“We do not follow maps to buried treasure, and ‘X’ never, ever, marks the spot” — Indiana Jones

a pile of open books and a laptop on a carpeted floor.

BY JENNY KREIGER, PhD student, U-M Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology

When I teach my students about archaeology, I find that many of them have vague ideas about what archaeologists do. This is especially true for those parts of archaeology that do not take place in the trenches: the reading, writing, thoughtful discussions, and detective work that happen elsewhere. Some archaeologists (myself included) do the majority of their work in paper and ink rather than dirt and potsherds, and this side of archaeology is its own sort of adventure.

I began a new phase in my adventure this year: my dissertation. Right now I am preparing for what I hope will be several months of research abroad in the fall, split between Naples and Rome. My work deals with catacombs (underground cemeteries) in the major cities of late antique Italy, particularly the economic systems that helped produce these complex sites and the artifacts in them. While in Italy, I will spend my time examining archives, museum collections, and catacomb sites, but before I go, I need to build a good foundation for my research. So for now, I am reading about the sites I will visit, collecting inscriptions and other texts that tell parts of the catacombs’ story, and designing ways to organize and analyze the data I will gather. It may seem like slow going now, but all of this will help me make the most of my time in the field.