Students explore the vast Masada complex, where Herod the Great built a fortress between 31 and 37 BCE.
HIST/RELS 271G: Jerusalem isn’t just a history and religion course; it also fits neatly within the requirements for Knox’s new archaeology minor, which debuts in fall 2019. The program is a natural outgrowth of the growing number of archaeology courses—including Danielle Fatkin’s first-year preceptorial focusing on the subject, geological excursions, and international field school opportunities that have become available to students in recent years. Fatkin, co-director of the new program, says it’s a good fit for the Knox curriculum. “Archaeology is, in a sense, the perfect liberal art, because in order to do it well, you actually have to be an artist, a humanist, a social scientist, and a natural scientist.”
The minor consists of an introductory course, a practicum that involves research in the field, and courses in one of three concentration areas: Mediterranean, Native American, or geoarchaeology.
“If you’re doing archaeology, you have to specialize in some way. You have to choose a time period to learn the most about, or a material culture,” says co-director Katie Adelsberger, Douglas and Maria Bayer Endowed Chair in Earth Science. “In our case, it’s built on strengths we have at Knox. We have lots of material on the Mediterranean and Native American worlds, artistically and historically. In the geoarchaeology specialization, it’s focusing on the tools to understand earth processes and site formation, which also informs cultural analysis.”
Thanks to regular trips to an excavation site in Dhiban, Jordan, through the Institute for Field Research, Fatkin and Adelsberger have been able to conduct a variety of hands-on research alongside students. They’ve also been able to borrow rare materials and excavation samples for further analysis—a privilege that few other countries grant.
These materials have already provided opportunities for independent research, as part of Fatkin’s ceramics lab. Joyce Hall ’11 was one of several students to do work in this area; in her case, helping to build a timeline of Dhiban’s occupation by examining Nabatean ceramics from the site. Now, with a formalized path that includes practicums, long-term studies building on the research of several students (alongside Adelsberger and Fatkin) will be easier to facilitate.
Fatkin and Adelsberger also noted the many applications for an undergraduate foundation in the field. Familiarity with geographic mapping software, chemical analysis, and field surveying instruments provide an impressive technical background that can serve students in a variety of disciplines. There are many adjacent sciences that students can pursue, including paleontology, and the field also lends itself to historical and anthropological work in museum curation and arts administration.