I’ve been particularly bad at following up with this blog. It’s not that I haven’t been doing anything archaeologically related–indeed, I may in fact be slowly overdosing on the ARC Lab– but rather that I have been too busy to spend any time on writing anything meaningful (outside of my own schoolwork, though that may also be compromised by lack of time). I will take time out to do something that will hopefully help to restore my sanity, which has been waning and spiraling into nerdy conversations about the benefits of radiocarbon dating people over going out and dating real people.

It’s very difficult for me NOT to think about archaeology these days. My entire life revolves around it. 3/5 of my classes involve me reading, writing and discussing it. The other two (Japanese and Mandarin) are to further my academic career so I can have the language skills to flourish in the Far East.

I have included this pie chart of my time and thoughts:

Sarah's Thoughts, 11/17/2010

Sarah's Thoughts, 11/17/2010

Even outside of the classroom and my schoolwork I spend a lot of time indulging in archaeology. This past weekend I was double booked on conferences. One was for the Mellon-Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, of which I am blessed to be a part of. It took place at CalTech in Pasadena (which was my middle school stomping ground, so it was like being at home more or less) and it brought all the Mellon fellows from the west coast together (Heritage, Whittier, Berkeley, Stanford, UCLA, USC, CalTech) to share our research and foster a sense of camaraderie. I had a freakin blast meeting people who are exactly like me in that they are driven by passion for their field. I was part of the presentations, so that was also interesting for me (public speaking scares me still, even after all these times presenting). I walked away completely inspired by my fellow Fellows who are all so very bright, articulate, and passionate about what they study. I always feel like I may be lost in a sea of career-minded people here at USC (so many business majors…) who smile and nod when I tell them what I do, so it was truly refreshing to be surrounded by people who, to quote my roommate Ciku, “could never see themselves doing anything else”, who know it’s not about the PhD. or the rack of awards you get, but rather the fact that you could never stop learning about what it is you love learning about.

I also went to a conference on Kucha, which is an ancient kingdom located in present-day Western China (Xinjiang to be exact). Specifically the panels discussed the cave temples that are located there. It was an amazing conference with a lot of big names, and I absolutely love Buddhist archaeology, so it was pretty sweet. I’m so down for anything talking about Asian archaeology– it gets little attention here at USC, so I feel like I get overexcited. I also ran into one of the head archaeologists from my dig in China, as well as my TA from the same excavation! It was awesome to see them. I like going to conferences to learn how to engage an audience. I feel like I still don’t do it like a few of my professors can do, but I hope that one day I’ll be able to be as awesome as my project is. If anything, sometimes I learn what NOT to be like. I’ve also learned that it really sucks to sit through a lecture when the speaker is really good but the content just does not come alive.

Speaking of my project, my directed research is getting pretty crazy. We’re going back to Chicago on 11/28 to shoot more x-rays at projectiles. I’m SO EXCITED. I’ve been contextualizing and reading recently (well not this past week because I’ve been preparing for conferences). There’s not much to say about it other than that… Woo.

I have two other research projects for classes that are also consuming parts of my life. All this research is making me feel schizophrenic in terms of academics: reading about Near Eastern bronze production during the Iron Age and evidence for tin trade, then skipping over to the political ideology evident in the material culture at Longmen/Yungang during the 5th and 6th centuries CE, then a contrast of Qin and Han funerary rituals through their tomb architecture and archaeology.

Fun fact: burial chambers during the Han dynasty were lined with white clay and charcoal to protect the body from moisture. HOW COOL IS THAT.

I’ve decided that I want to do a fun mix of things with my body when I am dead. I want it mummified in a traditional Egyptian sense– canopic jars and ERRYTHING. I then want to be interred in an earthen pyramid with a massive subterranean complex housing hundreds of thousands of prestige items. I want lots of magic and rituals– import traditional shamans if you have to. I then want to have incense burned at my altar. Wooot.

Here’s a cool photo for you:

Skull showing syphilis

Skull showing syphilis

As a student of bioarchaeology, we talk a lot about paleopathology. The most basic of the diseases that mar the bones is syphilis. I am also a student a university, so if there has ever been compelling evidence to be safe in your extra-curriculars, it is this. See? Everyday applications of classroom learnin’.

~Sarah Butler

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!

