April 2010

There isn’t much more to say than that.

Sarah Hawley took first place in the Humanities category for her project on Judaidah figures. Let’s step back for a second and just congratulate her for all her hard and amazing work. This project was a long-time coming, and it was phenomenal (I’ve been stalking the web page). Now she is Miss Phi Beta Kappa, Miss Undergraduate Writer’s Conference, AND Miss Undergrad Research Symposium– a second-semester trifecta ūüôā

Lexy Sinnott took a second place with her work on Roman glass recycling. I was too busy fending off judges to really take a look at her poster, but I know that her project was so so so cool and relevant.

Tiffany Tsai and me took home an honorable mention for our project on Argonne, imaging methodology and Iron Age projectile points. This is very exciting and encouraging for me, as our project is most definitely a work in progress and will only get better with the years! I was a little worried as I literally showed up, put my backpack down and BAM! a judge was right there without time for me to even pick up my registration packet… But it worked out! Tiffany is a great research partner and I thought we worked really well off of each other, filling each other in where we might have faltered, throwing in tidbits and fun facts about archaeological science (the judges were mostly English people), and trying to get the judges excited for our superawesome project. I reached my goal of being able to speak coherently in front of judges, and just so happened to pick up an award along the way. I can’t wait to get better at presenting research and speaking in front of people… And overall becoming more “professional”.

This is the 11th year that students working in the Archaeology Lab have won the Humanities Division, and the 11th year of Archaeology students dominating the symposium in general. It was unfortunate that Professor Dodd and Ashley were not in the country to see us kill it, but they will know that we held it down while they were away ūüôā


We’ll be on Trousdale Parkway on the USC campus all (or most?) in the Humanities category. This is your chance to learn about ossuaries, stelae, figurines, ancient recycling, and all sort of other wonderful and exciting things!

11:00 AM to 2:00 PM

Be there or we’ll hunt you down… I mean, what?

With the USC Symposium quickly (how very quickly) approaching, this is a great time to look back at our archaeological beginnings and see what twisty, marvelous paths they’ve led us down. And perhaps, in the process, reach a satisfying conclusion as to why we have spent so many hours in the lab and on Microsoft Powerpoint getting our projects ready for one fleeting poster session tomorrow – because in the end, it is still a lot of fun sharing our passion with others.

Name: Tiffany Tsai      Year: Junior     Major: Archaeology

1. What is your title at USC? Student archaeologist, research assistant, and STARC Public Relations Chair all come to mind, but really, the only official title I have is “Bachelors of Arts Candidate in Interdisciplinary Archaeology,” which I do not use very often.

2. What is your area of expertise? I have the most field experience in sub-Arctic Alaska and research experience in laser paint conservation and Egyptian names. At the moment, though, nothing particularly qualifies me as an expert in a certain area.

3. When and where was your last dig? Fairbanks, Alaska, in the summer of 2009. It involved finding bits of stone tools and little animal bones from people who had crossed the Bering Strait about 14,000 years ago.

4. How long have you been an archaeologist? In the sense that archaeology begins when you take your first class or your trowel hits the dirt, I have been an archaeologist since June 2008. In the sense that anyone who makes a story of the past using physical remants is an archaeologist, I’ve always been one. Then there is the definition of archaeology as a profession, something you need credentials and years of postgraduate education for, and in that sense I am still trying to become an archaeologist.

5. Why did you become an archaeologist? I have always wanted to study EVERYTHING, and in the first couple of years of college I jumped around from architectural engineering to math to English and even a music minor. Then I took¬†a class¬†on the Ancient Maya and realized that archaeology lets you study EVERYTHING! ¬†For instance, architecture – lots of ancient sites have buildings and infrastructure, and we need to record and reconstruct the building plans. Math/science – one big rising area today is archaeological science, which borrows ideas from physics and chemistry and biology, like how fast a particle decays, to figure out things like how old an artifact is. Language – people study languages of the past to gain greater insight to a society’s beliefs.

