Dig As Only An Archaeologist Can

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For longtime Manhasset resident Annie Cannatella, her college commencement ceremony at The Catholic University of America in the spring of 2014 was yet another important stepping stone towards her career goal of archaeologist. This journey began when she was a rising junior in high school.
During the summer following 10th grade, on a Mediterranean cruise with her extended family in honor of her paternal grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary, Cannatella’s budding interest in ancient civilizations prevailed. As her family debated which excursion to book for its stop in Tunis, Tunisia, Cannatella talked her siblings out of a day of sunbathing at the beach in favor of a trip to the ruins of Carthage. It was at the Carthage site that Cannatella had her first opportunity to watch archaeologists in action, engaging in the excavation process. Her interest was piqued, and the following summer she went on her very first “dig,” which is the painstaking process of exposing, processing and recording archaeological remains at a selected site. Through a program sponsored by University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Cannatella travelled to northern Wisconsin to assist with the excavation of Native American artifacts. Additional dig and research experiences followed over the next several summers, including one sponsored by the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) on the Spanish Island of Menorca, another sponsored by the American Institute for Roman Culture (AIRC) held on the location of what was once the harbor city of ancient Rome and now known as Ostia Antica, and in a Rutgers University-led program at Vacone in central Italy.
It was in Vacone, as Cannatella was getting ready to enter her junior year of college, that she began to hone in on what she now hopes will be her ultimate area of expertise: mosaics and frescos restoration, where she will not “actually use a pick ax,” but rather “restore what gets [exposed or] pulled out of the ground.”
Cannatella graduated from The Catholic University of America with a major in Ancient Civilizations and Languages and a double minor in Archaeology and Theology. In order to move forward in the field of archaeology, Cannatella knows that graduate school is a must, so she is looking into the two and three year Masters programs at UCLA, University of Delaware, SUNY Buffalo and NYU. She is currently back at home in Manhasset taking the required general and organic chemistry classes at a local college, building her portfolio and researching the available field work opportunities that will best contribute to the 3,000 hours of hands-on restoration experience that she needs before she is able to apply to graduate school.
Career opportunities in the field of archaeology include specialists in the areas of teaching, excavation, restoration, conservation (where the goal is to minimize or prevent further deterioration of materials) and administration of dig sites. For those high school and college students interested in the field of archaeology, the Archaeological Institute of America maintains a website at www.archaeological.org, which students can use to be matched with dig opportunities.
Cannatella speaks with much joy about all of the “incredible” places and sites she has seen. She hopes one day to work in a museum or to start her own restoration/conservation company. But right now, she is taking it one artifact at a time.

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Lorraine Mesagna has a Masters degree from Hofstra University and is a freelance writer for Manhasset Press.

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