Day 1 for the World Archaeological Congress’ Inter-Congress on Archaeology of Conflict taking place in Vienna went really well. I was able to put a lot of faces to names of my colleagues that I have been communicating with via e-mail and Facebook <!/group.php?gid=60913977483&ref=ts&gt;. I also got to meet some new people and to see again people I met in WAC’s meeting in Ramallah last summer.

There was one session of talks and an opening reception in the evening. All in all I was able to spend time with about ten students who I knew from the Next Generation Facebook group. Already that I met at the conference so far there were two students from Norway (one is an Iraqi Kurd), Ireland (she is Italian), London (she is Israeli), Austria, Brazil, Germany, USA and more that I have not been able to meet yet. It really is an international group.

We already had the chance to talk about a number of things. We spoke about English being the common language and if that is fair, limited access to resources depending on what you are studying and where, a couple of students were interested in where the Next Generation Project was heading in the future, etc.

It was only half a day at the conference, but I feel like I have already made a number of connections—although there are still plenty of other people that I feel I need to get to know (better).

Also, I learned something totally new today. Did you know that there is a rift in the archaeological community in regards to archaeology and the military? Apparently there are people who believe that archaeologists should work with military infrastructure and some who believe that we should never work with the military. At this conference there are some military persons presenting and so the archaeologists who do not believe in working with the military are not in attendance at the conference. It is too bad because now the conference is missing their voice and their side of the argument. It does not seem to enhance intellectual discourse by boycotting a conference. I feel like this is a similar situation to the Ramallah conference when some Israelis did not attend because it was in Ramallah and it was one-sided towards the Palestinian perspective. I don’t feel like this is logical—the reason it can become one sided is because you did not come and share your perspective! I think this is one way that the Next Generation Project is important—we should be dialoguing with one another before we even learn that there are two camps and that we have to choose one side of a dialogue. Perhaps it is naïve, but at this point it seems like we can sometimes learn more without knowing the history of a debate.

Pictures to come…


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.


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 the  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!


What a busy week! Jenny and I finally got to present at the AIA annual meeting, after much preparation and a great deal of stress. And it went great!

Jenny presented her poster on the gilding of an ancient Egyptian bronze figurine, and I read my paper about the Tell al-Judaidah terracotta figurines. Overall, we received very enthusiastic responses, and multiple comments on how rare it is for undergraduates to present at these conferences. I am honored to have been selected, and glad to represent a much younger generation of archaeologists. I know so many bright, talented, passionate students who truly represent the future of the discipline, and it’s a shame that so few have the opportunity to present at academic conferences. The empowerment of student archaeologists is a primary goal of USC archaeology, in our student group (The Society of Trojan Archaeologists), our planned outreach programs to surrounding schools, and our endeavors to promote discussion and freedom of ideas between students worldwide (Check out “The Next Generation: Students discuss archaeology in the 21st century” on facebook, a group dedicated to encouraging the voices of young archaeologists across the world).

Jenny and I are proud to have taken our first steps into the world of professional archaeology, and we hope to participate in more conferences in future!

Oh yeah, and we won a bottle of wine in the raffle at the carbon dating booth… which wasn’t so bad either.

Sarah at the podium before her presentation

Jenny with Professor Dodd in front of her poster

Jenny and Sarah at the AIA, preparing to present!

The AIA/APA joint annual meeting is “the largest and oldest established meeting of classical scholars and archaeologists in North America.” From January 6-9, scholars will present research from around the world in posters and lectures.

This year, the Archaeological Institute of America selected two USC undergraduates to present their research at the conference! This is a tremendous opportunity for both of us, as well as being utterly terrifying. In order to reduce the blind panic, we request that you come see us present–we need the support!

Jenny Crawford will be presenting at Poster Session 2G from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM on Thursday, January 7 in Marquis Ballroom South. Her presentation, “Deconstructing and Recreating a Rare Ancient Egyptian Gilding Technique,” represents years of research on the gilding of a shabti figurine housed at USC.

Sarah Hawley will be presenting during Session 2F on Thursday, January 7, 12:30 PM – 2:30 PM in Platinum Ballroom 5. Her paper, “The Iconography of Empire: Figurines from Tell al-Judaidah,” discusses figurine design and production during the Persian and Hellenistic time periods at an important site in southeastern Turkey.

The sessions intersect, but Sarah will only be talking for 10 minutes, so you can pop in for that and then pop back out to see Jenny!

Please come support us as we represent USC archaeology!

Anaheim Marriott
700 West Convention Way
Anaheim, CA

Jenny and Sarah, not yet in a state of blind panic.

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