UM students, faculty present archaeology research

Posted on Oct 26 2018 - 5:50am by Jordan Holman

UM faculty and students presented ongoing fieldwork and research Thursday night in an early celebration of National Archaeology Day on Friday.

The Archaeology Showcase went from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in Bryant Hall 111 and was sponsored by the Department of Classics and the Archeological Institute of America.  

Featured professors included Matthew Murray, Nancy Wicker, Jacqueline Dibiasie-Sammons and Aileen Ajootian; highlighted students were Arianna Kitchens, Madeleine McCracken and Hannah Zechman who spoke on their fieldwork and research.  

Murray presented his research first, which covered his excavation of an Iron Age mound in Southwest Germany, known as the Heuneburg Mortuary. Murray — with the help of German archeologists and computer scientist — exhumed over twenty burial sites of Iron Age humans.  

“We were able to recover and reconstruct fragmented funerary pottery from 700-450 BCE,” Murray said. “Inside some of these were human blood and organs, which contained the earliest evidence of hemorrhagic fever virus in Western Europe.”

After Murray spoke, Wicker stepped up and talked about how she spent her summer researching a Viking-style deer antler container in León, Spain.  

Standing at about one and three-fourth inches tall, Wicker said it was the only container of its kind in Spain.

“It was held by the church as a holy object used to hold aromatics,” Wicker said, “So, unfortunately, we have been unable to take samples of it and can only study it in person.”  

Students Kitchens and McCracken presented the work they participated in at Rome over the summer, uncovering and translating ancient graffiti.  

“Graffiti has actually changed little in topic over the last thousand years,” McCracken said. “Though it was inscribed with a stylus, the messages were mostly greetings, ‘I was here,’ Roman numerals and drawings.”

Zechman presented on her summer spent doing fieldwork at Friendship Cemetery in Columbus.

Around 2,500 soldiers were buried in Friendship Cemetery during the Civil War, and about 40 were members of the Union Army. When the Union soldiers were moved to Corinth after, however, it is suspected that eight were left behind. Zechman’s mission this summer was simple: find the unmarked graves of the Union soldiers left behind.  

She was ultimately unsuccessful but remarked that it was a positive learning experience.  

Participants of the showcase voiced their support for the Archeological Fair on Friday.  The fair will take place in the main lobby of Bryant Hall, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m., and will include interactive archaeology booths for all ages. Attractions include booths where participants can draw their own Roman graffitos, “dig” in an ancient cemetery and examine tools archaeologists’ use in excavations.  

People in attendance were not only archeology majors and professors — Betty Crouther, an associate professor of Art, said she came out of curiosity.  

“I just wanted to get out and see the research other people are engaging in,” she said.  

Claudia Chambliss, a freshman biochemistry and physics major, on the other hand, attended because her professor offered extra credit.  

“I think it’s really interesting, though,” she said, “I though the Viking part was cool.”

This is the second event the Department of Classics and the Archeological Institute of America have hosted together. According to Ajootian, a third will be scheduled for next semester.