6. Describe your most exciting day as an archaeologist. Last year my professor took me and Sarah (second below) to Sedona, Arizona, where we were invited to help evaluate a Native American¬†site found on someone’s ranch.¬†¬†In the 70s it was home to an artist, and in the back of his studio there was a bookcase covered in inch-thick dust, and we hauled it aside to reveal a door…which when we opened it,¬†led a storeroom filled with artifacts people had totally forgotten about, literally crammed with rotting cardboard boxes full of¬†Sinagua heritage objects from floor to ceiling.¬† On one hand it was appalling, but as it was my first time “finding” anything I could not¬†help the “oh! oh! oh!”s welling up inside me.

7. Describe your average day. Right now I’m in school, so I just get up in the morning, go to class, rush around campus doing various errands, and go back to my apartment to study more archaeology.

8. What is the most important thing to remember when doing archaeology? On a dig, don’t immediately pick an artifact out of the ground when you find something really cool. Our knowledge of former peoples comes from where an object is found as well as¬†the object itself.

9. Why is archaeology important? You don’t know who you are until you know where you came from.¬† We, as the species of humans, don’t know what we truly are until we see what others before us have done.

10. What do you see as the future of archaeology? Less destructive digging, more local people getting involved with archaeologists from a foreign place, more women as head archaeologists, increased focus on modern-day American culture and junk from outer space…those are things I’d like to see happen.

11. What do you usually wear on a dig? It depends on where I’m working. When I excavated a Mission Indian site in Southern California, close-toed shoes and a T-shirt and lots of sun protection were necessary, as Sarah said. In Alaska, it was bare feet and a light sweater with long pants (for the mosquitoes).

12. What is your favorite part about being an archaeologist? Hands down, the camaraderie of digging.

13. What qualities must an archaeologist have? A willingness to go through lots of library books and scholarly papers and write lots and lots of papers, which most people don’t realize; a willingness to go out on a limb and get your hands dirty as well.

14. What would you like people to know about an archaeologist that most people are not aware of? I must echo the dinosaur thing, for which there is even a T-shirt: http://www.cafepress.com/shovelbums/2603940

15. What is the most interesting place your work has taken you? There isn’t a place that hasn’t been interesting in some way, but I guess the ancient limestone caves in Belize – and¬†my time spent crawling through their muddy stalactite mazes – stand out in memory.

It occurred to me that readers of this blog (because we have such a cult following…) might enjoy seeing the undergraduate research projects that come out of the USC Interdisciplinary Archaeology major. We’ve been slaving away tirelessly, some of us for years, on some fantastic projects. Our final submissions to the Provost Undergraduate Research Symposium are due in 10 minutes, so once everyone scurries over to Doheny at the last second and then takes a moment to calm down, I hope everyone will post links to their online research pages. Not everyone submitted a website to the Symposium, so those you’ll just have to see on Wednesday ūüôā

Jenny Crawford: She was last year’s Symposium winner and isn’t submitting this year, but here’s her website anyway! Bringing the Past to Life: Recreating an Ancient Egyptian Gilding Technique

Sarah Hawley: The Iconography of Empire: Political Transition as Demonstrated in the Terracotta Figurines of Tell al-Judaidah

STARCers, please add your websites to this post!

