Trowel Blazers: Women of the OSA featuring Melissa Timo

Friday, August 16, 2019
Trowel Blazers: Women of OSA

In honor of the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in 2020, we are celebrating the talented women who work for the NC Office of State Archaeology with our "Trowel Blazers" series. This week we're honoring Melissa Timo, Staff Archaeologist and Historic Cemetery Specialist at the OSA Raleigh Office!

The newest member of our team, Melissa has been doing archaeology throughout the east coast for almost 20 years, joining the OSA in April 2019! She holds a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology with an Archaeology concentration from Mercyhurst University in Pennsylvania, and a Master of Arts in Historical Archaeology with a specialty in Public Archaeology from the University of West Florida.

How did you become interested in archaeology?

I got into archaeology round-aboutly via history. I grew up spending time with my dad at a nearby a French and Indian War-period battlefield, loving museums, and reading historical fiction and 18th century captivity narratives. I was not aware, however, that you could get an actual job that combined all of those things that wasn’t a high school history teacher. When I started applying to colleges, none of the options I was considering as majors made me very happy. After talking to some family members, they suggested that I combine my love of history, science, culture, and the outdoors and look into anthropology. I had only a loose understanding of what it was, but thought I’d give it a go. I applied to one program, which I fortunately got into. Took my first anthropology class and I was inescapably hooked. Best gamble ever.

What is your favorite project or archaeology memory?

One of my first cultural resource management (CRM) projects included the remnants of an 1880s-1920s coal company town. The area affected by highway construction included the remains of nine duplexes and nine associated double privies. We worked at that site for almost nine months. By the end, it felt like we got to know that Hungarian immigrant community pretty well, even if we didn’t have their names. One of the most interesting finds was discovered on the side of the village in which more families, rather than single men, lived. While excavating two of the associated privies, we discovered something like 5-7 wedding rings. We spent a great deal of time musing about just how unhappy and frustrated you’d have to be, stuck on a ridge on top of an active coal mine, in the middle of nowhere on the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border, to throw your wedding rings into the outhouse like that. Probably not the American Dream they signed up for!

What other hobbies do you have?

I like to hike, crochet, bake, garden, and read.

Cat or dog?

I love both. I grew up with a dog but when I was ready to get a pet of my own, my apartment complex at the time only allowed cats and birds, for whatever reason.  Went to the local ASPCA and asked for the chillest cat they had (because of my inexperience and the fact I was previously only familiar with aggressive outdoor/barn cats). They handed me what ultimately became my buddy, and I was converted. I’d still like to get a dog someday, but appreciate cats’ independence. It fits well with my variable schedule and apartment life.

 

About the Campaign
The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. As part of a national campaign to commemorate this historic event, North Carolina’s Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) is coordinating a campaign titled “She Changed the World: NC Women Breaking Barriers” March 2019, continuing through November 2020. American women were granted the right to vote with the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified on August 18, 1920, after a 72-year fight by suffragists. The 19th Amendment did not resolve the issue of suffrage for women of color, who continued to battle for voting rights for decades.

Image credits:
-Melissa, image courtesy of Melissa Timo
-Chief the cat, image courtesy of Melissa Timo