Tag Archive for archaeology

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.

Summer Session Course Digs for Middletown History

Students enrolled in the June Summer Session course, Field Methods in Archaeology, participated in several excavations on the triangle of land between Vine Street, Cross Street, and Knowles Avenue, known as the Beman Triangle. Several African-Americans built homes and lived in this area in mid-19th century. Although few above-ground traces now suggest the presence of this community, material about their lives survives in the record of their trash and other archaeological features that remain beneath the backyards of the houses on this land.

The course is taught by Sarah Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archeology, and provides general training in historical archaeological field methods. Through practical work, students learn excavation techniques, field recording, artifact analysis, and how to integrate relevant documentary and oral historical sources into archaeological interpretations.

beman (1)

Roman Archaeologist Parslow Receives Residency at Institute for Advanced Study

Christopher Parslow, professor and chair of the Classical Studies Department, professor of archaeology, has been selected as a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., for the 2013 fall term. Parslow, a Roman archaeologist specializing in the ancient sites buried by the eruption of Vesuvius, will spend his semester-long residency working on a book on the Praedia (Properties) of Julia Felix in Pompeii.

He was chosen on the recommendation of the faculty of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, one of the world’s leading centers for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. Each year, about a quarter of the nearly 200 scholars from dozens of countries studying at the Institute receive appointments to the School of Historical Studies. The visiting scholars, known as members and visitors, interact with fellow scholars within and across disciplines and conduct research unencumbered by teaching and administrative obligations.

Parslow has been a member of the Wesleyan faculty since 1991. As a Samuel H. Kress Fellow in Classical Art and Archaeology, he spent two years at the American Academy in Rome. His first book was Rediscovering Antiquity: Karl Weber and the Excavations of Herculaneum, Pompeii and Stabiae (Cambridge 1995), a biography of Karl Weber, the Swiss military engineer who sought to establish a more scientific approach to the study of the earliest excavations at those cities. His most recent article, “The Sacrarium of Isis in the Praedia Iuliae Felicis in Pompeii in its Archaeological and Historical Contexts,” was published this year in the volume Rediscovering the Ancient World on the Bay of Naples of the series Studies in the History of Art of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. His other publications include articles on the history of the early excavations in the Vesuvian landscape and on the results of his own excavations, on which Wesleyan students have participated.

Founded in 1930, the Institute for Advanced Study is a private, independent academic institution. Past faculty members have included Albert Einstein, who remained at the institute until his death in 1955, and distinguished scientists and scholars such as Kurt Gödel, J. Robert Oppenheimer and George Kennan. It has no formal links to other educational institutions but enjoys close, collaborative ties with Princeton University and other nearby institutions.

Students Co-Curate Local Archaeology Exhibit for Middlesex Historical Society

Hyunjin "Chelsey" Cho '13, Sarah Chrystler '13, Amy Cao '15 and Sarah Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archaeology, hold artifacts collected from the "Beman Triangle" site near Wesleyan. The pieces will be on exhibit April 4-May 31 in downtown Middletown.

Hyunjin “Chelsey” Cho ’13, Sarah Chrystler ’13, Amy Cao ’15 and Sarah Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archaeology, hold artifacts collected from the “Beman Triangle” site near Wesleyan. The pieces will be on exhibit April 4-May 31 in downtown Middletown.

Between Vine Street, Cross Street and Knowles Avenue near Wesleyan, an innocuous looking triangle of land forms the “Leverett Beman Historic District,” listed on the State Register of Historic Places and part of the Connecticut Freedom Trail. This area is the site of one of the earliest planned African American communities in the United States.

Blue glass artifact from the Beman site.

Students discovered this cobalt blue glass shard at the Beman site.

During the spring of 2012, Sarah Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archaeology, led an archeological excavation at the “Beman Triangle” site. Several Wesleyan students and community members participated in the dig and unearthed dozens of materials relating to healthcare and everyday practices, such as cooking and dining.

On April 4, Wesleyan will partner with the Middlesex County Historical Society to present an exhibit featuring many artifacts from the excavation. “Unearthing Community: Archaeology of the Beman Triangle” is curated by Croucher and three students: Sarah Chrystler ’13, Amy Cao ’15 and Hyunjin “Chelsey” Cho ’13. Cho is double majoring in art history and economics and has helped curate exhibits at the Davison Art Center and Smithsonian Institution.

“Artifacts from these excavations help to build a picture of daily life in these households during the late 19th century,” Croucher explained. “Materials from one of the houses also has provided a range of artifacts which seem to relate to late-19th century pharmaceutical production, opening up conversations as to the nature of healthcare at this time.”

