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 πŸ™‚


β€œThe 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

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

It’s that time again. Provost Undergraduate Research Symposium time. In the upcoming weeks, the lab will be filled with hordes of unhappy undergraduates, pulling their hair out in hanks and squinting at websites under construction and poster drafts under review.

The ARC lab has a rather prolific history of victory at the Symposium. Every year, our tiny group of researchers submits ten to fifteen projects, one or more of which inevitably end up winning awards. Professor Dodd is probably driven even crazier than the rest of us, since she tends to mentor, advise, and oversee EVERY SINGLE ONE of these archaeology submissions. That’s more than any other professor at the Symposium.

Being the masochist that I am, I rather enjoy Symposium time, in a weird way. There’s something almost soothing about losing yourself in highly focused work, made spicier by a dose of panic. Also, I’m a bit of a website construction fiend (of the iWeb variety–no way am I writing my own code!). So all in all, I tend to enjoy it at least a little bit.

But right now I’m having a little difficulty psyching myself up for the work. Maybe it’s because I’m a second semester senior, worried about life after school and senioritis and getting through this last month alive and without permanent psychological damage. But I know that once I sit down and really spend some effort on updating my website, I’ll feel that old enthusiasm again, and things will go just fine.

And on Wednesday, April 14, I’ll be among the group of smiling, exhausted archaeology students, dressed in our nicest clothes next to posters and laptops displaying the research that many of us have been working on for years. From 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM we will spiel about a wide variety of topics to anyone who will listen, sharing our own crazed love for our projects with judges, professors, and random passersby. It’s an absolute nerdfest, and the variety and quality of research presented is always astounding.

So please come support the ARC lab researchers at the Symposium on April 14 between 10:00 and 2:00! We’ll be on Trousdale Parkway somewhere, mostly in the Humanities category, and we would love to see some friendly faces.


Tonight I attended the Remarkable Women Awards…. And our very own Professor Dodd won one of three faculty awards! The award is presented to women who are… doing remarkable things. Like sponsoring a jillion students’ research while concurrently publishing and dealing with a life in academia on top of a small child to raise.


So over the past week we seem to have become marginally famous! Not that we weren’t famous before, of course…

The USC College website ran two articles this week about the ARC lab and the research being undertaken here. Check out the links below!

Beaming with Joy: This article discusses the research being undertaken at the Argonne National Laboratory by Professor Lynn Swartz Dodd. She won “beam time” for the second year in a row, allowing her and her team to use a high intensity X-ray to study the makeup of ancient artifacts. The artifacts are the oldest objects ever to be studied with the synchrotron beam.

Exploring the Rise and Demise of Empires: This article is about the research presented by undergraduate Sarah Hawley at theΒ  2010 joint meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) and the American Philological Association (APA) in Anaheim. The research focuses on ancient figurines from Tell al-Judaidah and the ways in which the modification of forms reflects empire transition.

Also, Lynn Dodd and our very own archaeology alumna Ashley Sands introduced Polynomial Texture Mapping (PTM) imaging technology to the Alalakh excavation in Turkey this summer. This photographic technique allows for high quality imaging of object surfaces in which light can be moved around the photograph. This technique allows researchers to view objects in ways that are impossible using normal photographic equipment or the naked eye. Senior field supervisor Murat Akar published Ashley’s description of the USC team’s contributions on the official Alalakh website, located here.

We are immensely proud of everything that the ARC lab has accomplished. Hopefully you’ll be reading even more about us in the months and years to come!

Congrats to all of the USC Archaeology folks who participated in the symposium. Seriously–you were awesome! Take a look at the write-up in theUSC College newsletter

All participants at the 2009 symposium awards dinner

All participants at the 2009 symposium awards dinner

And an amazing quote: “For the 11th year, undergrads of Bruce Zuckerman and Lynn Swartz Dodd have taken top honors in the research symposium. Swartz Dodd and Zuckerman of religion have acted as sponsors for students in multiple fields, mostly associated with the USC Archaeology Research Center. Combined, they had 17 student participants.”

Now that the symposium is out of the way (well…for another 352 days…) a bunch of us are heading off to Atlanta, Georgia for the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology. Lynn Dodd will be taking 9 undergrads and 2 recent alumni (some of us just can’t get enough of the arc lab). We are all excited to meet some of the experts that we read about in textbooks, listen to interesting papers, and scout out potential grad-school advisers. Well…and we plan to bond…

Oh, did I forget to mention that the students in Dodd’s class today prepared a Neolithic meal? Yep. It’s true. Trust me, its not easy to find wheat grains, acorn squash, and the “articulated joints of large bones of lamb or mutton”–even in LA!

–Ashley Sands

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