Tag Archive for archaeology

Birney Receives Mellon Fellowship to Pursue Role of Scents in Antiquity

Kate Birney

Kate Birney

The scent of ancient perfumes evaporated eons ago, but scientists are able to reconstruct their ingredients by analysis of the residues left on their containers. Up until now, however, such studies have largely been isolated in the scientific literature, disconnected from the textual and archaeological data that place these perfumes back into the hands of their ancient users.

Kate Birney, assistant professor of classical studies, archaeology, and art history, is hoping to change that as co-architect of the OpenARCHEM project, which seeks to assemble the largest set of organic residue samples ever collected from archaeological artifacts around the Mediterranean. Built in collaboration with archaeochemist Andrew Koh of Brandeis University, OpenARCHEM connects botanicals with the containers in which they traveled and the ancient texts that mention them, to reveal the many roles they played in Mediterranean cultures. To develop this project, Birney has received an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship.

The New Directions Fellowship will enable Birney to take advanced coursework at M.I.T. and to study with experts in mineral analysis and the ecology of the ancient Mediterranean, fields that are essential for understanding the cross-disciplinary nature of this work.

Students Learn about New Technologies Being Used to Study the Past

On March 28, the Archaeology Program and the Department of Classical Studies invited Ian Roy of Brandeis University to Wesleyan to discuss ways new technologies are used to study the past. Roy is the founding head of Brandeis MakerLab and director for research technology and innovation at Brandeis University’s library.

Object from the Wesleyan Anthropology Archeology Collections

Students learned how to use a portable Artec 3-D scanner to scan a vessel from the Wesleyan University Archaeology and Anthropology Collections.

Roy first visited the Archaeometry: How to Science the Heck out of Archaeology class taught by Andrew Koh, visiting assistant professor of archaeology. There, he demonstrated how to scan objects in 3-D using an Artec Space Spyder, a tool that uses structured light to capture incredibly high-resolution scans of objects. The class produced multiple models of artifacts, including a vessel that has since been posted to Sketchfab.

“What’s so amazing is that these are just quick versions made in only 15 minutes, without any post-processing and touch-ups,” said Kate Birney, assistant professor of classical studies, archaeology, and art history.

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. Rolling Stone: “Bethesda Founder Christopher Weaver on the Past, Present and Future of Video Games”

Christopher Weaver MALS ’75, CAS ’76, the Distinguished Professor of Computational Media in the College of Integrative Sciences, is profiled.

2. Transitions Online: “The Search for a New World Order, Then and Now”

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, writes that a century after President Woodrow Wilson promulgated his “14 points” to guarantee world peace and prosperity, we are “still not that much closer to a stable world order.”

3. Medium: “Gabriel Snashall—Navy Submariner to Wesleyan!”

Gabriel Snashall ’21 discusses his path from serving as a cryptographic communications supervisor aboard the USS Pittsburgh to studying at Wesleyan through the Posse Veteran Scholars program. He plans to pursue a career in bioethics law.

4. The Middletown Press: “Wesleyan University Class Research Published in Archaeological Society Bulletin”

Four Class of 2017 graduates who completed the service-learning course “Decolonizing Indigenous Middletown: Native Histories of the Wangunk Indian People,” are co-authors of articles published in the Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Connecticut.

5. CTNow: “Amy Bloom to Give Talks on ‘White Houses'”

Amy Bloom ’75, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, will discuss her new book, White Houses, at several public events around Connecticut this month.

Recent Alumni News

  1. RollingStone: “Review: MGMT Rediscover the Electric Feel for ‘Little Dark Age’

The duo who began playing together as MGMT when they were Wesleyan undergraduates, Andrew Van Wyngarden ’05 and Ben Goldwasser ’05, released a new album to favorable reviews: “MGMT are back to their roots on Little Dark Age, with concise tunes built from cushy keyboard beats and cute, kiting melodies,” wrote Jon Dolan in Rolling Stone.

[Also: Entertainment Voice, TheMusic.com, Interview Magazine and others]

2. TBR Newsmedia: “SBU’s Lerner Uses the Theater for Autism Therapy

Matthew Lerner ’03, an assistant professor of psychology, psychiatry and pediatrics in the department of psychology at Stony Brook University is part of a team—with scientists from Vanderbilt and University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa—that received $3 million in funding from the National Institutes of Mental Health to study how participation in a theater production can help people with autism spectrum disorders. “The process of putting on a play with others and being able to successfully produce and perform that has key benefits to learn and practice,” said Lerner.

