Exam time for archaeology graduate student

BY CAITLIN CLERKIN, PhD student, Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology (IPCAA), University of Michigan

Studying for exams
A confused pile of books for term papers and IPCAA archaeology qualifying exams that I need to cart back to the library.

The end of the “winter” term at U of M marks not only the end of classes and preparations for summer work, whether in the field or stateside. For IPCAA students in their first three years, the end of the winter term also marks IPCAA exam time.

IPCAA students take a lot of exams before advancing to PhD candidacy: beyond exams in courses, we have to pass four language exams (Latin and Greek, and German and French or Italian), a qualifying exam in ancient history, and archaeology qualifying exams in three major areas (Egypt and the Near East, Prehistoric Aegean and Greek, and Etruscan and Roman), and preliminary exams (preliminary, that is, to a dissertation). The language exams occur throughout the school year, but the other three exams occur just after the end of each academic year. First-years take the ancient history qual; second-years take “Quals” (the archaeology exams); and third-years take their prelims, on topics they’ve chosen in consultation with faculty members. Thus, if you visited the Kelsey during the first week of May, you may have seen some dazed, ermm, I mean, well-rested, calm, and chock-full-of-knowledge-looking graduate students wandering around the building.

The goal underlying Quals is ensuring that IPCAA students gain a foundational understanding of the major subject areas of our field, which will allow them to develop their research focus informed by knowledge about major sites, monuments, and theories while also equipping them with the resource base to teach about these different areas. As such, studying for and taking Quals is an exercise in solidarity and solidification. Solidification, because we are asked to consolidate our understanding of facts, developments, theories, and trends so that we can redeploy all these things to answer new questions. Solidarity, because taking Quals is an experience (or labor) undergone by individual cohorts together, but that also unites IPCAA cohorts across time, on what I imagine is a sociological or ritual rites-of-passage kind of level. Not only have we learned similar material, but we’ve all sat and written essay after essay, slide ID after slide ID for hours (twelve actually), after months of studying and anticipation. As a second-year in IPCAA, I, with my three cohort-mates, just took Quals. Afterward, when corresponding with an IPCAA alumna with whom I work in the field about our upcoming fieldwork, I sensed a sigh of relief in her congratulations to me for having the exam in my rearview mirror.

Before entering IPCAA, I received an MA in Latin from the University of Georgia, which involved passing a “Reading List Exam” in March of our first year in the program. In the frenzied studying for that exam, my cohort quizzed each other on writers, works of literature, and historical events. Since then, I have not forgotten that the Roman playwright and Stoic Seneca was forced to commit suicide by Nero in 69 CE, along with his nephew, the poet Lucan, because a classmate came up with the mnemonic soundbite that Seneca and Lucan “died in each other’s arms” (not strictly true but will be forever ingrained in my memory). Similarly, I think (or hope) I will never forget my go-to examples of the mixing of the Doric and Ionic orders on temples (Temple of Athena, Paestum), or where the Stone Law Code Stela of Hammurabi was found (Susa) and why that matters. Thanks, cohort-mates, for getting me through this IPCAA milestone!

IPCAA field conservation workshops — Spring 2015

BY CARRIE ROBERTS, Conservator, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

The Kelsey Conservation Lab recently hosted two hands-on conservation workshops for PhD candidates in the Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology (IPCAA): one covering ceramics and the other copper alloy (bronze) conservation. Our goals were to help familiarize the students with archaeological conservation best practices, learn about condition issues and field recovery, and gain some useful hand skills. In essence, we wanted to provide them with conservation information they could take with them into the field.

The first workshop covered ceramics conservation, beginning with an overview of deterioration phenomena. We spent some time looking at artifacts that demonstrated springing, spalling, and other structural condition problems; and we talked about lifting, transport, and temporary storage, as well as long-term ceramic storage considerations. We then proceeded with the hands-on part: the smashing and subsequent reconstruction of thrift store ceramics (the most challenging object proved to be the purse-shaped cookie jar adopted by Shannon Ness). The students learned how to make their own Paraloid B-72, a conservation-grade adhesive, and label their homemade adhesive tubes with hazardous materials labels. Fun times!

IPCAA students
IPCAA students Dan Diffendale and Alison Rittershaus reconstruct broken ceramics.

The second workshop covered copper alloy conservation. This time we discussed deterioration, field recovery, and the goals of cleaning small metal finds (to stabilize artifacts and reveal information). The students participated in a cleaning exercise, where they learned how to use various tools — from bamboo skewers to scalpels — to clean archaeological copper alloy artifacts. They wore Optivisors during this step of the workshop. These magnifiers allowed them to better see the progress of their cleaning. The Optivisors also provided a fun talking point, as they basically transform the wearer into a lab tech/Star Trek-looking character. We finished by making Ethafoam cavity-cut supports for their artifacts and talking about the pros and cons of using silica gel in microclimate storage.

