Simen Oestmo: Week 3, Q + A with Three Students

The SACP4 (an acronym for the South Africa Coast Paleoclimate, Paleoenvironment, Paleoecology, Paleoanthropology) Project is an international research project that involves many scientists from all over the world. The project is not run as a field school, but we do have students that join us for the field experience and a glimpse of state-of-the-art field and excavation methods.

south african coast

PP 5-6 with the giant sail cloth protecting it and us from the elements. The sieving station in the foreground.

This week I have asked three students who are excavating with us this season to answer two questions.

The three students are:

Kristin Lilla Schwagerl from Beardsley (population 262), Minnesota. Kristin is a senior undergraduate at Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minnesota. She is majoring in anthropology/sociology and minoring in history.

Kevin Gierhahn from Mesa, Arizona. Kevin just graduated from ASU with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology.

Elisabeth V. Culley from Colorado. Elisabeth is a current PhD student at ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change. Her focus is evolution of human cognition.

3 students

The students (left to right): Elisabeth V. Culley (ASU), Kevin Gierhahn (ASU), and Kristin Lilla Schwagerl (Gustavus Adolphus College).

Why did you choose to participate at the SACP4 project?

Kristin: When I was young, I first wanted to be an archaeologist. Although I had forgotten my early interest in archaeology, it resurfaced during my college years studying anthropology. Professor Marean lectured about human origins at the 2008 Noble Conference at Gustavus Adolphus, and I was intrigued by the Mossel Bay Archaeology Project he mentioned. When I learned he was accepting volunteers for the project, I jumped at the chance to learn more about archaeology. I hope this experience will reinforce my desire to attend graduate school in anthropology, concentrating on archaeology and human origins.

Kevin: I chose to participate in SACP4 first and foremost because I think it is a great project that has and will continue to make great strides forward for archaeology and mankind in general. Professor Curtis Marean is a great teacher both inside and outside of the classroom and his theories have interested me since I met him at ASU in his hunter-gatherer class. Not to mention it is a wonderful experience and chance to travel.

Elisabeth: I am interested in the evolution of human cognitive and social capacities. The remains at Pinnacle Point suggest the people who lived there had capacities like our own much earlier than anticipated. I am also interested in the interdisciplinary approach to the questions of when, where, and why these capacities developed. I am also particularly impressed with Professor Marean’s commitment to integrating with the South African community as the project develops

Why do you think the study of modern human origins is important?

Kristin: Researching modern human origins is not just academic curiosity, it facilitates our understanding of ourselves. It is essential to understand ourselves because, only when we understand ourselves do we have a basis with which to interpret the context in which we exist, which encompasses the world and all research across all fields of study.

Kevin: The reasons as to why modern human origins is important are endless. First of all, every single Homo Sapien on the planet needs to be educated as to where they are from. That would give every one an understanding that we are all very similar and very closely related to each other, and if everyone could come to realize this, it would solve many issues and make the world a better place to live.

Elisabeth: At the most fundamental level, human origins research helps us define who we are, the interconnectivity of all people, and our responsibilities to each other. This research also illuminates biological, economic, and social challenges human groups have faced and how those challenges have been met, so how we might meet challenges in the future.

Med vennelig hilsen (Norwegian for “best wishes”)!

Simen

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