Our next profile in the Student Research Spotlight series focuses on the fourth archaeology PhD student in the Museum’s 2018–2019 incoming cohort. 

There are many routes people take to becoming an archaeologist. Angela Feak describes hers as a pendulum. This pendulum has swung between theatre and archaeology. Ultimately it has landed on the latter, and she is now working towards her doctorate.

Feak attended New York University as an undergraduate, receiving a BFA with a double majoring in anthropology and theatre. While these two majors may seem somewhat disparate, Feak says she approached theatre with an anthropological lens, thinking about actors’ “behavior” as the product of motivations and worldviews.

Eventually, following a stint doing theatre in New York, Feak decided to pursue an excavation opportunity. This landed her in South Africa, excavating at Sptizkloof Rockshelter, where research is co-directed by Genevieve Dewar of University of Toronto and Brian Stewart, assistant professor and curator of paleolithic archaeology at UMMAA. Under the direction of Dewar, Feak said her experience at the remote site, with a small crew, was very hands-on and involved.

Since starting at the Museum in the fall of 2018, Feak’s research focuses on hunter-gatherer societies and diet reconstruction, specifically nutrition and food choices. She is leaning towards a geographic focus in South Africa, noting the interesting and very active research happening there currently. More broadly, Feak is interested in exploring food as a way to link the present to the past. She remarked, “Food is a universal thing, so I am motivated by the idea of what food means to people and whether we can attribute some sort of meaning to those choices. In the modern day we have those ideas, in terms of food being connected to identity, so I think it would be really cool to… see if [ancient] diet can speak to identity or social organization.”

After more than a semester at UMMAA, Feak says, “The Museum has a really good community. That is something I felt when I visited and something that has held up in actually being here.”