Name: Sarah Butler
Major: Archaeology, East Asian Area Studies
Year: Junior

1. ¬†What is your title at USC? I am an archaeology and East Asian Studies major, and the scholarship officer of the Society of Trojan Archaeologists. I am also a research associate in USC’s Archaeology Research Center.
2. ¬†What is your area of expertise? I wouldn’t call myself an expert on anything, but I tend to know more about Asian archaeology than any other region. My personal research has ranged from Native American rock art to Near Eastern bronze weaponry, and I’ve gained a lot of important skills from those projects that I can use in the future.
3. ¬†When and where was your last dig? I am going on my first dig ever this summer near Xi’an, China, which is the ancient capital of China, but we’ll be excavating a Neolithic site (about 6,000 years old). I’m so excited to get my hands dirty!
4. ¬†How long have you been an archaeologist? I’ve loved ancient history and archaeology since I was a kid, but I took my first course in archaeology in spring of 2008.
5. ¬†Why did you become an archaeologist? Archaeology uses lots of ways of thinking– science, religion, art history, linguistics, and just about any other field you can think of. I like knowing everything, and archaeology lets me use many different thinking caps. I’m extremely fascinated by past cultures, and my imagination mixed with my love of other cultures and desire to know everything really cemented my love for archaeology. I also like adventure!
6. ¬†Describe your most exciting day as an archaeologist. While working on taking pictures of rock art in the area with my colleague and mentor Lucy, we went on a trek and did a little bit of bouldering (climbing on giant rocks). It was very hot, and I was carrying a big backpack. I was beginning to think that we would never find the art that we were looking for… But as we climbed up a flat rock, we found some really cool basins that had been rubbed into the rock with smooth rocks nearby. It was obvious that Native Americans had made food here. We also found a cave with a lot of rock art in it. It’s finds like these that, when you can connect yourself with the people who were there before you, make archaeology really rewarding and fun.
7. ¬†Describe your average day. I’ve never been on an excavation, but similar to what Sarah Hawley said, it’s probably going to be very grueling. When I am working in the lab, I can be there until midnight some nights writing, researching, measuring, mapping– you name it. Archaeology takes a lot of dedication, but the minutes tend to fly by and I don’t feel it at all until the next morning when I am dead tired.
8.  What is the most important thing to remember when doing archaeology? Like I said before, archaeology takes a lot of dedication. Sometimes you can get caught up in all the work and lose sight of why you are doing what you are doingРto find out the truth, and to understand the people who made a certain pot or statue. That is what keeps most of us going, even though it is a lot of work.
9. ¬†Why is archaeology important? “We learn about human systems of trade, economics, politics, and art. We discover parallels between the past and the present, and the ways in which ideas and traditions travel and evolve over the years. We are living out a continuation of everything that has happened before, and so we can always see ourselves in the people of the past.” – I couldn’t have said it better myself.
10. ¬†What do you see as the future of archaeology? Archaeology adopts a lot of tools that are not necessarily made specifically for archaeology but still have a use. Because so many new ways of doing research and new tools are being developed, it’s hard to say where we will be in five or ten years. I hope that as new minds emerge into the field and new ways of thinking about things come up, we will be able to have really great discussions about our past. Because we need these new minds and a constant flow of conversation, I hope that all these new tools will give young people the opportunity to experience and get involved with archaeology.
11. ¬†What do you usually wear on a dig? The same things you would wear on a hike– boots, LOTS of sun protection that doesn’t make you hot and allows you to move around freely. Some countries have laws telling you what you can and cannot wear, and it’s very important you respect those rules too.
12.  What is your favorite part about being an archaeologist? Mystery! Adventure! Getting to know people, both your fellow archaeologists and the people of the cultures you study!
13.  What qualities must an archaeologist have? Passion and curiosity.
14. ¬†What would you like people to know about an archaeologist that most people are not aware of? We don’t excavate dinosaurs, and none of us carry a whip!
15. ¬†What is the most interesting place your work has taken you? Sedona, AZ. It’s a popular vacation spot, but there is so much archaeology there it is unbelievable. To me, it is amazing that people lived on high cliffs in such a hot, dry place because I know I wouldn’t be able to do that.

One of the greatest things we can experience as student archaeologists is the chance to share our enthusiasm with young students. Having been sucked into the world of archaeology ourselves, we delight in sharing the joys (and struggles) of it with anyone who might possibly be interested in joining us. This is an incredible discipline, full of interesting people and the potential for adventure, and if archaeology needs anything, it is more young enthusiasts to carry on the work.

So it is with great pleasure that we post some of our responses to student questions, in the hopes that we can help share our excitement.

