City archaeologist gives internship opportunities for archaeology students

By Isabella Pazmino |

Students at Flagler walk the grounds of a city that holds unlimited historical events and archaeological sites. Yet, rarely are they involved in uncovering St. Augustine’s history.

Sarah Bennett, an intern at Florida Public Archaeology Network feels Flagler students, particularly students majoring in archaeology, are unaware of all the opportunities this city offers archaeologically and historically.

“A lot of students are interested, but they are so unaware,” she said. “There is a big gap between the city and the college.”

Carl Halbirt, the city’s archaeologist, offers students the opportunity to get dirty and explore a city of wonders. On a first-come, first-serve basis, students can apply for an internship for one school year and learn not only what archaeology is all about, but also what it means to understand history.

Halbirt’s interns will work in the field, analyze artifacts in the lab and write reports.  Since archaeology requires skill, knowledge, time and effort, Halbirt works with one student at a time. During the first semester, students focus primarily on fieldwork and lab analysis. During the second semester, students focus on the written report.

In 2009, Bennett applied for an internship with Halbirt. “It’s a great opportunity for people who are interested in archeology,” she said. “It’s good practice.”

Bennett contacted Halbirt in her senior year and immediately began working with him. She started by doing some lab analysis with artifacts found at digs in the Cathedral Parish School. At the time, there was not any fieldwork going on, but with patience, Bennett got the chance to go outside and get dirty.

“I was sitting in the lab one day, Carl bursts in and he is like, ‘We gotta get spray paint. We are going out in the field!'” she said.

Bennett worked on a digging at the Plaza de la Constitucion in late October 2009. For Bennett, working in the field was an unforgettable and exciting experience.

“My favorite find was a little doublet bead. It’s one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen,” she said. ” [The bead] was a Spanish bead of a uniform of some sort. It was incredible, intricate and not easy to replace.”

Bennett recognizes fieldwork is one of the most exciting things archaeologists do, but there is much more to archaeology than that.

“There is a much bigger picture than digging when it comes to archaeology. It is a scientific process,” she said.

There are certain aspects of archaeology that require a lot of time, concentration and patience. Halbirt gives students the chance to learn every single aspect involved in archaeology.

“[Halbirt] prepares you for the great parts and the tedious parts,” Bennett said.

In her second semester, Bennett wrote her report on artifacts found on an earlier dig. She used this report for her senior seminar.

“The hardest thing for me was writing the report,” she said. “It’s different from a history or English paper. You have to think like an archaeologist.”

Halbirt supported and helped Bennett every step of the way.

“He is an amazing mentor, so knowledgeable; if you need him he is there,” she said. “He makes time for you and cares a lot. He wants to know that you are doing well.”

Halbirt has worked in the field of archaeology for 36 years. He wants students to truly understand the field and love everything about it.

Currently, he is digging at the Fountain of Youth. The dig will most likely go on until the end of October.

“No matter where we dig we are going to find something,” Halbirt said.

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