It’s funny what scratching beneath the surface can unearth.
Most of us imagine our studies taking us along a certain path, but often they can be just the first leg of a rewarding journey. Students of archaeology, anthropology, bio-anthropology and geoscience often find that a discovery may change the course of their life. After all, nothing is set in stone: “I’ve got a masters and a bachelors degree in forensic anthropology,” says LJMU student Megan Quick. “But now I’m doing a PhD in forensic geoscience.”
Megan is talking as she works alongside her counterparts from Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) at Poulton Research Project in Chester. Eight visiting SCSU undergraduates have been excavating medieval and Bronze Age human remains from the site during an exchange that will also see thirty LJMU students visit SCSU in 2017/18.
“This is my first day on site with the SCSU students,” says Megan. “But I’ve been here many times before and it’s a great place… the staff are so helpful and knowledgeable. We’ve got close to 1000 skeletons that we do research on at LJMU and we believe there’s up to another 800 more here at Poulton, so we could be coming back for a couple of years yet!”
The research site, perched on the border between Chester and Wales, was certainly a hit with the visiting party: “We found remains of what we believe to be a monk with an arrow in his chest,” said SCSU student Margaretta Affeldt. “We saw the arrow and it was solid metal and very well preserved.”
The group were scratching and searching away in the spring sunshine under the watchful eye of Poulton Research Project’s Dr Kevin Cootes: “The students have found lots of material culture that tells us about the ordinary, rural people who lived here,” he explains. “But we’ve also found the remains of a chapel from around 1487 and evidence of hunter gatherers – they’re very lucky, I’ve worked at Stonehenge, but this is more exciting!”
There is a strange solitude in the air around the site and, as Megan explained, that often comes with the territory: “When human remains are involved, you need a calm about you. This site is so peaceful and every time I come here I enjoy working here.”
“This site is rare because the remains are so far up,” reveals Connecticut student, Margaretta. “Lots of human remains are usually lower, but we’ve found a pre-natal baby skeleton that was maybe one of the last buried here.”
The startling discovery is a real find: “That’s rare find for the students,” declares Dr Cootes. “The term ‘six feet under’ is relatively new as they used to bury people much deeper.”
The more you dig, the more you find… but not necessarily just about the past. A research site like Poulton, always available to LJMU students, can reveal a lot about where you see yourself and your studies going: “This is definitely the type of thing I was hoping to get involved with,” says LJMU’s Megan. “Like I say, I’m now doing a PhD in forensic geoscience, but I still want to get involved with human remains. It doesn’t matter if you want to study anthropology, archaeology, bio-anthropology or geoscience – there’s a lot to learn from this site.”
“You’re talking about the archaeology of a town without a town on top,” agrees Dr Cootes. “That’s 2000 years of activity to find.”
With the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the field and carry out novel research, why not find out what options are available for a career in and around forensic anthropology? A Masters course at Liverpool John Moores University provides you with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed.
Did you know you can take part in an exchange programme with leading American university Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU)? We have partnered with the New Haven, Connecticut institution to provide study abroad opportunities for our students.
During the last year, LJMU and SCSU have been working together to develop student exchange opportunities and LJMU students are invited to study for a semester at SCSU during the next academic year.
To find out more, visit our FAQ page.