My name is Eric Rodriguez and I am one of the two summer interns for the American Anthropological Association (AAA). For the next five weeks, I will be splitting my time between the headquarters of the AAA in Arlington,Virginia and in the Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) of the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) located in the Washington Navy Yard.
This past April, I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Philosophy in Anthropology and History with a focus on maritime archaeology and Mediterranean history. For this degree, I published a thesis focusing on research conducted last summer under the supervision of Dr. Bryan Hanks of the University of Pittsburgh and Dr. Sheli Smith of the Partnering Anthropology with Science and Technology (PAST) Foundation. The shipwreck under study was the Austro-Hungarian vessel Slobodna located in Molasses Reef off Key Largo, FL. Using structural analysis and the interpretation of excavated artifacts and historic documents belonging to the ship and its time period, I was able to address the profitability of the vessel as it pertained to the unique circumstances that Austria-Hungary was situated in the 18th century. I drew from this experience a love for maritime archaeology that I would carry from that point onward.
Following my thesis defense, my professor, Dr. Kathleen Allen informed me of the AAA internship. Hoping to continue gaining experience in this field, I applied. A few weeks later, I received Damon Dozier’s call informing me that I was selected for the internship, which promptly led to dancing in the hallways of the anthropology department. A few months later, I found myself here in Washington,D.C.with my first week set an exciting pace that I’m sure will carry on in the weeks to come. I spent the first half of the week at the AAA, where I hope to gain experience outside of the research component of anthropology and into the public and publishing sectors. My first project for this internship is to boost student membership in universities, a task that I am quite sure Susannah and I are more than capable of completing.
On Wednesday, I made my way to the Navy Yard to intern at the Underwater Archaeology Branch of the NHHC. The purpose of the NHHC is to control and apply preservation and conservation on all sunken military craft and the artifacts that have been exhumed from these sites. After meeting the staff and other interns, my supervisor George Schwarz and I discussed some of the recent projects in maritime archaeology and shared personal field stories. Due to my strong background in the subject, I was given the opportunity to immediately join ongoing projects. One of my many responsibilities is to respond to inquiries concerning the history of vessels that have been recently discovered and identified. This research has allowed me to gain insight into the designs and functions of many crafts such as WWII-era German U-boats and several confederate ships from the Civil War. My tasks are not solely research; they stem into public education as well. This first week I had to opportunity to prepare a lesson for high school students, introducing them to maritime archaeology. Some of the long-term projects I have the opportunity to assist in concern the USS Scorpion, which the 2011 AAA/NHHC intern had the opportunity to conduct research, and the Bonham Richard. The Bonham Richard has a special place in my heart as its famous Captain John Paul Jones and his battles aboard this ship have been a favorite of mine since childhood. It is truly an amazing privilege to be working with such vessels that hold great significance in American history and maritime archaeology.
Outside of my internships, I have done a great deal of exploring the lesser-known areas of DC, braving the recent heat wave. I am residing in one of the WISH Foundation’s Capitol Hill locations with interns from various regions of the United States. With such a variety of people, I get a chance to understand different perspectives, something anthropology has trained me to enjoy. I’m sure my time with these individuals in this city will provide a fruitful experience that I will cherish for years.
I am very grateful to both the AAA and the NHHC for granting me the opportunity to continue gaining experience in the many aspects concerning anthropology and archaeology. I am anxious to continue working with these organizations and my supervisors and look to the next five weeks with great anticipation.