Matthew James

Graduate Research Assistant

Office Location:  Anthropology Department, 5773 S.Stevens Hall, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469-57731

Faculty Advisor:  Dr. Bonnie Newsom

Biographical Statement:  I received my Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Maine in 2019.  During my undergraduate career I participated in three field schools.  In 2016 I worked with geologists and paleoanthropologists, Including Dr. Lee Berger, at the Rising Star Cave and Malapa sites in South Africa.  In 2018 I participated in the exhumation of at-risk burial caves at the Sondor Archaeological Site in Peru.  And in 2019 I was the undergraduate field assistant at the University of Maine’s Holmes Point field school, which was managed by Dr. Bonnie Newsom.  In the same year, Dr. Newsom and I co-published a paper on the inclusion of balsam fir needles in pre-contact ceramics from Holmes Point.  Data collection for this paper was accomplished as a student laboratory aid in the Anthropology Department during the final two years of my undergraduate program.


Research Area:   My research aims to better understand, from an interdisciplinary standpoint, the environments in which indiginous ceramics were crafted and used in Maine.  In 2018 I found voids within some sherds of the Holmes Point assemblage which did not closely match those of previously known tempers, such as shells.  These voids were later determined to be the impressions of Balsam fir (Abies balsamea) needles.  Continuing this research into my graduate career, I hope to analyze more assemblages to determine if the practice of including Abies balsamea in ceramics was temporally and geographically limited to just the Holmes Point area.  This data can also be used to corroborate the presence and historic range of Abies balsamea across Maine, and as a proxy for the climate, flora, and fauna that may have been present during the Ceramic Period.