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William Bruce ′11

William Bruce

Major: Art History
Hometown: Baton Rouge, LA

Students in the Regional Studies program conduct independent research on subjects of historical or cultural significance to the Memphis area. William conducted independent research on a collection of Native American artifacts excavated from Ames plantation.

What was your inspiration for this project?
I first became interested in this project when I participated in the archaeological field school the summer after my freshman year and was really enthusiastic about digging in the dirt and finding historical remains. The site we excavated was chosen because it potentially held the remains of a 19th century Manor house. However, it was discovered through our work that it also held a large number of Native American artifacts. That led us to believe that it was a site where a Native American village or hamlet existed nearly 2000 years ago. In the hopes of learning more about it, I proposed to conduct more extensive research on the artifacts that we found.

What is the significance of these artifacts? What exactly did you find?
By analyzing the types of artifacts that were recovered, we can get a better idea of what time period the inhabitants occupied, as well as what kind of lifestyle they were living. If, say, they produced really well-made tools, then they were probably more mobile people, but if they didn’t have really well-made tools, they probably lived in one place and gathered tools on site. Well, we found tools that were both really well-made and some that were not. I think the people were in the process of transitioning from a mobile lifestyle to a more sedentary one.

Did your Art History major play a part in the field studies?
Absolutely. Rhodes has been really great about stressing the interdisciplinary nature of my interests. The skills I learned in the classroom were directly applicable to what I was doing this summer, looking at rocks and tools and using them to make inferences about a culture that lived 2,000 years ago. I’ve learned from every member of the art history department, but I would definitely say that I am most indebted to my advisor, Professor McCarthy. If it hadn’t been for his cultivating my interest in the field, I doubt I would have found the Regional Studies program.

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