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Summertime and the undergraduate researcher

August 26, 2010

Ethnoarchaeology sounds like a mouthful, but for Autumn Whiteway it’s been her life for the last five years at the University of Calgary. Whiteway is one of 62 students who received a PURE award this year to practice her academic career in the working world.

The PURE awards are designed to offer undergrads an opportunity to conduct research alongside the U of C’s top researchers. This year, a total of $350,000 was made available for this award, with $175,000 provided by the Vice-President Research, and $175,000 from the Provost’s Teaching and Learning Fund. Students who accept the award also agree to participate in the Annual Fall Poster Symposium sponsored by the Students’ Union to demonstrate work they have done.

A BSc Honours archaeology student with a concentration in physical anthropology and a BA (honours) in Greek and Roman studies, Autumn has obtained three PURE grants to conduct ethnoarchaeological research in both Jordan and Ethiopia.

Ethnoarchaeology is a research strategy used to study the material culture of modern populations and improve interpretations of the archaeological record through the data collected. Autumn’s 2010 project is entitled “Material and Dietary Expressions of Marginalized Potters and Non-Craftworkers in Edagahamus Region, Tigray, Ethiopia: A Comparative Ethnoarchaeological Survey”.

In her project, Whiteway hopes to determine how the differential status of marginalized potters and non-potters may be seen archaeologically through a number of variables, such as dietary importance of meat and dairy and access to secondary animal products.

In the 2009/2010 academic year, she obtained the Undergraduate Student Fellowship at the Calgary Institute for the Humanities and she has used this fellowship to prepare two articles regarding Bedouin mortuary practices for publication. In additional to her ethnoarchaeological research, Autumn participated in archaeological excavations at Tell Umayri, Jordan and Ossaia, Italy.

Whiteway plans to attend the University of Sheffield (England) to complete a MA in funerary archaeology and human osteology, eventually pursuing a PhD and a teaching position in archaeology. She has been elected to a third term as the student director of the Archaeological Society of Alberta.