“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.

Curator Favorites

imageimageWhen it comes to the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology’s collections, not all artifacts are created equal. Some call out to us intellectually, others emotionally. To that end, we asked our curators to name their favorite Kelsey artifact or object. Here is the second in a series of seven.

BY SUZANNE DAVIS, Associate Curator and Head of Conservation, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan

Favorite Artifact. “Statuette of a Young Man (kouros).” Bronze, solid cast with engraved details, Archaeic Period (6th century BC), Rome, Italy. E.B. Van Deman bequest 1938, KM 6708. (Above top photo: front view; above bottom: back view).

Why. “I like this little guy because he is the perfect pocket-sized man. If you visit him in person, you can see how the figurine is curved due to his funny posture. As a conservator, I’ve never been particularly attracted to the metal objects I’ve worked on, with the exception of this one. He is the cutest copper alloy ever!”

About Artifact. This statuette of a young man most likely was made in the sanctuary of an Etruscan god and purchased there by a worshiper to dedicate to the deity. It may have represented the worshipper symbolically and, when left at the sanctuary, reminded the deity of his continual devotion.

The kouros type originated in the Greek world, but this Etruscan statuette differs from its Greek models. The tautness of the youth’s pose, the strongly arched back, and the large head with its lively facial expression lends the figure an aura of energy characteristic of the art of Archaic Etruria.

Background. From the Villanovan Iron Age, the Archaic Period (ca. 900-480 BC), the Etruscans developed a distinctive visual culture that drew upon indigenous traditions and contemporary artistic trends represented by imported objects, especially in those from the ancient Near East, Egypt, and Greece.

Find It. On the first floor in an exhibit case that backs up to the window, opposite the ancient Greek case, in the William E. Upjohn Exhibit Wing of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology.