BY SEBASTIAN ENCINA, Collections Manager, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan
The University of Michigan’s Karanis excavations in the 1920s/1930s profoundly affected numerous departments at the University. Led by Francis Kelsey, the Karanis team collected artifacts that form the core of the collections housed in the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. The nearly 50,000 pieces remain a focus of research, exhibition, and outreach despite the fact that Michigan left the site in 1935.
In 2005, Prof. Willeke Wendrich of UCLA procured a permit to excavate at Karanis. Since then, Dr. Wendrich’s teams have continued research at the site to expand our knowledge of Graeco-Roman Egypt, particularly in the provincial areas.
This season, Fall 2012, Dr. Wendrich has been kind enough to extend me an invitation to join the Karanis team in the familiar position of registrar. During my stay here, I will be seeing the freshly excavated materials currently being found at the site and have a chance to compare them to what Kelsey and Enoch Peterson dug up in the 1920s and 1930s. At the same time, when I can, I will be writing a blog for the Kelsey Museum to share my experiences and thoughts about the current state of Karanis.
I’ve already spent two days at the site and have marveled at its sheer size and condition. Though the Kelsey Museum holds the original plans and maps, the chance to see it in person has given me the proper perspective on how vast the site is and how small the rooms actually are. Unfortunately, Karanis no longer stands as it once did. The views of Karanis captured by George Swain and his team of photographers (including Peterson and Easton Kelsey) are not what the visitor will find today. Many walls have collapsed, many structures no longer stand.
In the coming months, I will update this blog with new findings from the field. As register, I will see all finds come across my desk. I will speak with all the specialists and gather information about those items, and how they compare to the Kelsey’s holdings. I will photograph the site and try to do so from the same angles as Swain. All this I will share with you.
This wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of Dr. Willeke Wendrick and Kelsey Director Dr. Sharon Herbert. To both of them I owe a great deal of gratitude.
Until next time, back out into the field.