Blog posted by Heleinna Cruz

Burning Beyond Color: The Flaming Perspective of a Returning BAKOTA Student

In the summer of 2016, I was a 19-year-old girl who just finished her Freshman year, excited to join a team of students on an adventure to Hungary as part of the BAKOTA Project. It was an absolutely exhilarating and challenging once in a lifetime opportunity.  

Fortunately for me, no one made a formal rule that once in a lifetime opportunities had to happen only once 

Getting accepted to the BAKOTA Project for the 2018 field season allowed me a second opportunity to grow the project I started two years ago.  Shape

My 2016 field season experience was spent scoring bones for their color using the Munsell Soil Color Charts and observing if there were any differences of color between certain factors of the Békés 103 Cemetery. Color is an important part of burned bone analysis since studies have linked it to the temperature of the fire. In the 2016 season, I found out that there was no difference in the presence of white between levels of the funerary urn (levels are 2-4cm increments of bone taken from the top to the bottom of the urn) which may indicate that the burned bones placed in the urn were all consistently burned. I also found that subadults and adults were burned differently, with subadults having more white bones than adults. From writing my own methodology on how to objectively score burned bone color to presenting my final poster at the 2017 Society of American Archaeology Conference, the BAKOTA Project allowed me to experience the entire research process.  

Two years later, this current field season is allowing me to further expand what I learned from 2016. I hope to increase my sample size when comparing the burning between subadults and adults, as well as incorporate the material culture into my analysis. It’d be very interesting to see if there are any connections between what the human burials were buried with and the calcination percentages of the human burials themselves!  

The BAKOTA Project has also allowed me to incorporate my growing expertise of occupational therapy, my career of choice, into one big academic excursion. Even with my career path set in the medical field, archaeology and the BAKOTA Project will always be a fundamental part of my life. The BAKOTA Project was my first experience working with an interdisciplinary group of people, and that has helped me understand the values of interprofessionalism within healthcare. In return, my studies in occupational therapy, human anatomy and kinesiology to be specific, have helped me gain a new perspective on the life of the human body.  

This past year I have spent a lot of time in Quinnipiac University’s Human Anatomy Lab, learning all I can about the muscles and bones from the human donors. This unique lab experience helped me gain context when I currently look at bones in Hungary. When I take a bone fragment out of a small bag, I don’t just score it based on its color anymore. I also actively appreciate that the bone fragment is a small piece of a very large puzzle of a past human’s life. The burned bones of the people from the Békés 103 cemetery have allowed me to appreciate the magnitude of the human body and the processes that occur after an individual has passed. This knowledge of being a part of an entire progression of what a person experiences from birth to death has been the greatest gift my education as an occupational student has given me here for the BAKOTA Project. Now at 21 years old, I can definitely say that the BAKOTA Project and the beautiful country of Hungary will always have a special place in my heart.  


To check out my 2016 Blog Post related to Burned Bone Color, click here! 

To read more about the relationship between archaeology and occupational therapy, click below!