3. Huffington Post: “10 Years Ago, Screenwriters Went On Strike and Changed Television Forever”

Craig Thomas ’97 and Carter Bays ’97 recall the 100-day battle between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers when their creation, “How I Met Your Mother,” was in only its third season and all filming was to be done without any writers on the set.

4. Scripps College News: ”Ulysses J. Sofia [’88]: Weinberg Family Dean of Science of the W.M. Keck Science Department

Called “a scientist and an adventurer” who enjoys the liberal arts environment at Scripps, “U. J. began his own college career at a large research university before transferring to Wesleyan University, a liberal arts college, during his junior year. ‘It was like the angels singing—I thought, this is where I belong, this feels right. I learned all of my physics, all of my astronomy in those two years.’”

5. BroadwayWorld:The Wheel Theatre Company Presents Owen Panettieri’s [’01] A Burial Place

This production of A Burial Place by award-winning playwright Owen Panettieri ’01 at the DC Arts Center in Washington, D.C., runs March 8-17, 2018. The plot features Emmett, Colby and Marcus reuniting in their hometown after sophomore year at college, gathering for their annual summer sleepover. “Instead, they come back to find their town at the epicenter of a major police investigation. A gruesome discovery out in the woods where they used to play has resulted in public outrage and a growing list of unanswered questions.”

 

 

Students Catalog Wesleyan’s Lost Fossil Collections

Research fellows Sajirat “Bright” Palakarn ’20 and graduate student Melissa McKee ’17 are discovering and cataloging thousands of fossils at Exley Science Center. The fossils were once housed at the former Wesleyan Museum, a natural history museum that occupied part of the Orange Judd Hall of Natural Sciences from 1871-1957. Once the museum closed, the fossils and other objects were displaced at various locations on campus. “We’d love to make these fossils accessible to Wesleyan students, faculty, classes and the general public,” McKee said. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Research fellows Sajirat “Bright” Palakarn ’20 and graduate student Melissa McKee ’17 are discovering and cataloging thousands of fossils at Exley Science Center. The fossils were once housed at the former Wesleyan Museum, a natural history museum that occupied part of the Orange Judd Hall of Natural Sciences from 1871-1957. Once the museum closed, the fossils and other objects were displaced at various locations on campus. “We’d love to make these fossils accessible to Wesleyan students, faculty, classes and the general public,” McKee said. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Scattered throughout campus are remnants of not only Wesleyan’s history, but world history. After the closing of the Wesleyan Museum in 1957, thousands of specimens in many collections were displaced, often haphazardly, to nooks, crannies, tunnels, attics, storage rooms, and random cabinets at Exley Science Center, Judd Hall, and the Butterfield and Foss Hill residence complexes.

A fossilized bee was discovered in the fossil collections.

A fossilized bee was discovered in the fossil collections.

Many of these specimens haven’t been accessed in 60 years.

“Sadly, few people are aware that Wesleyan has these unique resources,” said Ellen Thomas, the University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences and research professor of earth and environmental sciences. “The collections have not been well curated, and not much used in education and outreach. We are discovering beautiful fossils, but the knowledge that they are at Wesleyan has long been lost.”

This summer, Thomas, along with two student research fellows, began the painstaking process of not only locating and organizing collections, but digitally cataloging their finds.

Sajirat Palakarn ’20 and earth and environmental science graduate student Melissa McKee ’17 work 40 hours a week on the project and have created a “fossil assembly line” in Exley Room 309. The students take turns sorting trays of fossils by class and phylum, and then match the fossils with identifying hand-written cards or books from an archaic card catalog, entering the information, piece by piece, into a spreadsheet. They’re expecting to itemize more than 15,000 fossils this summer.

“Look here,” Thomas says, while opening a wooden cabinet at random in Exley’s specimen storage room. “We’ve got shells, fossils of shells, one after another with no labels. They are all disorganized. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could make these accessible to the students?”

Melissa McKee holds a plant fossil from Greenland, collected during the second relief expedition for a Peary Arctic Expedition. The leaves were then thought be by Miocene (~20 millions years old), but now they've been identified as being much older at ~ 60 million years.

Melissa McKee holds a plant fossil from Greenland, collected during the second relief expedition for a Peary Arctic Expedition. The leaves were then thought be by Miocene (~20 millions years old), but now they’ve been identified as being much older at ~ 60 million years.

