Your tongue sticks to it…

My informant is an archaeology student. Last summer, she attended a one month long field school through ARC Rome in Gabii, Italy. Field schools are an integral part of an archaeology student’s education. In addition to giving students such as my informant necessary experience in identifying and excavating archaeological sites, field schools are a rite of passage. Below, she recounts the good natured hazing she was subjected to during the field school.


“Last summer, I went to my first field school. I was working at the the site of Gabii, in Italy. Also in my field school was Dustin, who was from another university. He told me that an easy way to identify bone was to lick it. If your tongue stuck to it, you knew it was bone. Of course, I then tried licking all possible pieces of bone, as my amused field director watched. I kept licking things to check if they were bone, until one afternoon, when I found a particularly large object, covered in dirt. It was so covered in dirt that I couldn’t really tell what it was. After dusting it off as well as I could, I licked it. It wasn’t bone…It was a rusted iron spike! Then I figured that licking things was a bad idea. I don’t know if it’s true that your tongue sticks to bone, but I don’t think you’re supposed to try.”


Knowing that my informant was in her first field school, Dustin was able to take advantage of her naivety and persuade her to lick bone. These excavations are a liminal space, of sorts, between being an archaeology student and being a working professional in the field. Once you have completed your first field school, and all of the initiation rituals that entails, you are considered well on your way to becoming an archaeologist.