Taraco Archaeological Project
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Sarah Paterno

Liberal Arts Major: Anthropology, Psychology
Minor: Biology
Hometown: State College, Pennsylvania
Experience Time: Summer 2022

Give us a brief summary of your experience?

I spent two months this summer working on archaeological excavations at the site of Chiripa in Bolivia. The project investigates the nature of the transition to agriculture in the Taraco Peninsula during the Early Formative Period (1500-800 BCE). Additionally, the project investigates the role, if any, of climate change in this shift to agriculture. I assisted with stratigraphic records with Harris Matrices, artifact collections, dry screening, and total station coordinates. I also spent time assisting in community outreach to initiate other excavation projects around Tarija, Bolivia.

How did this experience impact you academically?

I gained more thorough familiarity with artifact identification and Harris Matrices, which I think are skills that improve mostly through hands-on experience. Additionally, I learned how lithic analysis is carried out, which improved my understanding of the different lithic artifacts and how they are made. I also kept frequent and thorough notes throughout fieldwork on stratigraphy, events, features, and artifacts, giving me an overall bigger-picture-view of how all of our excavations worked together.

"This project has taught me how archaeological research is carried out, and I believe it has prepared me for continuing research at a graduate level."

How will this experience impact your career goals?

I intend to continue studying archaeology through graduate school. Additionally, I will be assisting in bone isotope analysis using bones collected from this project, to further my learning beyond just fieldwork. This project has taught me how archaeological research is carried out, and I believe it has prepared me for continuing research at a graduate level.

How has the College of the Liberal Arts helped you to find and/or succeed in this experience (e.g., adviser, faculty, staff, enrichment funds, etc.)?

Dr. Capriles-Flores, a professor in the Anthropology department, is a co-director of the Taraco Archaeological Project. I took his course last fall on Andean archaeology and then traveled with him to Bolivia for this project. His course provided the foundational knowledge on the region and provided this opportunity for fieldwork. I worked primarily with him throughout the summer, along with the two other co-directors from other universities. Dr. Capriles-Flores and his family provided a lot of safety and support throughout the whole experience. I also received enrichment funds through the College of Liberal Arts which supported me financially, especially for visits to other sites such as Tiwanaku, Padcaya, and Yunchara.

For more information on internships for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.


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