Anthropology, Archaeology, Artifacts
Student explores hands-on history
Unearthing a long-buried artifact yields rewards far beyond the prospect of treasure. Rachel Falzon can tell you that artifact is also a story — and a chance to connect with the past and understand history.
Falzon, 21, a University of Idaho senior from Ferdinand, Idaho, is a dual major in anthropology and history, but her specialty is archaeology. She works at the university’s Alfred W. Bowers Laboratory of Anthropology, a research lab within the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences. The lab is dedicated to analyzing artifacts and archiving information, and its current research revolves around Silver City, a mining site-turned-ghost town located in southern Idaho. Numerous excavations of Silver City have left many artifacts in the laboratory’s care.
“We’ve been going through the artifacts that people excavated,” Falzon says. “We’re cleaning them, sorting them, measuring and weighing them, then putting them into the database so it’s all digitized and easy to access. Then, they’re going to be labeled and put into artifact boxes for further research.”
To Falzon, the laboratory’s work is crucial, not only for researchers interested in studying Silver City or similar locations, but also for anyone wishing to better understand how the past connects to the present. Even the smallest piece can provide an important insight.
“One of the artifacts we found in Silver City was a metal toy truck,” she says. “It was really cool because it was complete. That’s what someone played with. It isn’t just some object; it’s something that was part of someone else’s life. And it’s become something more.”
She also recognizes there are practical as well as personal benefits to be found in archaeology and anthropology. Falzon’s work has provided her with valuable job-related knowledge on communication and networking, but she is most grateful for the varied experiences her studies offer.
“You’re immersed in other cultures,” Falzon says. “You get to see the world from a bigger, wider perspective. You’re learning not just about your culture and what you believe, but you’re also expanding your mind to what other people believe is possible.”
Falzon says her passion for anthropology and archaeology is fueled by the close-knit communities that form within the field. Even the most tedious lab work is bearable with the motivation of fellow Vandals, and she finds her instructors particularly helpful.
“The professors here get to know their students on more than a teacher-student level,” Falzon says. “They really want to try to make our lives great, and they really want to push us, too.”
Falzon also pursues her interest in anthropology and archaeology outside of the lab. Recently, she displayed a presentation at the Northwest Anthropological Conference, and in the future, Falzon hopes to attend graduate school and work as a historic archaeologist. She’s thrilled that her field offers countless opportunities.
“There are so many things you can do with anthropology,” she says. “You can do almost anything.”
Writer: Justin McCabe, a junior from Post Falls, is majoring in English literature and minoring in history. In the future he hopes to get involved with editing and publishing and ultimately aspires to become an author.
Photographer: Yishan Chen is an international student from Kumming, China, and is majoring in physical education. He is proud to be a photographer because it’s a job he loves and enjoys.