So far, the students have discovered dozens of fish fossils from the Jurassic Period (99.6 to 145.5 million years ago) and Triassic Period (251 million and 199 million years ago). They’ve encountered fossils of preserved leaves and insects from what is today Utah, Wyoming and Colorado, dating back to the Eocene Period, when the world was much warmer (40-45 million years ago). They’ve also found fossilized plants from coal deposits in Illinois (about 300 million years old), as well as fossil sea lilies (crinoids), which lived in shallow warm seas in what is now Indiana. Many of these fossils were collected by S. Ward Loper, who was curator of the Wesleyan Museum from 1894 to his death in 1910.

They’ve even discovered a plant fossil from Greenland, donated to the Wesleyan Museum in 1895 by A.N. Varse, who was on the second relief expedition attempting to assist Robert Peary on one of his early expeditions to explore Greenland and reach the North Pole.

“It’s really incredible to hold a piece of history like this in our hands,” McKee said. “Not only can fossils tell us what an organism might have looked like and how it lived, but fossils also give us clues about ancient environmental conditions. We can use fossils to understand how the Earth has changed over time.”

While most of the fossil finds are located in locked drawers in the hallways of Exley Science Center, the students also are cataloging fossils in the Joe Webb Peoples Fossil Collection, located on the fourth floor. The museum is named after the late Professor Joe Webb Peoples, who was chair of the Department of Geology from 1935 until his retirement in 1975.

The students not only catalog the artifacts, but they also write about their finds, and the museum, on a blog and on Twitter.

McKee and Palakarn, a College of Social Studies major, are constantly learning on the job. “I don’t have a science background, but here I am learning about unicellular microorganisms, sponges, coral, arthropods, trilobites and sea urchins,” Palakarn said.

“I know by the end of this summer you’re going to change your major to earth and environmental science,” McKee said. “I’m sure of it.”

Sanjirat "Bright" Palakarn '20; Ellen Thomas; and graduate student Melissa McKee '17 hold fish fossils inside the Joe Peoples' Museum in Exley.

Sajirat “Bright” Palakarn ’20; Research Professor Ellen Thomas; and graduate student Melissa McKee ’17 hold fish fossils inside the Joe Webb Peoples’ Fossil Collection in Exley.

While rummaging through drawers in Exley's Specimen Storage room, Ellen Thomas discovered large collections of old coins including miniature intaglios and ancient Chinese coins collected by the Methodist missionaries who started Wesleyan. The coins are documented in an accompanying booklet.

While rummaging through drawers in Exley’s Specimen Storage room, Ellen Thomas discovered large collections of old coins including miniature intaglios and ancient Chinese coins collected by the Methodist missionaries who started Wesleyan. The coins are documented in an accompanying booklet.

Melissa McKee holds polished halves of a Perisphinctes species found in Madagascar.

Melissa McKee holds polished halves of a cephalopod found in Madagascar. This species lived during the late Jurassic Period.

Sanjirat Palakarn '20 displays a fossil of Diplomystus dentatus from the Eocene Period. The fossil was discovered in what is now Wyoming. Diplomystus is an extinct freshwater fish distantly related to herrings and sardines.

Sajirat Palakarn displays a fossil of Diplomystus dentatus from the Eocene Period. The fossil was discovered in what is now Wyoming. Diplomystus is an extinct freshwater fish distantly related to herrings and sardines.

The students transcribe hand-written records into electronic form. Pictured is the record of A.N. Varse's fossil discovery in 1895.

The students transcribe hand-written records into electronic form. Pictured is the record of A.N. Varse’s fossil discovery in 1894. It was donated to Wesleyan in 1895.

The research team also found dozens of coral samples stashed away above these cabinets in Exley Science Center.

The research team also found dozens of coral samples stashed above these cabinets in Exley Science Center. “Some of these are now extinct. We will want to catalog these too, but this will be a project for another time,” Thomas said.

Faculty Re-Create Ancient Roman “Pork Clock” at Wesleyan

A model of the "pork clock" sundial shows the time as 9 a.m. (Photo by Christopher Parslow. 3-D print by Christopher Chenier)

A model of the prosciutto sundial shows the time as 9 a.m. (Photo by Christopher Parslow. 3-D print by Christopher Chenier)

The Ancient Romans relied on a curious object to tell time: a sundial in the shape of an Italian ham.

National Geographic has featured the work of Wesleyan’s Christopher Parslow to re-create this ancient “pork clock” through 3-D printing, which is helping researchers to better understand how it was used and what information it conveyed.