Conservation workshop
Conservator Carrie Roberts talks to the students about copper alloy corrosion.

We conservators had a lot of fun working with the IPCAA students. They had many questions for us and participated in the hands-on sections with real enthusiasm. I think they’ll be taking some useful information with them into the field. We’ve benefitted too; teaching drives home the fact that one of the best preservation strategies we have is to share our knowledge with others. We hope to provide interested students with other conservation workshops in the coming years!

Life on a Fulbright: Fieldnotes from Naples

BY JENNY KREIGER, PhD candidate, Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology, University of Michigan, and Fulbright Fellow, 2014–2015

Since October, I have been living in Naples, Italy, where I have been conducting my dissertation research with the help of a grant from the US-Italy Fulbright Commission. The Fulbright Program supports academic exchange programs for American and international students, faculty, and researchers, and Italy is just one of many countries that participate in a bilateral Fulbright Commission.

Naples overview
A view of Naples from a hilltop castle. That very straight street at the lower left is one of the Roman decumani, still in use as a main road today.

The beauty of the Fulbright program is that it gives me the time and resources to do my research abroad while encouraging me to serve as a “citizen diplomat,” representing my country and learning about my host country at the same time. I wanted to immerse myself in the culture of Naples, so I rented a room in an apartment with Italian roommates. As it turned out, these were not just any roommates: they are the managers of an experimental theater company (TeatrInGestAzione; see link below). Their principal project every year is Alto Fest, a performing arts festival that puts artists into unusual venues in Naples — terraces, garages, kitchens, even the airport — offered for free by the owners. Artists come from around the world to create and adapt works for these spaces throughout the city, encouraging audiences to explore and connect with Naples on an intimate level. In our day-to-day life in this rooftop apartment, my roommates show me how the arts and cultural heritage can be used for social development and urban renewal in a concrete and personal way.

My roommates are not the only young Neapolitans using culture and heritage to change their city for the better. Through my research on the catacombs of Naples I have come into contact with the people of La Paranza, a social cooperative organization that is developing the catacombs and other heritage sites of the Rione Sanità as tourist destinations and sources of employment and local pride. La Paranza organizes concerts, art exhibitions, and other special events in addition to regular tours of the catacombs, and their programs attract locals and visitors alike. Centuries ago, the catacombs were important sites of cult and memory, and in their modern context the catacombs continue to shape local identity and daily life.

Naples catacombs
A view of one of the main galleries in the Catacomb of San Gennaro. That central arch is big enough to accommodate a city bus!

Finally, I want to share a few words about my research itself. My dissertation examines three major Italian catacomb complexes (in Rome, Naples, and Syracuse) to learn about the funerary industry in late antique urban contexts. Specifically, I am looking at inscriptions, paintings, and architecture in catacombs for clues about how funerary labor was organized, how laborers balanced customization and “mass production” in their work, and how materials (like marble slabs) were recycled and traded for funerary use. In practical terms, this has meant visiting sites, museums, and archives to study surviving materials and analyzing what I find using an array of philological, art historical, and archaeological methods. One of the broader goals of my dissertation is to consider the roles that ordinary workers played in the shaping of ancient culture, and it has been an invaluable part of this process to get to observe small organizations shaping the culture of a major modern city.

For more information on the Fulbright Program, TeatrInGestAzione and Alto Fest, or La Paranza and the Catacombe di Napoli, follow the links below.

On the Fulbright Program in general: http://eca.state.gov/fulbright/about-fulbright/funding-and-administration/fulbright-commissions

The US-Italy Fulbright Commission site: http://www.fulbright.it

TeatrInGestAzione site (in Italian): http://www.teatringestazione.com/tiga/chi-siamo/

Alto Fest 2015 call for applications: http://www.teatringestazione.com/altofest/open-calls/

La Paranza, “Who we are” (in Italian): http://www.catacombedinapoli.it/chisiamo.asp

Catacombe di Napoli main site (in Italian): http://catacombedinapoli.com

Camping and Kanka Cola: Life at Labraunda

BY CHRISTINA DIFABIO, PhD student, Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology, University of Michigan

The BULP 2014 Team and the Monumental Fountain House, photo courtesy of Liam Dean-Johnson.
The BULP 2014 Team and the Monumental Fountain House, photo courtesy of Liam Dean-Johnson.

My fieldwork experience was crucial for my decision to apply to graduate school. During my junior year at Brown University, I had the opportunity to become involved in a new archaeological project directed by Prof. Felipe Rojas, who is at the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World at Brown. Since 2013, I have been part of the Brown University Labraunda Project (BULP). BULP is concerned with the rural sanctuary of Labraunda in ancient Caria, now modern southwestern Turkey, and is part of the greater Labraunda Archaeological Project directed by Dr. Olivier Henry.

