May 2011


So today I received an email from the lovely Tiffany, and it made me realize that I haven’t posted anything exciting on hunterblatherer for about 8,000 years (+/- 7,999 and a bit). I suppose it’s debatable whether I was posting anything exciting before, but let’s pretend for my sake that I was.

I’m still here in Sheffield, getting ready to submit three papers and a dissertation proposal on May 31st. Naturally, that’s what I ought to be doing right now, instead of posting blog updates, but I think breaks are conducive to my health. I have the same policy towards chocolate and periodic naps, with the result that today I’ve taken a nap and eaten an entire chocolate bar. Also, I’ve written 919 words. Success! But I can do better than that, so after I post this I’ll go right back to writing.

The program here is still wonderful, and I’ve gotten some great opportunities to talk to and work with phenomenal scholars in the field. In February I got to attend the Sheffield Centre for Aegean Archaeology Round Table (SCAA website here). It’s a small, informal conference held every year, in which groundbreaking research and theory is discussed for several days by very important people. It was incredible meeting people I’d heard of, whose articles I’d read: Colin Renfrew, John Bennet, Cyprian Broodbank, Michael Vickers, Carl Knappett… and the list goes on and on. These are the rock stars of the Aegean Archaeology world, and their presentations were all fascinating. It was a privilege to listen to them, and to top it all off, I was able to hobnob with them throughout the conference. I can say that they are all lovely, kind people who are perfectly willing to talk to a visibly nervous MA student. I was so nervous meeting John Bennet (he of the Linear B tablets) that I fumbled my reception snack and ended up throwing some sort of half-eaten pastry across the room, where it landed on a professor’s trousers (Notice the use of ‘trousers.’ “Pants’ means something quite different in Britain, and I’d like to be clear that it was a social gaffe, but not THAT much of a social gaffe). Luckily, the professor didn’t notice, and John Bennet still spoke to me afterward.

My class at the Ashmolean with our professors, learning about Cypro-Minoan

Yesterday I went to the Ashmolean museum at Oxford with a group of archaeology students and two professors. We wandered around looking at artifacts (artefacts, for the crazy Brits) and got to play with some objects incised in Cypro-Minoan script. Cypro-Minoan and Linear A are two undecipherable Bronze Age scripts. I think it would be fun to get a tattoo of an inscription. Either you would never know what it said, or archaeologists would finally decipher it sixty years from now and you would find out it said something like “the king demands wool for taxes” or “Kushmashusha was here.” Which would actually be pretty cool, since it would verify Cyprus’ identity as the Alashiya of the Amarna letters, a point still up for scholarly debate.

Ashmolean Museum - I'm pretty sure this says "The king's squirrel demands tribute"

In other news, I wrote a sonnet about Linear B yesterday while pretending I was going to write essays. I’m writing about various Late Bronze Age related topics for the end of term, and Linear B is an inevitable part of my research, albeit one I don’t necessarily enjoy. Take this as proof that I am quietly going mad.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Sonnet

The Pylos archives bring me to my knees
The pinnacle of pinacology
I have no life, you say; I don’t agree
I have no friends, but I have Linear B!

Oh, Tn 316 can thrill me more:
The human sacrifice; a hasty plea
Your text meant naught, alas, Hand 44—
All kingdoms fade to dust eventually

The po-ro-ko-re-te wants fifty sheep—
Such poetry sends joy throughout my soul!
Redistribution haunts me in my sleep—
Obsession, yes, my passion takes its toll

I welcome scorn, for desperate as I seem,
I much prefer my Mycenaean dream

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Actually, I don’t think I’m going “quietly” mad, I think I’m probably doing it rather loudly. Anyway, if you didn’t enjoy that poem, I don’t blame you, and if you did enjoy it I seriously question your sanity, but you are probably also an archaeologist and therefore already certifiably insane.

I suppose there’s a point to my rambling, and it goes something like this: I am really enjoying graduate school, and I never would have been able to be where I am if I hadn’t gone through the archaeology program at USC. I’m so grateful I stumbled upon the ARC website one day and went on a tour of the lab, because my life has been altered in incredible ways since then. I’ve been to Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Chile, Ireland, and England, and all because USC sparked my passion for archaeology and travel. To the undergrads, I would definitely recommend grad school if you are interested in archaeology, because it’s been a phenomenal experience so far, no matter how many jokes I make about it in my blog posts.

So thanks, Professor Dodd and Ashley and ARC-peeps everywhere, because you prepared me for the next steps in my education and encouraged me in the adventures that brought me where I am today.

~Sarah Hawley

Hi all,

I just wanted to take a moment here and brag about the amazing students in the ARC Lab. I know they won’t write their own praise here, so I will go ahead and take a moment to do so for them:

*Sarah Butler is currently studying abroad in Australia and received the Weibel-Orlando Undergraduate Research Fund awarded by Dr. Weibel-Orlando herself from the Anthropology department. Sarah will be traveling this summer to Turkey in order to participate in survey and excavation under the supervision of our own Professor Lynn Swartz Dodd.

