History majors and archaeology minors Haley Sabolcik ’23 and Emma Coffey ’23 made a big impression last month at the Archaeological Society of Virginia’s annual conference in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Presenting academic papers alongside undergraduate, master’s, and PhD students from various colleges and universities, Sabolcik and Coffey each won first place in their categories.
Sabolcik was honored with the Martha and Julian Williams Award for the best historical archaeology paper for her take on “Ceramics as Wealth in Nineteenth-Century Central Virginia.” Coffey’s essay, “Material Memory of the Enslaved,” won the Virginia Museum of Natural History Award for the best collections-based paper.
“I wasn’t expecting to win anything since this was my first conference that I presented at,” said Coffey, an Amherst, Virginia, native who also minors in classical studies. “First place means a lot to me because I’ve worked hard on this research and I’m glad I got to share it with other people.”
It was the first conference presentation for Sabolcik, too, who admitted she was “shocked” to hear she had won. “I couldn’t believe it until I walked up to accept the award,” the political science minor from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said. “It feels like an exciting and very welcoming start to my career in the field of archaeology.”
Coffey’s paper focuses on the enslaved population at Historic Sandusky, which served as the Union Headquarters during the Battle of Lynchburg. Sandusky is owned by the University of Lynchburg and used as an archaeological dig site for students and faculty.
“This research hasn’t been done yet, but it’s such an important part of history that I want to help piece together,” Coffey said.
Sabolcik studied ceramics and other artifacts found under the house at Sandusky to “find out how they were deposited and what the number and type of ceramics tells us about the people who lived at Sandusky in the 19th century,” she said.
Both students won cash prizes and their papers will be published in an upcoming issue of the Archaeology Society of Virginia Journal. They both plan to pursue graduate study in archaeology.
In an email to campus, Sandusky’s director Greg Starbuck ’14 MA, ’19 MA noted that State Archaeologist Elizabeth Moore “specifically came to see their presentations and complimented them extensively.”
He also thanked Dr. Christie Vogler, assistant professor of history, and Jessica Gantzert, laboratory director and conservator for Sandusky partner Hurt & Proffitt, for their mentorship and for helping the two students become “formidable archaeologists.”
Starbuck said the students “came to Lynchburg with a vague idea of ‘doing something in history,’” but ended up “finding their passion, thanks to the opportunities the University of Lynchburg provides our students.”
In addition to presenting at the conference, both students participated in archaeological field schools this summer.