In antiquity, Labraunda was a sanctuary dedicated to Zeus Labraundos, and people from cities to the north and south came to worship the local deity at an annual festival. The sanctuary is known for its monumentalization by local satraps under the Persian Empire in the mid-4th century BCE: Mausolos (most famous for his Mausoleum, a wonder of the ancient world, located in Halikarnassos, now modern Bodrum) and his brother Idrieus. The current objective of the project is to study a monumental fountain house that lies just outside of the sanctuary. Before our studies, the fountain was largely overlooked because it does not conform to traditional classical architecture, even though its importance is clear due to its position between the two entrance gates to the sanctuary. Our studies suggest that the fountain was built in the mid-4th century BCE and used in some capacity through the Christian period. It is the largest fountain house at Labraunda, and it would have provided rest and refreshment for visitors after a long journey.

I enjoy the intellectually stimulating (and physically tiring) research, but even more so I love learning and living in the Labraunda community. Multiple groups work at Labraunda at a time. In addition to our Brown team, I interact with Turkish, French, and Swedish scholars on site. During the week, we camp about a five-minute walk from site, so we do not have the same accommodations we would have if we were staying in a hotel in the closest town (i.e., we have limited electricity and two working toilets). When I tell this to people, they often describe it as “roughing it,” but with such great company and views of the mountains and stars, I can’t complain at all. I have also enjoyed working with local Turks in the trenches. Language is often a barrier, and I am on my way to learning Turkish. However, we often find things to chat about, mostly the weather (Bugün hava çok sıcak — Today the weather is very hot!), and we have fun as we work together. Some of the younger workers have affectionately dubbed our team members kankalar, similar to “bros” in English, and we have named our daily soda breaks “Kanka Cola.”

When I first heard about this project, I never could have imagined where it would lead me. Now as a first-year student in IPCAA, I plan to specialize in Western Anatolia and continue fieldwork in Turkey. The excavations of the monumental fountain house are almost complete, but I look forward to seeing where BULP’s future studies at Labraunda will go.

Attending the Archaeological Institute of America annual meeting

BY KATHERINE LARSON, PhD candidate, Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology, University of Michigan

Over the weekend of January 8–11, I — along with the majority of the Classics Department — escaped the frigid air of Michigan to attend the joint Archaeological Institute of America (AIA)/Society of Classical Studies annual meetings in New Orleans, the first in which I participated by giving a paper. Attending these conferences is key for young scholars such as myself to establish a name and professional presence, to meet and network with friends and colleagues, and to learn about current, cutting-edge research. The AIA is the biggest and most widely attended, but many of us attend and participate in several conferences over the course of the year: alongside classes and excavation schedules, they are foundational to the annual rhythms of the archaeological academic life.

Back in mid-August, I submitted an abstract to the organization and learned in early October that it had been accepted for a fifteen-minute presentation at the meeting. My paper was titled “And Now, For the Rest of the Story: Interrogating Small Finds from Tel Anafa, Israel” (with a nod to the late Paul Harvey). In honor of the forthcoming Kelsey Museum publication of the final volume of the Tel Anafa excavation reports, I amalgamated the numerous studies of small finds from the site, including metal agricultural tools, terracotta spindle whorls and loomweights, and stone grinding implements, which have been written since the first volume on Anafa came out in 1994. We’ve come to realize over the years that, in addition to possessing luxurious imported objects from the Phoenician coast, the late Hellenistic residents of Tel Anafa were self-sufficient for their daily needs and engaged heavily in various forms of animal husbandry, agriculture, food production, and crafts (including metallurgy and textile manufacture). I argued that, while these objects are often overlooked in site-wide studies in favor of architecture and pottery and their discussion limited to specialist studies, they can tell us important things about daily life, economy, and social and cultural relationships in the ancient world. The Karanis objects on display at the Kelsey are another good example of this: they tell us so much about the people who lived and worked at Karanis, including how they spent their days, what they ate, what they wore, and so on.

The AIA annual meeting used to be more difficult for me: I didn’t really know anyone outside my own school, and I’m not good at walking up to people I don’t know to introduce myself. This isn’t the case anymore, and the meetings have become a fun and easy way to catch up with friends, former professors, field colleagues, and IPCAA alums. The book displays and sales are famous, with many publishers offering recently published texts at 25–50 percent discounts. Alas, I missed out on the deeply discounted inventory-clearing sales on the last day of the conference, when graduate students get in line at 7:30 a.m. clutching hotel room paper cups full of coffee in hopes of finding $100 volumes for $5.

The AIA isn’t all about formal papers and networking: many of us were able to find a little time to explore the nearby French Quarter. Highlights for me were eating charbroiled oysters and visiting St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Archaeologically, the burial ground is fascinating, with family mausoleums spanning from the 18th century to the present day, funerary inscriptions in French and English, and a particularly memorable monumental tomb of Italian design and imported marble.

