Post-USC academic life: an update

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


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