In desert cultures across the Near East, they have a term for a dust storm so large and unpredictable it can stifle production for days called a “haboob” (هبوب).  And that’s how I feel about school– that it is my academic equivalent to a haboob.

Since the first week, school has pretty much beat me into submission, and a lot of time-consuming work (not necessarily difficult) is required. Some of the time it’s difficult to keep up. In my Geographic Information Systems (GIS) class, I often find myself struggling with the most rudimentary tasks because of a little glitch in my query entry. It’s very frustrating, and I am not a computer scientist.

Professor Dodd’s class this semester feels almost graduate-level, though the end product will be pretty satisfying. Currently (literally in another window), I’m working on assembling a bibliography for our term research project on a specific site of our choosing in the Near East. I chose Alalakh, or Tell Atchana as it’s known in modern terms, which is a palatial Turkish site located on the Amuq plain. Avid readers will recognize the name as the place where Ashley, Sarah, Lexy and Lee spent their summers excavating. I’ve spent the morning reading excavation reports and ILL-ing whatever has “Alalakh”, “Atchana” and “Middle Bronze Age Turkey” in its search terms. I must say, I initially had a mental block against Turkey (it’s a sibling thing– my sister Kristin (Archaeology ’09) excavated in Turkey… And I have general passion more for Central/South/East Asian cultures), but I’ve actually grown quite fond of the site as I’ve dug around Sir Leonard Woolley’s and Aslihan Yener’s excavation reports. The site was originally excavated in the ’30s with U. Chicago’s School of Oriental Studies by Woolley, and lay dormant for almost half a century before Dr. Yener resuscitated the survey/excavations in 1995.

This project is multi-component. Professor Dodd is not satisfied with a ten-page paper analyzing the archaeological methods and considering unanswered questions about the site. No. Each of us must do a 3D mockup of the site inside Google SketchUp, a free (and easy) program used by engineers and architects for visualization of planning and development. By doing this, we import groundplans of the site, trace, and build. Some people chose sites that are not in the ground… Like Djoser’s pyramid…  But Alalakh is still being excavated (obviously). I have the benefit of getting to play a little bit with the aesthetics of the place based on further research on Middle Bronze Age sites in the area (keep in mind that the political map has changed dramatically since the 2nd millenium BCE– indeed, even since the WWs, when Alalakh was actually in Syria). In the end, with a source-laden bibliography, a term paper, and a mock up of a site all in hand, we will each plan a lesson plan to bring our presentations in to a local LAUSD school and teach 6th graders about the site that we did.  And then a final exam on paper. And that’s the semester.

I decided to take the project a step further. Since Professor Dodd works with Dr. Yener and Murat Akar, senior field supervisor, I took the opportunity to gather the raw data they have collected on the field and use it for my term project in my GIS class. There is so much data it’s overwhelming… I just hope I can handle it.

In other news, STARC had its first meeting at Jenny and Sarah’s house with our new mascot Weasley, a ginger no-tailed kitten.

Presenting Weasley!
Presenting Weasley! He has no tail.

Currently, STARC is planning on a camping trip to Joshua Tree National Park, a semester full of interesting speakers, our annual event What I Did Last Summer in which members share their field experiences, and College Night at the Getty Villa. Stay tuned.

~Sarah Butler


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