Shawn Graham head shotThe results from the first archaeological work done in space on a human habitation in orbit are in! This features work by History Professor Shawn Graham and newly graduated MA Chantal Brousseau. The full details are available in “The Sampling Quadrangle Assemblages Research Experiment (SQuARE) on the International Space Station, Report 1: Squares 03 and 05” with an abstract below.


profile photo of Chantal BrousseauBetween January and March 2022, crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS) performed the first archaeological fieldwork in space, the Sampling Quadrangle Assemblages Research Experiment (SQuARE). The experiment aimed to: (1) develop a new understanding of how humans adapt to life in an environmental context for which we are not evolutionarily adapted, using evidence from the observation of material culture; (2) identify disjunctions between planned and actual usage of facilities on a space station; (3) distance; and (4) demonstrate the relevance of social science methods and perspectives for improving life in space. In this article, we describe our methodology, which involves a creative re-imagining of a long-standing sampling practice for the characterization of a site, the shovel test pit.

The ISS crew marked out six sample locations (“squares”) around the ISS and documented them through daily photography over a 60-day period. Here we present the results from two of the six squares: an equipment maintenance area, and an area near exercise equipment and the latrine. Using the photographs and an innovative webtool, we identified 5,438 instances of items, labeling them by type and function. We then performed chronological analyses to determine how the documented areas were actually used. Our results show differences between intended and actual use, with storage the most common function of the maintenance area, and personal hygiene activities most common in an undesignated area near locations for exercise and waste.