Andrew Upton: Graduate Research in Late Prehistory

Dr. William Lovis and Andy Upton, via Upton

Dr. William Lovis and Andy Upton, via Upton

Andy fell into archaeology and anthropology largely through happenstance. While a freshman at Miami University his options for the summer recess entailed moving back home and finding a part time job or finding something exciting to do. He chose the latter. After a quick application with the Student Conservation Association he found himself in the Great Smoky Mountains as an archaeological intern. Over 20 site assessments, a dozen bear encounters, a new site named after him, an Archaic Savannah River point and an historic Qualla point later and he knew he was hooked. Returning to Miami the following fall Andy determined to turn this adventure into a career.

The following summer Andy accepted another archaeological internship through the Student Conservation Association, this time at southern California’s Los Padres National Forest. “Our only shower opportunity was via a hose connected to underground hot springs, which sounds like paradise except when you’re covered in poison oak.” Following a stint as a Miami University Undergraduate Scholar studying the funerary practices of Amish and Mennonites, especially in Ohio, Andy then found himself at Michigan State.

He quickly found a home as part of Dr. Jodie O’Gorman’s long-term research project in the Central Illinois River Valley, and decided to focus his dissertation there. He plans to examine the intersection of ceramic production with population aggregation, factionalism and conflict during the Late Prehistoric period.

Andy has also been seeking to answer an important question about technological properties of Late Prehistoric eastern North American ceramics. The results of Andy’s initial research efforts have already garnered him a 2nd place award in the 2012 Midwest Archaeological Conference Student Paper Competition. Building on this work with the assistance of Professors Bill Lovis, and Jerry Urquhart, Andy just completed a new round of controlled experiments to assess the degree to which the alkalinity of liquids in which maize is cooked. The research involved  using archaeological pottery fragments from Morton Village courtesy of Dr. Jodie O’Gorman and the Illinois State Museum, experimentally replicated ceramic briquettes, and a replica shell tempered ceramic vessel produced with assistance from Cincinnati artist Emily Repp.

Andy will be compiling the data for a paper to be presented at the 2014 Society for American Archaeology Annual Meeting in Austin, TX.

[This article is featured in the Winter 2014 Department of Anthropology Newsletter]