Thanks to the financial support of the Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology, I was able to attend this year’s annual meeting and present the results of important research in a public forum to a community of archaeologists. Next year, I’ll be “on the market” and with any luck will spend the meeting interviewing for jobs!

Writing a dissertation on the archaic Forum Boarium

BY ANDREA BROCK, PhD candidate in the Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology, University of Michigan

“Every journey begins with one step.” — my mom

dissertation station
My at-home workspace, complete with furry dissertation buddy.

Enough with the background reading and procrastinating. This fall semester marked the official start of my dissertation, in written form at least. I feel like I’ve been working on this project for a decade already (although three years is more realistic). My dissertation is centered on my fieldwork at the Sant’Omobono Project in Rome. Specifically, I am interested in reconstructing the environment and topography of the archaic Forum Boarium. After returning from Rome at the end of the summer, I wrote a long to-do list of my intended accomplishments for the upcoming semester. A major part of that list was to write the opening chapters of my dissertation.

Although the primary goal was always hanging over my head, for weeks I couldn’t even begin to think about the dissertation. First there were conference abstracts that needed to be submitted, then countless grant proposals that needed to be dealt with if I had any hope of supporting my fieldwork in 2015, then just another book that I needed to read, then a meeting with my advisor, then some data crunching, then writing the conference papers … and so it goes. By the time the day came when I had nothing else to do, I just stared at my computer screen. An entire day wasted doing nothing but sitting in front of my computer! It is incredibly daunting to write the first sentence of such an intimidatingly long task. Upon lamenting (read: procrastinating) to my mom, she offered the true, albeit corny, words of encouragement above. I finally realized that I couldn’t avoid it any longer and started typing.

The main strategy that helped me get started on my first dissertation chapter was to write an extensive outline first. That way, I was able to get all of my thoughts on paper without having to worry about constructing vaguely coherent prose. This outline included the abundant references, which I would ultimately need to put into footnotes. After discussing the outline with the applicable committee member — and fortunately getting her approval — I was able to write more freely and quickly. I still encountered days where my momentum slowed, but I tried to keep the task in perspective. Each day was just focused on a particular section of a particular chapter. And each chapter isn’t so different from a seminar term paper, right? And I knocked those out tons of times as a pre-candidate, so why be intimidated by my dissertation? Well, that thought process worked for me at least. The semester is nearing an end and that long to-do list I wrote has been largely completed. Now, I just need to repeat the process next semester, and the semester after that, and the semester after that. But first, a break!

 

Teaching Roman history for the first time

photo
Arianna Zapelloni Pavia prepares to teach her class.

BY ARIANNA ZAPELLONI PAVIA, PhD student, Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology

My life as a PhD student is not always easy. The commitment it requires sometimes feels like a heavy load that I am not sure I am handling well. On top of these difficulties, as an international student, I also face the challenge of being far from home. I have learned to accept that I will lie awake on certain nights and think of all the things I am missing out on back home.

Suddenly, in my second year, after only three days of training, I entered my first class as an instructor: 25 students are sitting in front of me, some looking at me with curiosity, others still busy with their phones, but all waiting for me to say something.

Honestly, I thought I would exit the classroom after my first day feeling unworthy. Looking back, I do not know exactly what happened that day, but as soon as I began talking, the insecurity and anxiety vanished. My fear of being ill equipped slowly faded away and made me realize that I am a young scholar who loves what she does, and facing the challenge of teaching is part of my role as a student. I recognized that I was just being myself, trying to pass on to my students my own energy and passion for the topic.

Now, teaching is one of the most stimulating and rewarding parts of my semester. It is amazing to see how the class develops its own personality and reactions to my teaching style. One of the most valuable things I am learning is that humor can be effective in breaking barriers between me and the students. I also noticed that making connections with personal experience helps students see Roman history as something more than just a remote past. Once, while reading Livy, I remarked that Camillus’s feelings toward Rome are the same feelings I have when I think about this city, my hometown. It is when I see that the students are becoming more engaged and are learning new concepts, while at the same time I manage to create a relaxing environment, that I know I am on the right path to one day becoming a professor.

Learning is not a one-way street. I, myself, am learning a lot. Every time I leave the classroom I carry with me new insights that I received from my students. Interacting with undergraduates from a wide range of disciplines, who do not necessarily have the background I take for granted, sometimes leads to questions about fundamentals of Roman history that many of us in academia consider self-evident. Moreover, explaining these fundamentals to students helps me to focus on the most important things, to simplify difficult concepts and make them approachable. As a result I have clearer ideas of the topic I am teaching.

Teaching is also a refuge for me. When I feel overwhelmed by classes and research, it is very comforting to know that I can still shut everything out of my mind for the two hours I spend in the classroom talking about the Roman Republic.