November 2009

I officially graduated from the ARC Lab two and a half years ago (oh my gosh–it doesnt feel like that long ago!) But, I have been lucky enough to remain involved in the research, events, and friendships that I started while I was technically still a good ole USC student.

One of the people I met while researching in the lab, and then got to know even better while in the field with Professor Dodd at Kenan Tepe in Turkey, is Jon Vidar. I feel like we all take our undergraduate archaeology training in different directions when we graduate. Jon has used his undergraduate experiences of meeting Kurdish populations in Turkey and joined that with his masters degree in communication and love of photography.

Jon is now a member of the Tiziano Project. In their own words, “The Tiziano Project creates self-sustaining, multimedia, online citizen journalism in conflict zones and areas of the world neglected by the established press with a vision and goal of job creation for those we serve. We achieve these aims through collaborative media creation by pairing working professionals with local citizen journalists.”

Well, you may have heard that Chase is doing a philanthropy competition on Facebook. The organizations with the most fan votes received funding. Tiziano could really use our votes! It only takes a minute, so if you have the chance, here are the step by step instructions:

1) Go to this page on facebook:

2) “Become a Fan” of Chase Community Giving (You must be a fan for your vote to count!)

3) Select “Vote for Charity” and make sure that the vote count went up so that you know your vote counted!

4) Please, please pass this along to all of your friends on facebook! We need all the votes we can get! You must have a Facebook account to participate.

fight on,


Friday, November 20, as you can see in the second and fourth respective posts below, was a day for reliving the lost langour of summer.

Let us qualify that: on Friday we powerpointed through a summer’s worth of field school/internship/conference photos and for a brief, heady seven minutes were transported back to languors of a mosquito cloud embalming us alive and of dirty ash flying into our eyes while we kept them trained on the ground for eight hours of surveying sun-cracked ashy ground.

O, how beautiful summer is!

There were eight members of the Society of Trojan Archaeologists and one Environmental Studies professor talking about what they did last summer in our long-awaited event.  WIDLS went off with only two hitches: 1) the rather amusing incident of DPS showing up at the lab upstairs, a hand on her gun but afraid to take any serious action on our lightweight classmate (we’re mostly girls, you know) because she was “waiting for backup,” and 2) a un-reschedulable yearbook photo in the middle of our presentations which had us sprinting back from PED after two or three awkward teeth smiles.  Amazingly, our audience was still there!  We were so gratified and humbled by their attendance that we gave them a tour of the ARC lab afterwards.

The people who spoke were

  1. Dr. Haw – ENST 499, Collapse of the Ancient Maya
  2. Sarah Hawley – AVRP survey in Turkey w/ Prof. Dodd and pottery illustration
  3. Sarah Butler – Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Internship, conserving things in Decorative Arts
  4. Cara Polisini – Cultural heritage studies and excavations on the island of Menorca
  5. Tiffany Tsai – excavation of Paleo-arctic kill site in Alaska
  6. Aaron Muller – excavating Tel Dor, Tel Bet Yerah, a site that USC had previously been to in Israel
  7. Miriam Mollerus – XRD of Ancient Egyptian artifacts at the Argonne National Laboratory
  8. Jacob Bongers – GIS work in Peru
  9. Ashley Sands – chairing a session at the World Archaeology Conference in Ramallah, Palestine

We hope that if you came you enjoyed it and if not, that you can join us next year!

For thousands of years, the Venus of Willendorf was thought to have been worshiped as the pinnacle of beauty. The emphasis on breasts, hips and the in-your-face voluptuous gut are obvious symbols of fertility and the importance thereof. Many people disdain the current emphasis on thinness and ask where we went wrong, how our perception of beauty has been altered by the ~media~. I say this is quite simple from a values perspective– fat= food = survival + fertility. Being skin and bones was not a desirable thing for the better part of human history, mostly because it was a sign of malnutrition, an obvious lack of resources, and possibly bad genetics. If there is anything I have learned in my anthropology class, I have learned that propagation of species (“fitness”) works in mysterious ways. It’s deeply rooted in our subconscious sometimes, and sometimes criteria for sexual selection is even selected against… “Golddigger”, for example. If thought about objectively, is it really so awful to have a partner (male, as this term is generally ascribed to women) who is wealthy with resources?

But, then again, I ask you this: maybe this is simply a Paleolithic centerfold? An ancient Claudia Schiffer?

It’s that time again! Time for WHAT I DID LAST SUMMER, a great event where USC students share information about summer archaeological opportunities.


What did YOU do this summer? Archaeology students drew pottery in Turkey, excavated Maya sites in Belize, knapped flint points in Alaska, surveyed the Lake Titicaca basin, and restored bronzes at the Getty, among other things. Come and hear about the various opportunities available to USC students who want to dip their feet in the past. From paleoclimate research to field school, a wide variety of regional and disciplinary topics will be explored by faculty and students as they talk about their summer experiences. What they did this summer just may be what you do next summer.

Free food, homemade by members of the Society of Trojan Archaeologists, will be available. Come one, come all.

Friday, November 20, 2009

2:00-3:00 PM

ACB 238



I am currently in Portland attending the Museum Computer Network conference. I am learning a lot about creating databases, websites, etc. in the museum world. It’s a great link between my archaeology background and my current Information Science studies.


Ashley Sands

Before I was an East Asian Studies major on top of Archaeology, I was a Philosophy major. In an intro class I took, the main focus was ethics. We discussed ethics throughout the ages, and I was lucky that my professor had his Ph.D in comparative philosophy so we had the opportunity to discuss both Eastern and Western approaches to ethics.

Looking back at the philosophers we studied (the Greeks, Aquinas, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Hume), I find it ironic that the man whose philosophy I least agree(d) with (Kung Fu Tzu, or Confucius) in the ethical, social, and spiritual contexts, I can agree with most in the context of Archaeology. One of the basic teachings of Confucius is to respect your parents and honor your ancestors. While I may not practice what he preached, I can certainly see what value this outlook has for my field, and everyone’s enrichment.

Case and point: the Buddhas of Bamyan. In 2001, the Taliban, viewing the 80+ foot monolithic Buddhas carved into the cliff faces near the remote town of Bamyan, Afghanistan (along the Silk Road trade route) as remnants of Buddhist idolatry, chose to destroy these potential tourist attractions/revenue creators. Despite offers to buy the statues and the 0% population of Buddhists in Afghanistan, over the course of several weeks, anti-aircraft artillery and anti-tank mines were used to obliterate the UNESCO World Heritage site. These Buddhist statues weren’t so much idolatry (most Buddhists in this region did not worship Buddhas, much like Catholics do not worship a statue of Mary per se) as remnants of the rich Gandharan culture that reigned over the region until the 11th century AD. Gandhara was a wonderfully diverse culture, notable for its mixture of East and West in its artistic styles. Indeed, even in our small collection of Gandharan artifacts at USC, one can see the Buddha dressed in a toga with Caucasian features.

Destroyed Bamyan Buddha

Desroyed Bamyan Buddha

Next semester, REL 465, the Archaeology capstone course, is being offered for once. This course covers archaeological ethics and its place in society. It’s interesting that we need to be taught an ethics course, much like a bio or engineer would.

On a side note, a few interesting developments were made after the destruction of these statues: 50 more caves were revealed behind the Buddhas. There are caves littering the cliffs, where hundreds of monk-hermits lived spiritually rich lives creating paintings, writings, and miniature statues. In these most recently found caves, the oldest known oil paintings have been discovered, possibly predating European oil paintings by 600 years.