“It does represent a knowledge of how the sun works, and it can be used to tell time,” said Parslow, professor and chair of Classical studies, professor of archaeology, professor of art history.

The small, portable prosciutto sundial —the “pocket watch of its day,” according to the article—was first excavated in the 1760s from the ruins of a grand country house in the Roman town of Herculaneum, which was destroyed by the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79.

Chris Chenier, digital design technologist and visiting assistant professor of art, printed the sundial on 3-D printers at Wesleyan, and Bill Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy assisted with the research. Parslow first presented his initial findings at a presentation in Wesleyan’s Wasch Center last December.

According to the article:

After Parslow was asked about the pork clock, he was inspired to build a 3-D model. He took dozens of photos of the timepiece at its home institution, Italy’s National Archaeological Museum of Naples. A 3-D printer at his university churned out the model—in plastic rather than the original silver-coated bronze—in a matter of hours.

Like the original, Parslow’s model bears a dial, in the form of a slightly distorted grid, on one side. The vertical lines are marked for the months of the year. The horizontal lines indicate the number of hours past sunrise or before sunset.

The original clock is missing its gnomon, the part of a sundial that casts a shadow, but an 18th-century museum curator described it having one in the shape of a pig’s tail, so Parslow re-created that, too.

Parslow then experimented with the sundial outdoors. The clock is hung from a string so that the sun falls on its left side, allowing the attached pig’s tail to cast a shadow across the grid.

The user aligns the clock so that the tip of the tail’s shadow falls on the vertical line for the current month. Finally, the user counts the number of horizontal lines from the top horizontal line to the horizontal line closest to the tip of the shadow. That indicates the number of hours after sunrise or before sunset.

Wesleyan Group Helps Discover First Philistine Cemetery

Assistant professor Kate Birney (pictured in foreground wearing a blue shirt and tan hat) and Joy Feinberg '19 (pictured in back with a long-sleeve shirt) work to unearth skeletons and artifacts buried in a Philistine cemetery.

Assistant professor Kate Birney (pictured in foreground wearing a blue shirt and tan hat) and Joy Feinberg ’19 (pictured in back with a long-sleeve shirt) work to unearth skeletons and artifacts buried in a Philistine cemetery.

Two Wesleyan students, one recent alumna and a faculty member contributed to a groundbreaking discovery of the first Philistine cemetery, a crowning achievement of more than 30 years of excavation in Ashkelon, Israel. Archaeologists and scholars have long searched for the origin of the Philistines, and the discovery of the cemetery is poised to offer the key to this mystery. Findings from the cemetery, dated to the 11th–8th centuries BCE, may well support the claim – long inferred and recorded in the Bible – that the Philistines were migrants to the shores of ancient Israel who arrived from lands to the West around the 12th century BCE.

Kate Birney, assistant professor of classical studies, assistant professor of archaeology, assistant professor of art history, is the assistant director of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon and has been bringing Wesleyan students to the site since 2011 to participate in the research and excavation. The 3,000-year-old site, located in the southern district of Israel on the Mediterranean coast, offers clues to the Philistines’ way of life. Little is known about their origins.

Sarah McCully '16 has worked for the Leon Levy Expedition in Ashkelon for three years.

Sarah McCully ’16 has worked for the Leon Levy Expedition in Ashkelon for three years.

This summer, Joy Feinberg ’19, Jaimie Marvin ’19 and Sarah McCully ’16 worked on the Philistine cemetery. McCully ’16, who came to Ashkelon with Birney years ago, is now a staff member for the Leon Levy Expedition. In addition, Sam Ingbar ’16, Hannah Thompson ’17, Maria Ma ’17 and Sabrina Rueber ’18 are also in Ashkelon this summer working on the excavation of a 7th century merchants’ neighborhood.

Anthropology, Archaeology Collections Offer Hands-On Learning

At right, Ying Jia Tan, assistant professor of history, taught his class, History of Science and Technology in Modern China, in Wesleyan's Anthropology and Archaeology Collections. 

At right, Ying Jia Tan, assistant professor of history, taught his class, History of Science and Technology in Modern China, in Wesleyan’s Anthropology and Archaeology Collections. The class’s reading correlated with artifacts displayed in the collections. Pictured at left is Jessie Cohen, lab manager.

TJ Blackburn '16 listens to a classroom discussion while examining skulls from three different time periods. 

TJ Blackburn ’16 listens to a classroom discussion while examining skulls from three different time periods.

