” Tankersley said. “It sticks with them forever, as opposed to just having them regurgitate what they hear in a classroom lecture.”

The experience boded so well on the students, Nagy, Swinney and Kaiser decided to enroll in Tankersley’s Film and Anthropology class (ANTH 275) during fall quarter. They were able to put their summer experiences to use when they had to produce their own anthropological film. The students worked together to produce a 10 minute short titled “Legacy Lost” about archaeological looters who steal important artifacts.

“The class was very informative about the methodology of filmmaking as well as all the work that goes into making a documentary,” Swinney said.

“Going into that class with the previous film experience helped a lot,” Nagy added.

It must have. The group received an A on their film, and received praise from Tankersley as well.

“They were so outstanding and acted in a professional manner,” he said. “I’m so impressed and proud.”

Read more about Tankersley’s work:

'Our Future Is Literally in the Hands of Our Students'

Making 'History:' UC Prof Featured in New Cable Film on Climate Change

Anthropology Graduate Student Heads High, Low to Chronicle Film Process

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