Kristin Cimmerer has done fieldwork in South Africa and Alaska. She is president of the Student Archaeology Club and editor-in-chief of Crossroads, the U-M undergraduate anthropology journal.

The Museum’s ongoing Student Research Spotlight series reports in detail on the research conducted by graduate and undergraduate archaeology students. In this Spotlight, we look at the work of senior Kristin Cimmerer.

Cimmerer is on track to earn a double major in anthropology and evolutionary anthropology and a minor in German. She has worked with multiple graduate students and faculty over the past few years and she is president of the Student Archaeology Club as well as editor-in-chief of Crossroads: The University of Michigan Undergraduate Journal of Anthropology.

Cimmerer’s interest in archaeology crystalized after taking Lisa Young’s course, Frauds and Fantastic Claims, in her freshman year. The next year she sought out fieldwork opportunities, the first of which was in South Africa with Brian Stewart, assistant professor and curator of Paleolithic archaeology at UMMAA. There she worked at the Splitzkloof rock shelter, excavating in layers dated to the Middle Stone Age. She describes the experience as “wild.”

“It was an extreme first excavation,” she recalls. “I liked the immersion, the excavation atmosphere.” 

This past summer Cimmerer joined graduate student Bree Doering for her excavations at Quartz Lake, Alaska. She also continued research on South Africa, working in the Museum’s Africa Range with Stewart and Ph.D. candidate Kyra Pazan to analyze the Middle Stone Age lithic assemblage from the Melikane rock shelter in Lesotho. In addition, she has worked with graduate student Lacy Carpenter to digitize and produce archaeological illustrations of ceramics from the Oaxaca Valley of Mexico, and with Laura Motta, a research scientist at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, to develop skills in paleoethnobotanical analysis.

Cimmerer is hard at work on her honors thesis, which focuses on a lithic assemblage from the Melikane rock shelter dating to 40,000–50,000 years ago. Her research will compare this assemblage to older materials from the site. Doing so should allow her to understand how changes in mobility related to climatic shifts and resource variability in the mountainous region of Lesotho.

After she graduates, Cimmerer may continue with archaeology or branch out into historic preservation or history-based education.

If you are interested in learning more about the Student Archaeology Club, email Cimmerer at

Story by Tim Everhart (