İyi günler! Thrust faults are fun!

SUZANNE DAVIS, Curator of Conservation

What do this Turkish phrase (“Good day!”) and thrust faults have in common? They are both things Carrie and I are learning right now. She is studying geology and I’m taking Turkish 101.

One of the best things about conservation is that you’re always learning something new. You might think these things would always be about chemistry, or other conservation-specific kinds of info, but you’d be wrong. I’m studying Turkish — following on 1.5 years of Arabic — to be able to communicate better with colleagues and community members at the Kelsey’s field projects. Carrie, who’s our stone conservation guru, wants to understand stone building fabrics better.

Did you know that flashy flow (vs. continuous flow) is something you get from steep river gradients? Or that you can have mature and immature sediment? Well, now you do.

Turkish is a member of the Ural-Altaic linguistic family, and it’s agglutinative (just like Klingon, according to Wikipedia). In Turkish, you stick little word parts (or morphemes) onto the ends of words, and these suffixes indicate things like person, case, tense, etc. Did you know that Turkish has no grammatical gender? That’s right, folks — no she or he, no him or her. I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. If you’ve ever studied a Romance language (or German or Arabic, for that matter) think about this lack of gender for a moment and you, too, might begin to feel my love. No gender agreement necessary. Ever.

Carrie and I are happy to be in a discipline and at an institution where learning is valued and supported. At a time when many of us are feeling upset from the long and divisive presidential campaign, here’s our advice to you: distract yourself! It’s a great time to start fresh and learn something new.

Ugly Object of the Month — November 2016


This month’s Ugly Object is a familiar character — assuming you know your Romano-Egyptian child deities. That’s right folks, Harpocrates is back. Only this time, he’s taken the form of a baby bust.

Terracotta bust of Harpocrates. KM 6461.

The bust was found in one of the ancient houses of Karanis in 1926, and I have to say, it’s really captured my fancy.  I love many things about this Harpocrates. First and foremost is that it’s a bust. You see a lot of marble portraits in this format, but it’s cool to see this miniaturized and translated into terracotta (very meta). I also love the shaved head with the intricate side lock (a Harpocrates signifier, but also — dare I say it? — very edgy!).  And finally, I love the face. To me it’s a curious cross between a sweet baby face and a wise old sage, not unlike the strange depictions of the baby Jesus we sometimes see in medieval panel paintings.

You can see this version of Harpocrates in The Art and Science of Healing starting February 10. I’m sorry to report that the colorful Harpocrates featured in October will not be going on display after all. But there will be many other fascinating artifacts on view, including medical manuscripts, amulets to ward off sciatica and stomachache, and more. Definitely come check it out!