Interested in the study of human history through recording and interpreting survey sites, Alexandra Covert ’15 accepted an archaeology internship at Petrified Forest National Park near Holbrook, Ariz., this summer. Though far from her home in Saranac Lake, N.Y., Covert notes that it is not the first time she has traveled around in pursuit of her interests.
“I participated in archaeology field schools for the past two summers,” she says. “First in Virginia, and then in New Mexico. I thoroughly enjoyed both field schools, and applied for this internship because I wanted to see the government side of archaeology compared to the education side.”
Having just received her Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology with history, classical studies, and French & Francophone studies minors, Covert possesses a diverse pool of knowledge which she uses to supplements her findings. The goal is to determine the age and use of a site or isolated occurrence by recording ceramic types, lithics, features, and other artifacts in the field.
“A typical day for me includes going out into the expansion lands to survey and record historic and prehistoric archaeological sites,” says Covert. “The expansion lands are newly acquired so it is crucial for us to survey that land for sites so the national park knows what the lands contain.”
Other responsibilities include working with Global Positioning Systems, recording and photographing sites, artifacts, and rock art, and helping rerecord previously recorded sites that are located along the park road. In the office, she digitalizes paperwork collected from the sites, and collaborates with other divisions within the park such as the Interpretation Department.
By the end of the summer, Petrified Forest National Park aims to open an archaeology museum to the public at Puerco Pueblo, the largest partially excavated pre-historic archaeological site at the park. The Pueblo contains approximately 100 rooms built around a large plaza where archaeologists have found evidence of human occupation from about 1250 to 1380 A.D.
“This will be the first permanent archaeology museum in the park,” notes Covert. “We are all excited to share the archaeology of the park with the public.”
With her field season coming to an end, Covert has been wrapping-up research by recording as many sites as possible. She and colleagues recently attended the 2015 Pecos Conference in Mancos, Colo., to collaborate with other Southwestern archaeologists and present findings. Covert presented an individual research project she conducted on marine shell as part of her internship, which involved typing and sourcing shells to pre-historic trade routes from the Gulf of California and the Gulf of Mexico to Petrified Forest National Park.
Eager to continue archeological fieldwork, Covert has lined up a second internship through the Student Conservation Association and AmeriCorps at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument in Coolidge, Ariz., and plans to apply to graduate schools in the Southwest.
Though ready for new beginnings, Covert offers some closing remarks regarding her experience with Petrified Forest National Park.
“There are so many amazing things to discover in this park. The most rewarding part of my internship so far has been being able to be outside in a beautiful landscape every day. Doing something you love in a beautiful environment makes it even better. This internship has also helped me figure out that I would love to be an archaeologist for a national park in the Southwest. I hope that the connections I have made through this experience will allow my archaeology career to progress. I am unbelievably thankful for this wonderful opportunity.”