Young Archaeologist Visits Birches

This week, Harvard College senior Sarah Martini came to talk with 2nd-5th Graders about using aerial maps and math to estimate ancient Native American populations. We learned how Sarah uses drone aircraft and laser mapping technology to collect landscape data. Her elevation maps provide topographical information about the Jemez Region in New Mexico and reveal incredible detail about the Native American pueblo villages once erected there. Sarah uses computer programs to: analyze these former villages, measure rubble volume, and reconstruct the floor area. Remarkably, she is able to calculate the number of former inhabitants based on mere mounds of rubble. Her presentation outlined the historical context of the time when these villages once thrived with life. We learned about smallpox and the devastating impact the disease caused in Native American villages.

Our students were enthralled, and the question and answer session turned out to be longer than the presentation itself. The children wanted to know more about the culture of the Jemez people and the geology and history of the area. Some of the older students wanted to understand Sarah's complicated math calculations a little better, and everyone was curious why Sarah decided to become an archaeologist.

Here is an article about Sarah and her earlier work in Peru that was published in the "Harvard Gazette":