In the 1920s, a team of scientists working in the Zhoukoudian cave system in Beijing, China unearthed Peking Man, a roughly 700,000 year-old sample of Homo erectus. After the communist revolution of 1949, Peking Man became a prominent figure in bringing science and the story of human evolution to the masses.

As part of the required reading for the HIST 368 class, History of Science and Technology in Modern China, Ying Jia Tan, assistant professor of history, is having his students read The People’s Peking Man, written by Wesleyan alumna Sigrid Schmalzer ’94. The People’s Peking Man offers a skilled social history of 20th century Chinese paleoanthropology and a compelling cultural history of assumptions and debates about what it means to be human.

On Nov. 11, Tan brought his students to the Wesleyan University Anthropology and Archaeology Collections (WUAAC) to offer them a tangible and hands-on lesson to complement their reading.

Jessie Cohen, lab manager, prepared for the class by displaying fossil and extant replicas including Australopithecus afarensis (“Lucy”), Homo erectus (“Peking Man” and “Java Man”), and Homo sapiens. She also included several stone tools which originate from the Paleolithic era, a prehistoric period in human history that lasted approximately 2.5 million years. These particular stone tools are associated with specific dates and locations that overlap with Homo erectus production and usage.

“The juxtaposition of these widely ranging fossil replicas, modern Homo sapiens, and stone tools is representative of the changing environment, physical demands, and technological advances noted throughout human evolution,” Cohen explained.

She also displayed a Chinese newspaper / Chinese-American school brochure came to the collection by way of missionaries in the early 1900s.

“I thought it would be a great idea for the students to see the replicas of Peking Man and think about how the Peking Man was constructed by anthropologists,” Tan said. 

Wagoner Honored by American Historical Association for South Asian History Scholarship

Phillip Wagoner

Phillip Wagoner

On Oct. 5, Phillip Wagoner, professor of art history, professor of archaeology, was named a co-recipient of the American Historical Association’s John F. Richards Prize in South Asian History. The John F. Richards Prize recognizes the most distinguished work of scholarship on South Asian history published in English. Eligibility includes books on any period or field of South Asian historical studies and works which integrate South Asian history with broader global issues and movements.

Wagoner shares the prize with Richard Eaton of the University of Arizona. Together, they co-authored the book, Power, Memory, Architecture: Contested Sites on India’s Deccan Plateau, 1300–1600, published by Oxford University Press in March 2014.

In this book, Wagoner and Eaton examine the political histories and material culture of smaller, fortified strongholds both on the plains and atop hills, the control of which was repeatedly contested by rival primary centers on the Deccan Plateau. Exceptionally high levels of conflict over such secondary centers occurred between 1300 and 1600, and especially during the turbulent 16th century when gunpowder technology had become widespread in the region.

Psychology Class Learns about Memory, Brain at Wesleyan’s Archaeology Collection

Students in the Human Memory course compared and contrasted three skulls from disparate time points in human evolution.

Students in the Human Memory course compared and contrasted three skulls from disparate time points in human evolution. (Photo courtesy of Jessie Cohen)

On Sept. 16, students enrolled in the PSYC221 Human Memory course used the Wesleyan University Archaeology and Anthropology Collections for hands-on learning.

The class, taught by Erika Fulton, visiting professor of psychology, visited the collections to learn more about memory and the brain. Students compared and contrasted three skulls from disparate time points in human evolution and used their observations to make inferences about how different parts of the brain must have evolved.

“They had to think about the relationships among a changing environment, memory demands, and brain lobe development,” Fulton said. “I think it was a fun way for them to learn a little archaeology, anthropology and psychology, and a much more engaging way to learn brain lobes than through a lecture.”

Jessie Cohen, archaeological collections manager, encourages Wesleyan faculty to take advantage of what the WUAAC has to offer. The collection contains more than 30,000 archaeological and ethnographic objects from around the world available for hands-on teaching, she said.

Wesleyan to Host Archaeology Fair, Oct. 18

The Connecticut State Archaeology Fair, hosted at Wesleyan, will give the public a close-up look at projects happening across the state. The theme is "Creating Community."

The Connecticut State Archaeology Fair, hosted at Wesleyan, will give the public a close-up look at projects happening across the state. The theme is “Creating Community.”

Many people think of archaeology as taking place in exotic locations overseas, not in their own backyard. Yet archaeology projects are continuously being carried out all over the state of Connecticut.

