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Steinke really digs it!

By Staff | Jul 13, 2012

RHS 2005 alumna, Stephanie Steinke, has been digging in the dirt again and she loves it. And, by the way, dirt is called sediment.

Although her undergraduate work was done in classics and religion at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, she got bit with the archeology bug in college and has never looked back. She is currently working on her second master’s degree in history at UND. The first master’s degree she earned was a master of arts in Greek and Roman archeology from Newcastle University in England. Her long term goal is to be a college professor.

However, she is busy now gathering data for her master’s thesis and recently returned from an archeological dig in Israel. Steinke has been on several digs overseas; Greece, Romania, Israel and Egypt to name a few.

How does one find an archeological dig to go on?

“Usually, it’s through universities, but I found this latest one from the American Institute of Archeology,” said Steinke. ” I applied and was accepted.”

Since she is working on a master’s degree she asked the project manager if she could use the data gathered on the dig for her thesis and it was agreed she could.

Steinke first discovered the opportunity to go on archeological digs when she was in college and once she participated in a dig she was hooked.

Her days on the latest dig began at 4 a.m. when the participants got on the bus and drove to the site. They would dig until 5 p.m. with a popsicle break at 11:00 a.m., lunch at 1 p.m. and a nap or swim from 2-4 p.m. At 4 p.m. Steinke and the others would wash the artifacts, usually pieces of pottery. The pieces or, in some cases, whole pottery intact (very unusual) were identified and tagged as to what site and square they were taken from. When they finished that task, they ate supper and went to a lecture on the topic of the day.

“Pottery is super important,” said Steinke, who talked about what the participants were looking for. “We checked to see if it was coarse ware for every day use or fine ware for special occasions.”

The type of pottery can tell the researchers whether the family that used it was well-off or poor. Sometimes the inside of the pottery is sent to a vessel lab and examined to try and discover what trades there were by the residue left in them.

Their group of archeology students was focusing on the early bronze habitation. When they first get to a site, they create open squares, in this case about 20 of them. They establish elevation which is very important for their data.

Steinke said she found nothing in several digs she has participated in, but in Israel she found an intact vessel. In fact, the researchers found 16 intact vessels which surprised them.

“We have no idea what they are doing there,” said Steinke.

Perhaps they will find a small part of the mystery for future researchers to build on. Steinke truly loves archeology digs.

“I like it when I can almost feel the people that were there (so long ago),” said Steinke.

She cautions about going into this field of study unless a person just loves it. Depending on what particular interest a person might have, there are very few jobs in archeology and the ones that exist don’t pay well, according to Steinke. She adds that if someone is really interested they should check it out.

“If anyone is interested in North Dakota archeology, the oil fields are presenting opportunities,” said Steinke.

When she graduated from Rugby High School in 2005, she never dreamed that her life’s journey would lead her to where it has. She is in the process of opening her own travel business, Capstone Travel.

“Something has to pay the bills while I am going to school,” she said with a laugh.

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