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 ūüôā


Summer ended awhile ago for us here at the ARCLab, and we have been experimenting and researching more than just amazing artifacts and new technology.

This semester, we are working on putting together an expansion of last year’s ARC Smart, which, for those of you who just joined us at Hunter Blatherer, is USC Archaeology’s premier outreach program. Partnered with LAUSD and the Joint Education Project at USC, we bring in real artifacts from Rome, Greece, Mesopotamia, and Egypt to kids within the LAUSD to give them hands-on museum experiences and to get them thinking critically like professional archaeologists. This semester is exciting for all of us, and we are reaching more classrooms, more kids and helping their social studies classes come to life.

I’m personally thrilled to be part of this program. I remember being so nervous going in to my first session with the kids from a local magnet school, and I’m pretty sure they could smell it on me. I had rehearsed what to say about my set of cuneiform tablets, knew all the little intricacies about them and thought about ways to make the ancient words mean something to them. Beyond getting my facts straight, I craved their approval. I remember the attitude I had when I was 12, and was terrified that they would eat me alive. Who knew that the esteem of middle schoolers was so precious and so daunting? By the second session we had with them, they knew my name. By the third, they said I was “cool”. They told me they wanted to be writers, doctors, physical therapists (who work for the Lakers), teachers. I fielded their questions about college (“Do you have a car? (Yes) Do you live with your boyfriend? (No, I live in the ARCLab!) Do you go to sleep whenever you want? (No, my schoolwork doesn’t let me!)”) . They all want to go to college, and I told them to keep up their grades and they certainly will. It was almost heartbreaking to think that the year was ending by that point and “my kids” were all growing up into 7th grade.

This Friday we’re having an info session for students (undergrad & grad) interested in giving a little bit of their time to these kids, making some new friends, and giving them a chance to get behind the museum glass and interact with real artifacts. The session is in ACB 330 (the ARC conference room) from 12-2 PM. Refreshments will be served, and fresh ideas will be taken as well. The only requirement is enthusiasm for archaeology!


~Sarah B.

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:

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.

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.

The STARC website!

Yes, we finally have a website for the Society of Trojan Archaeologists. It’s still being modified, but here’s the link!


Check it out!

~Sarah Hawley

Friday, November 20, as you can see in the second and fourth respective posts below, was a day for reliving the lost langour of summer.

Let us qualify that: on Friday we powerpointed through¬†a summer’s worth of¬†field school/internship/conference¬†photos and for a brief, heady seven minutes were transported back to¬†languors of a mosquito cloud embalming us alive and¬†of dirty ash flying into our eyes while we kept them trained on the ground for eight hours of surveying sun-cracked ashy ground.

O, how beautiful summer is!

There were eight members of the Society of Trojan Archaeologists and one Environmental Studies professor talking about¬†what they did last summer in our long-awaited event. ¬†WIDLS¬†went off with only two hitches: 1) the rather amusing incident of DPS showing up at the lab upstairs, a hand on her gun but afraid to¬†take any serious action on¬†our lightweight¬†classmate (we’re mostly girls, you know)¬†because she was “waiting for backup,” and 2) a un-reschedulable yearbook photo in the middle of our presentations which had us sprinting back from PED after two or three awkward teeth smiles.¬† Amazingly, our audience was still there!¬†¬†We were so gratified and humbled by their¬†attendance that we gave them a tour of the ARC lab afterwards.

The people who spoke were

  1. Dr. Haw – ENST 499, Collapse of the Ancient Maya
  2. Sarah Hawley – AVRP survey in Turkey w/ Prof. Dodd and pottery illustration
  3. Sarah Butler – Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Internship, conserving things in Decorative Arts
  4. Cara Polisini РCultural heritage studies and excavations on the island of Menorca
  5. Tiffany Tsai – excavation of Paleo-arctic kill site in Alaska
  6. Aaron Muller – excavating Tel Dor, Tel Bet Yerah, a site that USC had previously been to in Israel
  7. Miriam Mollerus РXRD of Ancient Egyptian artifacts at the Argonne National Laboratory
  8. Jacob Bongers РGIS work in Peru
  9. Ashley Sands Рchairing a session at the World Archaeology Conference in Ramallah, Palestine

We hope that if you came you enjoyed it and if not, that you can join us next year!

It’s that time again! Time for WHAT I DID LAST SUMMER, a great event where USC students share information about summer archaeological opportunities.


What did YOU do this summer? Archaeology students drew pottery in Turkey, excavated Maya sites in Belize, knapped flint points in Alaska, surveyed the Lake Titicaca basin, and restored bronzes at the Getty, among other things. Come and hear about the various opportunities available to USC students who want to dip their feet in the past. From paleoclimate research to field school, a wide variety of regional and disciplinary topics will be explored by faculty and students as they talk about their summer experiences. What they did this summer just may be what you do next summer.

Free food, homemade by members of the Society of Trojan Archaeologists, will be available. Come one, come all.

Friday, November 20, 2009

2:00-3:00 PM

ACB 238



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