On Oct. 18, Wesleyan’s Archaeology Program and Office of Community Partnerships will present the Connecticut State Archaeology Fair to give the public a close-up look at some of these projects. Part of Archaeology Awareness Month in October, the fair will feature many hands-on exhibits and activities for adults and kids. Presenters will represent a full spectrum of archaeology in the state, ranging from local tribes and community groups to educational institutions and commercial businesses.

Beman Triangle dig

Wesleyan students dig for artifacts at the “Beman Triangle” near campus.

The fair will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Exley Science Center. While it has been held elsewhere in the state in the past, this is Wesleyan’s first year hosting it. This year’s theme is “Creating Community.”

According to Sarah Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archaeology, assistant professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, “Connecticut has amazing archaeological resources, and many projects being done all around the state, but a lot of it goes under the public radar. This is a great opportunity for members of the public to learn about archaeology, and see first-hand some of the cool work going on right here in Connecticut.”

Wagoner’s Book Explores Built Landscape of India’s Deccan Plateau

Book co-authored by Professor Phillip Wagoner

Book co-authored by Phillip Wagoner.

Professor Phillip Wagoner is the co-author of Power, Memory, Architecture: Contested Sites on India’s Deccan Plateau, 1300-1600, published by Oxford University Press in March 2014. Wagoner is chair and professor of archaeology, professor of art history.

Focusing on India’s Deccan Plateau, this book explores how power and memory combined to produce the region’s built landscape, as seen above all in its monumental architecture. During the turbulent 16th century, fortified frontier strongholds like Kalyana, Warangal, or Raichur were repeatedly contested by primary centers—namely, great capital cities such as Bijapur, Vijayanagara or Golconda. Examining the political histories and material culture of both primary and secondary centers, the book investigates how and why the peoples of the Deccan, in their struggles for dominance over secondary centers, promoted certain elements of their remembered past while forgetting others.

The book also rethinks the usefulness of Hindu-Muslim relations as the master key for interpreting this period of South Asian history, and proposes instead a model based on parallel cultures of rulership grounded in different prestige languages, Sanskrit and Persian. Further, the authors systematically integrate the methodologies of history, art history and archaeology in their attempt to reconstruct the past, as opposed to the standard practice of using one of these methodologies to the exclusion of the others. The book thus describes and explains the interstate politics of the medieval Deccan at a more grass-roots level than hitherto attempted.

Birney’s Fellowships Support Research, Archaeology

Kate Birney, assistant professor of classical studies, assistant professor of archaeology, leads a student excavation team at the site of Ashkelon. The site is located in the southern district of Israel on the Mediterranean coast.

Kate Birney, assistant professor of classical studies, assistant professor of archaeology, leads a student excavation team at the site of Ashkelon. The site is located in the southern district of Israel on the Mediterranean coast.

Between 2500-1200 B.C., Ashkelon was one of the largest and most important commercial centers around the Mediterranean, and it remained a thriving metropolis under varying degrees of Egyptian control until until the Crusaders conquered the city in the 12th century. Today, the site remains preserved, as does a 3,500-year-old, two-story-high mudbrick-archway.

As a recipient of two fellowships, Kate Birney will have the opportunity to study the Hellenistic period (ca. 330 B.C. to ca 100 B.C.) for an upcoming book.

As a recipient of two fellowships, Kate Birney will have the opportunity to study the Hellenistic period (ca. 330 B.C. to ca 100 B.C.) for an upcoming book.

Since 1985, the site has been excivated by the Leon Levy Expedition — a joint project drawing students and faculty from Wesleyan, Harvard University, Wheaton College and Boston University. To date, Ashkelon archaeological digs have revealed a neighborhood of elite Philistine houses dating from the 11th-10th centuries B.C.

Every year, Kate Birney, assistant professor of classical studies, assistant professor of archaeology, leads a student excavation team at the site of Ashkelon. And as a recipient of two fellowships from the 2014-15 academic year, she will continue her research on the historic area.

Next fall, as a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow, Birney will conduct research at the Albright Institute in Jerusalem; and in the spring, she’ll complete a Fellowship at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C. Both fellowships are related to her present research at Wesleyan.

“Since I specialize in interconnections between ancient Greece and the Near East, I’m particularly excited about these fellowships. The fall NEH will allow me to work within a community of scholars who specialize in Near Eastern archaeology, to process the archaeological data, while the spring fellowship at the CHS will allow me to develop my ideas within a community of Classical scholars,” she said.