“We talked about the archaeological process from finding a site … to reconnaissance survey to digging to interpretation to outreach,” Simpson said. “It motivated them, by seeing that, because by that Saturday we had 18 North Central students come (to the dig site) along with three other students from the College of DuPage. On their own, driving, they brought their own lunches, and they worked super hard.
“I wanted to make an instant impact for the North Central community, and I knew the best way to do that was to get my students’ hands dirty. When you're an archaeologist, that's the goal, is to be a little bit of a dirt junkie and get these folks interested—get them doing the hard work.”
Opportunities to work on projects like this were rare even before the COVID-19 pandemic and are especially scarce now, according to Simpson. They are extremely valuable to students in their journeys to professional success.
“They may not be going into archaeology, but all of these individuals can put this as experience on their resume,” he said. “I feel that within one weekend with me, I help these individuals improve their career. Someone going through their resume (is sure to say), ‘Oh, wow, you did an archeological dig?’ It's a conversation starter.”
Simpson welcomed his students to try numerous tasks and techniques they would not normally be able to do until becoming professional archaeologists, giving them invaluable experience.
“They were able to sieve (and) do raw material identification,” said Simpson. “Dirt is processed through the sieve, and you then have to hold the different types of archaeological material and know the difference of the material compared to other things that get added to the soil that aren't artifacts. They (also did) shovel scraping and trowel digging.”
Julia Vitucci ’24 was especially enthusiastic about getting the chance to dig. Her motivation was clear to Simpson, who graciously lent Vitucci his own flat top shovel that had been given to him by his father. The anthropology major made the most of the gesture.
“When I got there, I was thrilled to be sieving dirt, but I also really wanted to experience digging,” Vitucci said. “I was already there so I (thought I) might as well make the most of my experience! Digging is a LOT harder than it looks. Being able to try it myself gave me a newfound respect for the field.”