Field Experiences Give Anthropology Student Important 'Suite of Skills'

As her grandmother would say, Kathleen Forste has spent her years at the University of Cincinnati playing in the dirt and digging square holes.

A student in the

Department of Anthropology

in the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, Forste thinks there is truth to her grandmother’s sentiment, but believes archaeology is more than child’s play. To her, digging in the dirt is like digging into the lives of ancient peoples.


“My interest in archaeology is an offshoot of my interest in history. I’ve always been fascinated with Egyptology and the splendor of finding things from thousands of years ago that we haven’t seen since,” Forste explains. “I like discovering things and putting pieces of the puzzle together.”

Since she arrived at UC from St. Ursula Academy in Cincinnati, she has worked nonstop on those puzzle pieces, studying for her bachelor’s in anthropology and a certificate in

geographic information systems

from the Department of Geography. In her four years, Forste has completed her coursework (she graduated this quarter), and gallivanted around the globe in the name of research.

Not only did she participate in a field study with Anthropology Professor Ken Tankersley at

Shawnee Lookout Park

in Cincinnati, she completed two field opportunities with Professor Alan Sullivan in Arizona and one in Albania with Professor Susan Allen.

“Field experience is a required component of archaeology,” Forste says. “It’s a growing experience because you get out of the classroom and you get involved with pertinent, ongoing research. There’s a lot to be said for that because it opens all sorts of doors for you.”

In 2009 and 2010, Forste worked with Professor Sullivan on his

Upper Basin Archaeological Research Project

in the area just south of the Grand Canyon.

Forste has completed field experiences in Ohio, Arizona and Europe.

Forste has completed field experiences in Ohio, Arizona and Europe.

“In Kathleen’s case, after excelling in our required introductory courses, she identified and took advantage of every field-based research opportunity for undergraduates we offer,” says Sullivan. “For instance, with a

Taft Undergraduate Enrichment Award

, Kathleen was able to participate in two seasons of my archaeological research project in Arizona, becoming an expert in applications of GPS technology and its integration with other advanced geospatial utilities, such as GIS.”

Between her Arizona expeditions, Forste found the time to travel to Albania with Professor Allen for her

Southern Albania Neolithic Archaeological Project


“In this work, Kathleen is helping with the analysis of macrobotanical remains that we recovered from the early Neolithic site of Vashtëmi, Albania in 2011,” says Professor Allen. “In addition, she is working with me on the analysis of materials from a diversity of combustion features from a second site dating to the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1500 BC).”

Forste adds, “Albania is in the corridor of migration from the Middle East to Europe, so the idea is that the site we’re excavating right now is one of the early areas in southern Europe where there were domesticated crops.”

The Albanian archaeobotany research differs greatly from the GIS work in Arizona, but Forste was able to use her previous field experiences for data collection in the new region. "It was good to hone my skills. I got a lot better at orienting myself, taking more concise field notes, and describing the archaeological phenomena."

While still sifting through data, the Albanian research team is already in the beginning phases of drafting a paper to present at the Society of Ethnobiology in May that will be co-authored by Forste—a major feat for an undergraduate. She is also collaborating with graduate students on a paper about research findings in Arizona.

“Publishing is both exciting and terrifying,” Forste says with a laugh. “It’s something new for me, and I’m really glad they offered me the opportunities to work with them.”

Since earning her BA winter quarter, Forste is continuing her education at UC in

anthropology’s 4+1 program

, allowing her to get her MA with just one more year on campus.

But leave it to Forste to pack as much into that year as possible. She is already planning another trip back to Albania with Allen this August.

“I’ve taken away many things from anthropology, but the archaeological field research has given me a very important suite of skills,” Forste says. “It’s exposed me to different types of archaeology and the differences that can be found in the archaeological record across the world.”

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