*Michelle Lim received a USC Summer Undergraduate Research Fund award. She will also be joining Professor Dodd for survey and excavation in Turkey.

*Jacob Bongers is a Senior and was awarded a $10,000 prize from the USC Global Scholars program to be used for graduate school. Jacob is also one of only two 2011 USC Phi Beta Kappa Undergraduate Award Winner. Jacob focuses his research in Andean Archaeology and has been an important part of the ARC Lab since he was a freshman. Congrats to Jacob and Good luck!

Jacob works on survey during summer 2010

We have had previous posts regarding our great success in the Humanities category at the USC Undergraduate Research Symposium, Danika Jensen receiving an undergraduate scholarship fund to excavate in Rome through AIA, as well as AIA recognizing our ARCSmart program with a Society Outreach Grant. And these all happened this Spring! Hopefully we will have even more honors and awards to share with you soon 🙂

–Ashley

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”- Mahatma Gandhi

I’m absolutely thrilled that ARCSmart has received the Archaeological Institute of America’s Society Outreach Grant. I am personally involved with the program as a coordinator and volunteer, and while getting up on Friday mornings is sometimes hard, it’s totally worth the payoff. I know this program is working, not only for the students themselves, but also for me.

Paul Salay, USC Graduate student, teaches local elementary school students about archaeology

I think one of the most underrated aspects of volunteering is what the volunteer reaps from the experience. I don’t mean a sense of self-worth from vanity projects or generating personal good karma, I mean actually taking a good hard look at the human experience in the microcosm of schools. For example, during the Fall semester, I volunteered at a school deep in south Los Angeles. I have a lot of awesome memories from that school. The particular day of the week that I volunteered for was always before my Japanese class, so between rotations I would carry around my kanji flashcards or be furiously scribbling characters to finish my homework. A few saw this, and suddenly I was writing everyone’s names down in Japanese so they could display them on their binders. The word spread to the next class during recess, and I had kids asking for their names in Japanese again. Some chatted me up about my interest in anime, manga, and my excavation experience in China. I had to miss a day to do something, and upon my return the next week I had kids frowning at me saying I am not allowed to miss another day because they missed me. The unconditional love of students for being nothing but what they consider “cool” (heaven knows I am not, nor have ever been, cool by the standards of my peers) is awesome.

It was the last session with this school that really touched me the most. We played a game of archaeology Jeopardy, and the kids got prizes, and all was well and good. Usually at the end of the last session, we open up the floor to the whole class to ask us anything about archaeology, college, growing up, whatever. Standard questions include, “What is the most interesting thing you’ve ever found?” and “When did you decide you wanted to be an archaeologist?”. All fun things.

Beyond that, we start to get questions about college life in general. Do I get to sleep in a lot? Do I live with my boyfriend? Do I get to stay out late? Is it true that USC has a lot of parties? Is college hard? These are all really cool to answer because I can see their eyes widen when I tell them that I can eat whatever I want, and that I can more or less do whatever I want as long as I keep my grades up. To them, college is the enticing reward at the end of all the arithmetic, cursive and geography they endure.

The questions that make me uncomfortable are ones involving cost. Is it true that USC is incredibly expensive? How do you afford to go to college? I don’t want to discourage them from bothering to even try to go to USC, or any university for that matter. I take this opportunity to tell them about USC’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative, which works to prepare students in the USC neighborhood for university and beyond by providing academic support for committed students and full financial packages to USC. This last session, however, raised some worrying questions in general. These students are very aware of the California state financial crisis, that their education funding is being hacked left and right, and that their resources are limited. Small voices throughout the room murmured that they would never be able to go to college because their families could not afford it. This was especially heart-wrenching after spending five weeks getting to know them, knowing that they are incredibly bright and creative, and knowing that they deserve every bit of support getting into college that I did.

While I was carrying our materials back to my car, two young girls walked next to me. Both of them were told me that they would never be able to go to college. I misunderstood them, thinking they meant to continue the financial conversation from before. I told them that there will be a way to make it happen. I hate to sugar coat things for anyone and any reason, but I felt I had to mask my own feelings on the matter so they would not despair. In fact, they did not mean to continue the financial conversation– they said they would never be able to go to college because they were not American citizens, are scared of applying for federal funding because their families are all under the radar, and that without funding, they would never be able to go to college. This is all in light of the current events in the US with the immigration issues. I was left speechless. I mean, I really don’t know what to tell these kids. I felt awful, answer-less, and sad getting back in my car and driving back to my ivory tower institution.

ARCSmart getting this grant means a lot to me in that we can continue helping kids. Unexpectedly, this grant also means that we can keep helping ourselves. Most students I know at USC have done some sort of community service– whether that’s working with the Joint Educational Project teaching math and English, reaching out to the homeless, or simply donating blood is up to the student themselves. This grant has ensured that we’ll be able to keep educating kids, and in the end, educating ourselves and giving ourselves a holistic education beyond books and research and into interactions with real people, real issues and the reality of a world that I don’t think many USC students ever grew up knowing about, let alone immersed in.

–Sarah Butler