Thursday, July 3rd, 2008
Students from UCLA will be blogging about their experiences this summer on digs in fourteen locations in seven different countries: Albania, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and the U.S.
Undergraduates will blog from — among other places — the world’s richest collection of rock art, a mass burial site for people mentioned in the writings of the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle and a tropical village possibly spotted by Christopher Columbus’ crew on his fourth voyage to the Americas. [...]
The blogs are designed to showcase UCLA’s new field studies program, which this summer is taking 140 undergraduates to 13 different sites in 11 countries. Typically, archaeological digs are run with the help of professionals and graduate students. But participants in UCLA’s new field program are much less experienced. In fact, they aren’t necessarily archaeology or even anthropology majors — just students intrigued by archaeological fieldwork.
Lucky, lucky, lucky bastards. So lucky I can hardly stand it. Good thing they’ll be blogging about the digs so I can live vicariously through them.
The Albanian dig is my favorite. I mean, you can’t beat this with 20 sticks:
No less exciting will be John Papadopoulos’ dig in southwestern Albania, near the Adriatic coast. In 2004, the UCLA classics professor and his wife, Sarah Morris, also a UCLA classics professor, discovered the graves of 150 people they now believe to be Illyrians, neighbors of the ancient Greeks who were mentioned not only by Aristotle but also by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus. By day, the students will learn to use GPS mapping technology and methods for classifying and conserving all kinds of artifacts, including delicate bronze crowns discovered in the graves of adolescent girls. At night, they will sleep among the ruins of the ancient Greek city of Apollonia, where the Roman Emperor Augustus attended a school of philosophy and his great uncle Julius Caesar was once stranded on the way to a key battle.
You can read a succulent description of a past student’s experience in this article in UCLA magazine. It sounds like an amazing program for anyone. Even graduate students don’t get this lucky often.
“In most field schools, students aren’t being treated well,” Boytner said. “They’re being treated as inexpensive labor, and there isn’t really any training.” Students leave those digs discouraged, feeling used, without learning proper techniques or even much about the site. That means fewer students became archaeologists — and even fewer become donors, he said.
Boytner, co-director of the Chile dig, used the Tarapaca Valley project as a pilot program. A packed schedule of field work and classes gives students a crash-course in the historical significance of the dig site, how and why to use different archaeological techniques, and instruction on lab work and complex field equipment. Working side by side with local archaeologists also exposes students to regional customs, like the pago. [A Chilean custom of asking the earth's permission before digging by making an offering of wine.]
The blogs begin on July 7th. The site is password protected until then (lame), but I’ll remind you next week. Summer Digs.