Hi everyone!

My name is Aubree Marshall, and I am a fourth-year Ph.D. student in anthropology. More specifically, my specialty lies in bioarchaeology. By studying human remains from archaeological contexts, we can learn more about past behaviors and lived experiences of those individuals and populations studied.

Aubree excavating at Marco Gonzalez in Belize.
Excavating at Marco Gonzalez in Belize!

My research area is in Mesoamerica, specifically in Belize, where the ancient Maya lived (and where many Maya people still live today). My interest is in ancient diet and health. Diet plays a large role in our daily lives, from how we prepare our food to the various social contexts in which we consume food (Thanksgiving, anyone?). There has been a lot of research focusing on the generalized diet in the region using stable isotopes from dentition and bone. Still, little research has been done on the specific foods people ate and interacted with. This is partially because the methods used in the region have not been conducive to answering this question. This is where my dissertation work comes in. I am working in the Ancient Protein and Isotope lab at the University of Michigan to decalcify dental calculus (the stuff that your dental hygienist scrapes off of your teeth). Dental calculus fossilizes during life, catching the food and medicine that one interacts with within its matrix. Researchers can then analyze the contents of the dental calculus to learn about the specificity of the individual’s diet.

While my dissertation research is lab-based, I also get to work in the field, too! This past summer we traveled to the site of Marco Gonzalez, named after a young teenager who pointed archaeologists toward the site, to run an undergraduate field school. I supervised one of the units located on Structure 14, where we were able to learn more about the large amount of salt production occurring at the site. Our unit also found a cache of unique materials covered in cinnabar. We are still working on our analyses and publications from this past summer, so keep an eye out for those!

I am excited to be a part of CHI! I have already learned so much about digital heratige and computational methods, as well as how to work collaboratively on digital projects to achieve a common goal. I’m excited to continue to work with my cohort and to learn skills that I plan to use in outreach for my own research.