Students Sift Their Way Through Anthropology Degree

By Frances Clause

Anthropology majors at Youngstown State University study culture, social relations, human biology and evolution to determine what it means to be human.

Matt O’Mansky, chairman of the sociology, anthropology and gerontology department at YSU, said learning goes beyond the classroom and students advance their careers with hands-on experience in field schools.

“Archaeology is not something a student learns in a classroom setting,” O’Mansky said. “I take anthropology students to different countries to perform archaeological excavating and field work, which is the most beneficial way to gain experience.”

O’Mansky teaches a range of anthropology courses, including “Ancient Mayan Civilization,” where students have the opportunity to travel to Guatemala.

“Students spend 10 days on this trip, traveling to big and small sites,” he said. “Different time periods in the Mayans history are explored, and students feel it is a rewarding time.”

Olivia Johnson, a YSU graduate and cultural resource management archaeologist, said Guatemala was her favorite trip and was thrilled from beginning to end.

“One of the most amazing highlights was climbing all of the structures and temples,” she said. “For the first time as a Spanish minor, I also got to practice some of my Spanish skills with someone who didn’t speak any English.”

Johnson also traveled to the Bahamas for the first time in 2015. The sites she worked on date back 600 years.

“O’Mansky and Professor Delvaux lead a group of students every December to San Salvador [and] the Bahamas, where Christopher Columbus made landfall in the New World,” she said. “[The students] focus on pre-Columbian archaeology, finding artifacts from the Lucayan culture that was native to the island.”

As an alumnus and professional archaeologist, Johnson attended the Bahamas field school again in 2017.

“It meant so much to be able to give back and volunteer my time to the place that started my love for anthropology,” she said. “Watching the students’ joy the first time they find an artifact or being there to answer their questions is very rewarding, and I plan to go back this year.”

Along with attending field schools, students volunteer locally to educate the public through the YSU Anthropology Colloquium. The department hosts simulated digs for children at the Canfield Fair and the volleyball courts at Boardman Park.

One hundred children from first through sixth grade learn about the four subfields of anthropology (archaeology, biological anthropology, cultural anthropology and linguistic anthropology) at these events.

Caroline Constantinovich, an anthropology major at YSU, said volunteering is a fantastic opportunity to expose people to the innovation of other cultures.

“I have volunteered for the Adventure Day Camp at Boardman Park, teaching children about Native Americans and archaeological methods,” she said. “The participants learn that cultural differences aren’t negative, which is important to learn from a young age.”

Constantinovich said she is looking forward to archaeology month in October.

“This year, the department is featuring one to two speakers, potentially talking about Mayan archaeology and Clovis points,” she said. “The Anthropology Colloquium will also be participating in Archaeology Day at the Michael Kusalaba Library.”

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(Photos by Tanner Mondok/The Jambar)

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