Las Vegas, NM — New Mexico Highlands University anthropology graduate students Will Marquardt and T’Shawna Span presented their novel bioarchaeology studies at the international conference for the Society of American Archeology in Austin, Texas April 22 — 25.
The annual conference is the largest, most prestigious gathering of archaeologists in the world, with more than 3,000 in attendance this year.
Both students are graduate assistants for anthropology professor Warren Lail and he also advises them.
Marquardt, 24, is one of the first to ever research domestic violence against females in the ancient Pueblo cultures of Northern New Mexico in the time period A.D. 750 to 1350. He analyzed nonlethal injuries and fractures of human skeletal remains.
Marquardt graduates May 10 with a M.A. in anthropology, earning a 4.0 GPA. He was accepted into the doctoral archaeology program at the University of New Mexico and plans to be an academic archaeologist.
“What I found in my thesis study is evidence of domestic violence against women in some of the sites I investigated, in particular Chaco Canyon and Rattlesnake Ridge,” Marquardt said. “About one in five skeletons showed evidence of nonlethal trauma, which is similar to the current rate of domestic violence against women in the United States.
“Unlike random accidents, domestic violence trauma is characterized by a pattern in location on the body, usually on the left side of the scull because most people are right handed. It’s virtually impossible to determine whether a man or women perpetrated the violence,” said the Eldorado, California native.
For his study, Marquardt examined human skeletal remains in both the Highlands and UNM collections.
“I’ve gotten a thorough introduction to physical anthropology and archaeology at Highlands,” Marquardt said. “Dr. Lail has been a great adviser, and has a good philosophy of helping graduate students pursue their individual research interests.”
Span, 25, earned her B.S. in criminal justice at Highlands in 2012, taking forensic anthropology from Lail as an undergraduate. She participated in his summer 2012 archaeology field school and applied to the anthropology graduate program.
“It was fascinating to me how someone’s skeletal remains can tell you so much about the person — that’s what hooked me about forensic anthropology. I love it,” said the Tucumcari, New Mexico native.
In July 2013, a backhoe operator in rural Roy, New Mexico unearthed the remains of two humans in an unmarked grave. The State Office of Archaeology requested that Lail excavate the remains.
In turn, Lail requested that Highlands be given the chance to examine the remains in its Anthropology Research Laboratory — envisioning a thesis topic for one of his students. He offered Span the rare chance to be the first to analyze the remains.
“It was very exciting to be a first-year graduate student and have the opportunity to have such an intriguing thesis topic,” Span said. “I studied the skeletal remains to determine sex, stature and ancestry. For ancestry, I analyzed the facial features such as jaw, brow ridge, eye socket and nose.”
Span’s preliminary analysis indicated that the remains were those of two European males, an adult and a teenager. The grave items such as coffin wood, hardware, and clothing suggested a burial date between 1895 and 1910.
“There’s so much one on one attention in the anthropology program, and you’re never just a number,” Span said. “Dr. Lail cares so much about the students’ passion and goals, and is always available to help and encourage. The anthropology program has offered me so many new horizons.”
Span’s goal is a career as either a forensic anthropologist or crime lab analyst.
“These two students impressed the archaeologists at the Society of American Archaeology conference with the quality of their research and their presentations,” Lail said. “I’m very proud of them both.”
Lail has high expectations for both students.
“Will is very strong at critical thinking and detailed analysis, which are both essential for academic archaeology. I expect him to do extremely well in his doctoral studies and academia. T’Shawna is an excellent, motivated student with a very professional approach. Between her lab skills and strong work ethic, she will succeed professionally,” Lail said.