The idea of a circle as a symbol and a metaphor has been commonly used, almost to the point of cliché. Despite that, I am going to use it anyway.
In crime scene processing, one search pattern that may be employed is the spiral search. This means starting from one focal point and walking in circles around it, widening the diameter as you go along. One reason why this pattern may be used is because the focal point denotes an area where an important event occurred, so evidence is expected to be scattered around this focal point. Another advantage to this search technique is that by circling around an area, you are able to see things from different perspectives, potentially catching something you may have missed from one point of view.
Similarly, the past two months have seen me return to many old themes with a new perspective. In April, I returned to Canada and to UTM; I resumed my data collection in London in St. Bride’s Church; and in May I once again participated in the School of Archaeology’s Distance Learning course. But my role in each event was very different than before, and gave me some new perspectives into my work.
Alongside the change in my PhD project and my switch into Archaeology/Mathematics, I also have a new secondment partner – the Forensic Science Program at the University of Toronto Mississauga, which just so happens to be where I completed my H.B.Sc. and my M.Sc.! Specifically, I am working with my former Honours and Masters supervisor, Dr. Tracy Rogers, whose lab generates a lot of research into 3D technologies with applications to forensic science and osteology. So when I visited UTM in April, I met up with Tracy and discussed my new research project with her. I also met up with former colleagues and students, and it was amazing to catch up with everyone. I was really reminded of what a great community UTM is, especially within the Forensic Science program which is quite tight-knit. As with last year, I attended the UTM Forensic Science Day and saw another generation of my former students presenting their research and getting ready to graduate. I was so proud of them, but also a little sad – I think this is the last generation of students I taught before leaving for England!
To make things more fun, I made this trip to Canada with Etienne, who was also visiting UTM to make contacts for his research. In order to show him a true Canadian spring season, the temperature went down to -18 degrees Celsius, and naturally, it snowed:
A lovely view of the snow from the hotel.
Nevertheless, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Mississauga and Toronto. The networking was very fruitful and gave way to exciting opportunities for both of us. I was able to reflect on a year ago, when I was visiting UTM to present my research as an alumnus of the Forensic Science program – this time, I was returning as a research partner, with a fresh new project and perspective.
I made Etienne pose for the mandatory tourist photo – Etienne is inside the O and I am in the R (in case it’s hard to spot us).
After flying back to the U.K. from Canada, I stayed in London and wrapped up my data collection at St. Bride’s. This half of the data collection was a little bit different than the first half – I was much more prepared and ready to tackle the remaining samples. I flew through the rest of my data collection, finishing a week later and hauling my research equipment back to Leicester. It was very exciting for me to get my first batch of data and 3D models!
For those who are interested in the outcome, below is a 3D model and photo of a plastic skull replica and the resulting 3D model as it appears on my tablet. I’ve uploaded an interactive 3D model (with extremely reduced resolution because uploading high-resolution models are not free).
Interactive 3D model here: ShareMy3D.com
As some readers may recall, I was obsessively timing my data collection when I first started in London, trying to figure out what would be the best way to approach assessing and scanning skulls. With beautiful results similar to what you can see in my photo/interactive 3D model, it’s satisfying to see that my borderline OCD-driven methods have paid off. I can now check this skeletal collection off my list, and I will be documenting more in the upcoming future, in different parts of the world. Then I can start my fastidious cycle of data collection all over again…
This now brings me to the month of May, where I resumed my involvement in the School of Archaeology’s Distance Learning program. As part of the level 3 module, students are to spend a week in Leicester with each day focused on a different lab practical. Last year, I assisted in the human osteology practical, but this year, I was teaching it!
My experience when learning human osteology during my undergraduate was that we got an entire semester (i.e. 3 months, not including the exam period) dedicated to just learning about the anatomy and physiology of bones. Additionally, another semester covered the theory behind biological anthropology – why do we study skeletons, how do we study them, and what can they tell us in an archaeological context? In short, we had 6 months to learn and appreciate the topic of human osteology and the theory underlying bioarchaeology.
This time, for the Distance Learning program, my students had one day to skim the surface of what I learned in 6 months of intense study. While this principle was the same as last year when I was an assistant, this time I was fully responsible for making sure the day went well and that I covered everything I was supposed to. This was an exciting challenge, which I prepared for by carefully thinking about what I would say and how I would present the information. The Vox coaching the INTREPID group received earlier this year was an extremely useful asset for this. I was more mindful about formulating ideas clearly, and was also more aware about my impact in front of the classroom – something I hadn’t thought about or knew how I could control prior to this training. Teaching this class was therefore an excellent opportunity to try out what I had learned from Vox. The day proved successful when my students were able to take the information I gave them and perform their own assessments on human skeletons, all before wrapping up just before 5 pm – the timing ended up being perfect, despite my fears that we would need more time.
A commonly used phrase is that we “go around and around in circles”, never getting anywhere and only getting frustrated. But in a spiral search, we widen our circle each time we make a revolution, and this allows us to achieve new perspectives and new outlooks. Going around and around in circles isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it’s only bad when we get stuck in our narrow point of view and succumb to tunnel vision. So as long as I am able to see things with a fresh outlook and gain new, exciting experiences, I am very happy to keep going in circles and to revisit the places and the tasks I love. Every step gives a new perspective.
Source: Chad_K (Flickr)