Name: Sarah Hawley
Major: Archaeology
Year: Senior

1.  What is your title at USC? Archaeology major is about the only title I have, although I am president of the Society of Trojan Archaeologists.
2.  What is your area of expertise? Most of my experience is in Near Eastern archaeology, specifically in Turkey. My personal research focuses on terracotta figurines from a Turkish site.
3.  When and where was your last dig? I went to Alalakh Excavations last summer from June to August to survey, excavate, and illustrate pottery. The site is located in southern Turkey near Antakya.
4.  How long have you been an archaeologist? Since August 2008, when I took my first archaeology course at USC.
5. ¬†Why did you become an archaeologist? I didn’t know what to choose as my major. Archaeology had always interested me, so I signed up for a class and was instantly addicted.
6.  Describe your most exciting day as an archaeologist. Probably my first day excavating in Tarapaca Valley, Chile. I had no idea how to hold the trowel or what to do. The first thing I scraped out of the ground was a tiny piece of a stick, and I was convinced it was tremendously significant and the most fabulous stick in existence. On that same excavation, I dug up a 1,000 year old mouse corpse, which terrified me when it popped out of the ground. Maybe that was a little more exciting.
7.  Describe your average day. On excavation, the schedule is grueling. Wake up at 4:30, start excavation at 5:30, lunch at 1:30, nap until 4:30, lab work until 7:00. During the school year my schedule is much more normal, and I sleep as much as I can!
8. ¬†What is the most important thing to remember when doing archaeology? I think it’s most important to remember the people behind the objects we discover. Someone lived in those mudbrick houses once, or made that pot. We don’t dig for our own prestige–we dig to uncover the truth about the past and to better understand the people who have come before us.
9.  Why is archaeology important? We learn about human systems of trade, economics, politics, and art. We discover parallels between the past and the present, and the ways in which ideas and traditions travel and evolve over the years. We are living out a continuation of everything that has happened before, and so we can always see ourselves in the people of the past.
10. ¬†What do you see as the future of archaeology? I hope that archaeology will become more accessible to the public and to young scholars. It’s a field that is always changing and evolving. Technology is constantly giving us new tools. Who knows? Maybe in the future, we won’t have to dig at all to see what lies underground. Which would actually make me a little sad.
11.  What do you usually wear on a dig? Close-toed shoes, long, comfortable pants, and a cotton T-shirt. You need to be able to move easily while having protection from the sun. Sunglasses, sunscreen, and a broad-brimmed hat are also essential!
12.  What is your favorite part about being an archaeologist? The chance to travel and meet so many new people.
13.  What qualities must an archaeologist have? A sense of adventure. Curiosity. Dedication.
14. ¬†What would you like people to know about an archaeologist that most people are not aware of? It’s a lot more work than people think, and a lot more time spent in the library and the laboratory. But while we may not be exactly like Indiana Jones, we do have a lot of fun.
15.  What is the most interesting place your work has taken you? Turkey. I love the country so much, and it was wonderful to be able to see such a new and fascinating place.

I have got to be the least “professional” person I know. As I mentioned before in a post a few months ago, most of my friends at USC are in business-oriented majors. They are often seen looking sharp in suits and could probably sell you a resealed used bottle of water. I, on the other hand, wore a suit for the first time just this past Tuesday. Heels to me are the American equivalent of foot-binding. And so it is this time of year that I dread the most: symposium. Four hours of standing around in a suit nervously waiting to prattle off (strategically) to the judges about my research in painful heels and formal attire.

Well, every experience is a learning experience. This isn’t so much explaining as it is selling. It’s talking it up and making it really awesome, and showing the awesome implications. I really sucked at this last year (and probably am only a little better this year) and felt really bad since I knew my project was pretty awesome and I didn’t do it justice. This year, my goals are to just be better at speaking, be more calm and more prepared for the judges’ questions. Hopefully they won’t play hardball, but in the spirit of my weapon’s project, I’ll be prepared for a siege.

To see me in a suit, you should all come out to Trousdale on Wednesday and hear about mine and Tiffany’s AWESOMELY FANTASTIC project from Argonne, Shawley’s amazing work with the Judaidah figurines, and Aaron’s research on our Egyptian ossuary. Be there and expand your horizons with cutting edge undergraduate research!

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