I TA in the University of Southern Maine’s Environmental Archaeology lab. Right now, students are going through bags upon bags of mixed excavation remains containing everything from fish and pig bones to buttons to plaster to pieces of prehistorically worked rock. I was sitting at the front of the classroom and I could hear a group of girls saying, “It’s a button, I think…” “I don’t know, it could be…” Debating back and forth.

So I continued doing my work and kind of giggling to myself. Then one of them calls me over, “Jenn, can we ask you a question?” My go-to response is, “Yeah, definitely, but I might not have an answer.” Because my specialty is in identifying faunal remains, which I’m quite good at. But I’m less good at identifying some other materials.

So I walk over, and they show me their button. And immediately, I am happy because it is not a button, it is the lower incisor from a rat. And I tell them so.


And they say, there is no way this is a tooth. It is so round! And hollow! But then I show them a comparative rat skull image from the online, and they are convinced that yes, this is a tooth.

And I feel happy because I had an answer.

Darlings, it’s the little victories. Because half the time, I have to shrug and say, “Honestly, kids, I really don’t know.”

But not today.



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