Kenta Sayama '19 Archaeology & Heritage Conservation
Pictured (above): Kenta teaching undergraduates how tombstone decay can be used as a proxy for understanding climate change patterns.
What do you currently research?
Documentation and conservation of geological heritage sites in the Middle East to provide data about past regional climate. The Middle East is currently a region with hyper-arid, desert landscapes, but there were multiple phases when this region had lakes, rivers, and abundant vegetation. Ancient human settlement in this region corresponds well with these wet and green phases, demonstrating how much climate change can impact human society. Therefore, these sites are important for three fields: geology, archaeology, and environmental education. Yet, with economic development in the region, they are being destroyed without any consideration of their value as heritage sites. My project aims to provide data and tools to communicate the importance of these sites and provide a blueprint for their conservation.
During my study abroad at Oxford in my junior year, I stumbled upon the field of heritage conservation. The geology department offered me the chance to study skills relevant to both cultural and natural heritage conservation.
How has geology at W&L prepared you?
My courses helped me understand how each of these geomorphological sites are formed and what environmental processes were required to create certain landforms. The spatial analysis skills that I acquired not only allow me to conduct deeper analysis of the paleoenvironmental sites (ancient environmental sites) but allow me to see how they correlate with archaeological sites in the region. My Masters was in archaeology and my knowledge in geosciences really helped me understand the ways in which we study the intersection between the ancient human population and the climate/environment. Also, the joy of field work from numerous afternoons out in Rockbridge County made me want to pursue a career in which going outside is a part of my work!
I do not keep a collection of rocks. I do, however, keep a jar of ancient sediment from Saudi Arabia in my room!