Multiple houses dotted the Beman Triangle landscape in the 19th century

Sarah Croucher Discusses Community Archaeology in the Beman Triangle

In this video, Sarah Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archaeology, discusses her community archaeology project in the “Beman Triangle” in Middletown, Conn. The houses built on this land from the 1840s were home to a community of African Americans living in Middletown, tied to the nearby A.M.E. Zion Church. Artifacts discovered in the area from 19th century trash pits shed new light on the lives of the community members, and the longstanding relationship between the church, Middletown and Wesleyan. Read more about Croucher’s project in this past Wesleyan Connection article.

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5 Questions With . . . Sarah Croucher on Middletown’s Beman Triangle

Assistant professor Sarah Croucher is leading an archeological dig in the Beman Triangle, located between Vine Street, Cross Street, and Knowles Ave. Local resident Leverett Beman divided the land in 1847, and sold these plots off to other African-American families. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we ask 5 Questions of Sarah Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archaeology, assistant professor of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies. Croucher will lead an archaeological dig on the site of the Beman Triangle in Middletown on April 28-29. The public is welcome to attend. To view photos of the dig on April 14-15 click here

Q: Professor Croucher, what exactly is the Beman Triangle and what is its significance to the history of Middletown?

A: The Beman Triangle is the land between Vine Street, Cross Street, and Knowles Ave., where homes have existed since the early 19th century. Local historian Liz Warner has shown that something very important happened here in the mid- to late-19th century. Leverett Beman, son of the first Pastor of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church in Middletown, had the land divided into plots by a surveyor in 1847, and sold these plots off to other African-American families. This seems to be a deliberately planned community; a way that members of the AME Zion Church could become property owners (something that remains hard for many people today), and live as neighbors in a relatively prosperous community. The Beman Triangle is of national importance as very few African-Americans were able to go through a similar community-building process in the mid-nineteenth century, when they still lacked U.S. citizenship and slavery was still legal in many states. Although the houses might not look like much today, the site is an important testament to the lives of the nineteenth century Beman Triangle community.

Q:  What do we know already about the AME Zion Church community?

A: There has been some wonderful historical research done on the Beman Triangle community by local historians Liz Warner and Janice Cunningham, as well as Wesleyan alumnus Jesse Nasta as part of his thesis. This work has shown us how active the residents were politically, in ways that are traceable through historical documents.

Wagoner Speaks on Indian Plateau at Penn State Conference

Phillip Wagoner, professor of art history and chair of the archaeology program, spoke on “Power, Memory, Architecture: Contested Sites on India’s Deccan Plateau, 1300-1600,” at Penn State University Park campus April 5.

Wagoner discussed his upcoming book of the same title, which focuses on the cultural history of the Deccan region of South India (1200-1600), primarily in the historical interactions between the region’s established Indic culture and the Persianate culture that arrived in the early 14th century.

Since 1987, Wagoner has been associated with the Vijayanagara Research Project, an international team of scholars in different disciplines dedicated to documentation and interpretation of the site of Vijayanagara, capital of the state that dominated the southern part of the Indian peninsula between the 1340s and 1565. This work has led to the publication of two books: Tidings of the King: A Translation and Ethnohistorical Analysis of the Rayavacakamu (University of Hawai’i Press,1993); and Vijayanagara: Architectural Inventory of the Sacred Centre, New Delhi (American Institute of Indian Studies and Manohar, 2001). Since 2000, his work has increasingly focused on Persianate Islamic architecture in the Deccan, ranging from the first appearance of Sultanate-style architecture in the region in the early 14th century, to the founding and design of Hyderabad, laid out as a new capital by the Qutb Shahi sultans in the late 16th century.

Students, Local Community Participate in Archaeology Dig

Students enrolled in Wesleyan's "Middletown Materials" class let an archeological excavation April 14-15 at the Beman Triangle on campus. The Beman Triangle is the land between Vine Street, Cross Street, and Knowles Ave., where homes have existed since the early 19th century. Pictured, teaching assistant Miriam Manda '12 helps local resident Mark with setting up a site.

Debbie Sierpinski: Assisting 4 Departments, Editing Classics Newsletter

Debbie Sierpinski, administrative assistant, pictured here with Christi Richardson ’10, has worked at Wesleyan more than 24 years. She manages the budgets for Classical Studies and English Departments and for the Archaeology and Medieval Studies programs.

Q: Debbie, you’re the administrative assistant for the Archaeology Program, Medieval Studies Program and the Classical Studies Department. Anything else?!

A: In October 2010, I was given a promotion and added the responsibility of also working for the English Department and Writing Workshop in the new Downey House operations support system. At times it is a bit challenging, but I am good at managing my time and priorities so the work gets done in a timely fashion. I wear many different hats and wear them well.

Q: How many years have you worked for Wesleyan, and in what departments?

A: I have credit for 24 years at Wesleyan. I have been at Wesleyan longer than that but I did not bridge all of the time. I have worked for the Classical Studies Department and Medieval Studies Program for 18 years. After a few years, the Archaeology Program was added on and then most recently, the English Department