It’s time for a new school year! Classes started this week, and we’re really excited about all the archaeology offerings this fall.

Our newest professor, Maya expert Dr. Thomas Garrison, will be teaching two courses:

ANTH-202: Introduction to Archaeology

ANTH-202 is a great opportunity to learn about the theory, methods, and practice of archaeology. You will learn how archaeological research is conceived, planned, and carried out, from survey and excavation to analysis of finds and final reconstruction of ancient cultural systems. The class will be held on T/Th from 9:30-10:50 AM.

Come learn what it’s like to be a real-life Indiana Jones!

ANTH-310: Archaeology of the Americas

Do you like hidden palaces? What about human sacrifice?

If the answer is yes, then you need to sign up for ANTH-310: Archaeology of the Americas (T-Th 12:30-1:50), an exciting new course taught by Maya expert Tom Garrison! You’ll get an overview of anthropological archaeology and the great cultures of the Western Hemisphere in this fun and fascinating course.

Temples and palaces and human sacrifice, oh my!

In addition to these two exciting courses, we’ve added a new course, REL-402: Cultural Heritage, Religion & Politics in the Middle East, which is taught by Prof. Dodd and will be held on Wednesdays from 2-4:50 PM.

Are you curious why Jerusalem matters so much to Palestinians and Israelis? Or why Christianity isn’t the dominant faith in the land where it began? Or why the Taliban dynamited the massive, ancient Buddhas in Afghanistan and Egyptians looted national treasures? Anyone seeking greater insight into foreign policy, faith-based movements, and emerging political trends is invited to join this seminar. We investigate how the past matters in the Middle East today through film, field trips, and discussions. The course can be taken for credit in Religion, International Relations, History, Archaeology, and Middle East Studies. There are NO prerequisites for enrollment.

Unearth the politics of history in this fantastic new course

As if those weren’t enough, there’s also a new Freshman Seminar, FSEM-180 Human Survival: Learning from the Past. Professor Dodd will be teaching this, and students will get the chance  to learn ancient survival skills. We’ll be making stone tools and pottery, smelting, weaving cloth, and brewing beer, and I personally can’t wait.

And, of course, ARCSmart will be starting up again! Our introductory meeting is Friday, August 31st, at 2 pm in ACB-330. Stop by and get involved in this fun volunteer project.

Join us this Friday, August 31st at 2 PM in ACB-330!


More updates to come soon!
-Sarah H

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

Marhaba! That’s ‘hello’ in Arabic, also known as مرحبا (according to Google Translate)

Ashley and I are once again in Amman, Jordan, after spending the last week in and around Ramallah in the West Bank. We were volunteering at the Birzeit University Archaeological Library organizing books and papers–it was alphabetization the likes of which this world has never seen…

Working with local students!

Apparently the theme of the day was 'pink'

Finished alphabetizing off prints

We also spent time in the area around Ramallah, including a visit to Jericho and to the Taybeh Brewing Company, the only Palestinian-brewed beer and the only Middle Eastern brewery to employ a woman. The annual Taybeh Oktoberfest provides a chance for tourists and locals to mingle and for artisans to sell handmade products, an important event and a chance to stimulate the economy in a town with an over 50% unemployment rate. We highly recommend visiting the brewery for Oktoberfest, which will be October 2-3 this year.

We also experienced a little of life in the Jalazon refugee camp, where some 15,000 people have been living in 1.5 square kilometers of space since 1948. Throughout the West Bank, the people we met were vibrant and hospitable, and Ashley and I enjoyed our stay very much.

The streets of Jalazon

After the work was done, we visited Bethlehem to see the Church of the Nativity.

Outside the Church of the Nativity

We crossed the wall into Jerusalem the next day. It was eerie to see the wall and the arduous process Palestinians had to go through to get through checkpoints. The colorful graffiti and protestations for peace on the Palestinian side reminded me of another famous wall… Sometimes the lessons of history are forgotten far too easily.

Graffiti on the Palestinian side of the wall


Once in the Old City, we stayed at the Austrian Hospice (that’s actually what it’s called) with some of the team members from Doron Ben-Ami, an excavation run by the Israeli Antiquities Authority where students from the University of Vienna travel to assist. We saw the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, al-Aqsa, the Dome of the Rock, and the Western wall, and went to a great Ramadan concert/party at the Damascus gate.

The Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall

Doron Ben-Ami

Fire-breathing party at the Damascus Gate!

Then we met up with fellow USC archaeology alum, Aaron! He showed us around his site, Ramat Rahel, which was an ancient administrative center. Aaron has been at Ramat Rahel for three summers, and this is the excavation’s last year, so it was a bittersweet site tour.

Fighting On at Ramat Rahel!

After an excruciatingly long border crossing, we ended up back in Amman, where we’re briefly resting before heading out to see the Dead Sea and, of course, Petra. Ashley and I are both sick (ick), but we’re embracing the experience anyway. Tomorrow we’re going to a hammam (Turkish bath) to be pampered and scrubbed and massaged until we are clean and glowing. This won’t last long, since we’re heading out to the Dead Sea later in the day… but those few minutes of cleanliness will be glorious.

~Sarah H and Ashley S

So I’m in a hostel in Amman, Jordan with my dear friend and fellow USC archaeology grad Ashley Sands! She just finished her Turkish excavation and I’m about to go to England for grad school, so we decided to meet in Jordan and spend a few weeks traveling around.

Our first day has been pretty eventful. Sort of. We overslept, thus missing the hostel’s free breakfast and the coolest hours of the day. Fun fact: Jordan is experiencing a heat wave right now. So around noon we took a walk around, trying to find food. Another fun fact: It’s currently Ramadan, which means all the restaurants are closed until sundown. So Ashley and I eventually settled for sharing a piece of bread.

Then we took a taxi up to the Citadel, which contained some beautiful ruins, particularly the Temple of Hercules. It was very hot up top, but luckily there was a bit of a breeze, so walking was fine. We also went through the archaeological museum, which housed artifacts from the Paleolithic to the Ottoman period. It was hotter inside the museum than outside.

Ashley at the Temple of Hercules

The whole citadel tour took less than an hour, so Ashley and I ended up back at the hostel, where we are now lying in bed with the air conditioning on and waiting for the sun to go down.

Tomorrow we head to Ramallah to work at the library at the Birzeit University Institute of Archaeology. We’ll be cataloging books, working with a database, and doing lots of alphabetizing–should be exciting!

More updates and pictures to follow!

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

I am counting down my last days here at Tell Atchana and I have to admit that I will miss it here!  I only have 3 more days in my trench, but luckily we removed most of the in-situ pottery today so I will get to see it all before I leave!  In the past week we have been piecing together some really beautiful Syro-Cilician painted wares that will eventually be restored by our loverly conservation team!

Today we took final photos of this phase of our trench (3c in case you were wondering), and now we are beginning to take down some of the main features in order to see what is underneath… I can’t quite decide how I feel about this.  We have spent the past month exposing all these interesting, beautiful features, and now we’re just going to destroy them all??  I guess that’s the whole idea behind archaeology though, you find something, study it, and keep moving.  Which brings me to my next topic: documentation

The Alalakh documentation system is a beast.  Every day we keep a daybook detailing what we dug and how we did it and describe EVERYTHING down to what color the dirt was, all while recording seemingly insignificant millimeter changes in elevation. On top of the documentation that takes place on site, we spend several hours each evening we do things like sorting pottery, entering lot and locus information into the database, and writing photograph descriptions.  Some days I really dread this, but it is definitely the most important part of our job.  Anyone can dig a hole in the ground and pull out some buried treasure, but we aren’t a bunch of Indiana Jones wannabes running around the desert (well, maybe some of us are).  I would say I only spend 40% of the work day playing in the dirt, and the rest of my time is spent sampling, observing, and describing.

I know have mentioned before that I have become really attached to my trench and everything in it, so I am very sad to see it get big-picked into nothing.  But thanks to the sickeningly thorough and precise nature of archaeology, I know that every single detail of its existence is neatly organized in the Alalakh database if I ever want to visit it. And who knows what we’ll find next? I’m sure that just a few centimeters under my beloved kitchen there is a whole new context just waiting for some caring archaeologist to tear it apart!!

Sadly though, I leave in 4 days… so it won’t be me.  Probably Luca.

-Lexy Sinnott