Knox Students and Faculty Research Ancient Roman Village

Not royalty's notorious misdeeds, but how did average people live?

January 17, 2011

Fatkin, AdelsbergerTwo Knox College faculty members and their students are exploring how people lived in the ancient Roman world -- not the well-recorded doings of Roman royalty but everyday life, about which we know precious little, according to Danielle Fatkin, visiting assistant professor of history, and Katherine Adelsberger, assistant professor of environmental studies.

"We know a lot about Roman temples and cities, but very little about day-to-day life in the courtyside and villages, which is where most people lived," Fatkin says. To expand our picture of Roman life, researchers from Knox and other colleges are excavating Tall Dhiban, an archeological site near the modern town of Dhiban in west-central Jordan. For the past two summers, Fatkin and Adelsberger have taken Knox students and recent Knox graduates with them on their study of human habitation and environmental change.

Dhiban Excavation SiteFatkin, Adelsberger and colleagues from the University of Liverpool and the University of California at Berkeley presented the results of their work at the recent 2010 annual meeting of the Geological Society of America, held last month in Denver. Fatkin and the other researchers discussed how the site shows evidence of ancient human habitation and agriculture -- but the terraced hillsides that have helped control erosion also makes excavation more challenging.

This past summer, Fatkin and Adelsberger brought three current Knox students enrolled and two recent graduates to Jordan. In 2009 they took four students to the project.

Archeologists and geologists have studied Dhiban for several years, Fatkin says. "Even though items were found, there had not been a systematic study of where the Romans were building. We now have enough baseline information to write a grant application for larger-scale funding to conduct a more extensive study of the site."

At the excavation, Knox students were placed on three-person teams with experienced researchers from the collaborating universities,including Liverpool, California-Berkeley, Stanford and Mu'tah University in Karak, Jordan.

Participation by Knox students and faculty in the project was made possible by grants from Knox College trustee Dushan Petrovich '74 and his wife Nancy, and from the Faculty Career Enhancement (FaCE) program at the Associated College of the Midwest.

Founded in 1837, Knox is a national liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, with students from 45 states and 48 countries. Knox's "Old Main" is a National Historic Landmark and the only building remaining from the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates.

Dhiban, Jordan
Photo of Dhiban, Jordan from the Dhiban Project Blog