Monday, September 12, 2011

Classics USRA Project in Turkey

Mr. Owen Phillips (Classics '12) received an Undergraduate Student Research Award for summer 2011, through which, under the direction of Prof. Martin Beckmann, he was able to conduct original research on Roman Turkey. He reports on his work:

I spent this summer carrying out research on gymnasium porticoes in Roman Asia Minor, funded by a McMaster Undergraduate Student Research Award. The first 3 months of my summer research were dedicated to examining bath-gymnasia complexes throughout this region through archaeological reports and architectural studies, with the purpose of both understanding the architectural context of the gymnasium at Nysa - dating tentatively to the Antonine period - and of finding parallels in the region so that I could assemble an accurate reconstruction of the gymnasium's portico. In August I traveled to Turkey, spending my first week helping out with a geophysical survey for the excavation of the ancient city of Teos. My next two weeks were dedicated to visiting the other prominent cities of Asia Minor and, more specifically, of the Meander River Valley to look for structures which were similar in design to the gymnasium at Nysa. The main sites which I traveled to were Smyrna, Priene, Tralleis, Aphrodisias, Hierapolis, Ephesus, and Pergamum, whose acropolis and remaining fortification walls were challenging to climb and navigate! At the end of this trip and at the conclusion of my research, I have learned much about Roman architecture and history in Asia Minor and I hope to continue studying this area of the Eastern Mediterranean, but most of all I have reaffirmed my interest in, and dedication to, archaeology and Classics.

For more information on the USRA see:
(Photos: Top: Author at in the cella of the Temple of Pluto and Kore of Acharaca, about a 2 hours hike to the west of the ancient city of Nysa, Above: The Agora at Nysa)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mac Classics Major in Germany, Austria and Italy

Ms. Katarina Benusova (Art History/Classics '12) spent part of her summer break touring Classical sites and museums in Europe. Her report from the field:

This May I was fortunate enough to travel to Europe and spend the entire month touring various countries, including Austria, Germany and Italy. As an Art History/Classics major, the focus of my travels were mainly museums, galleries and archaeological sites that I had previously studied at McMaster and now had the chance to experience in person. While every sight I visited was exciting in its own way, there were couple of highlights that made my trip really memorable. The first one was the Pergamon Museum, one of five large scale museums on the so called “museum island” in Berlin. The museum takes its name from the Pergamon Temple of Zeus , which is displayed inside along with the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, Miletus market gate and other architectural wonders, all moved here brick by brick from their original settings . My trip to Vienna involved a visit to another vast museum of art, the Kunsthistorisches Museum, which, among others, has an extensive collection of Roman antiquities – my favourite being the sardonyx cameos such as the Gemma Augustae. Last but not least was my trip to Sicily where I was particularly interested in visiting the Valley of Temples in Agrigento. Since I’ve not yet been to Greece, this was my first encounter with ancient Greek temples in situ. It was an amazing experience which inspired me to further research this ancient site, in particular the Olympieion, for the seminar courses I’ll be taking in the upcoming year at McMaster. Looking back at my trip, despite all the blisters from walking and many hours spent at airport terminals, I am glad that I packed my itinerary with so many destinations and in turn got to see some of world’s greatest works of art. No textbook image can beat the experience of standing before an ancient marble statue admiring its beauty or retracing the sacred route to a temple honoured centuries ago.

Photos: (top) Author at the Temple of Concord, Agrigento; (above) The Altar of Zeus from Pergamon, in Berlin

Friday, September 2, 2011

Mac Classics Graduate Explores Archaeology of Jordan

Recent graduate Nermin Abdulla (McMaster Classics '10) has continued in Classics and spent the summer working in Jordan. Ms. Abdulla reports:

Since graduating from McMaster in 2010, I have moved to the U.K where I am currently working on my thesis for a Master’s in Classical Art and Archaeology at King’s College London. My particular interest is in the Roman military in provincia Arabia, looking closely at military-civilian interaction and the socio-economic status of towns with Roman forts. Therefore, it was particularly fortunate that I had the opportunity to go to Jordan this summer and participate in the 2011 field season of the Bir Madhkur Project, run by Dr. Andrew Smith II of George Washington University.

Bir Madkur is the site of a Roman fort in the Wadi Arabah region (the area between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea) of southern Jordan. This season’s focus was on surveying the fort’s hinterland, which means we were walking through alluvial fans (fields of boulders and rocks), wadis (large valleys, typically with ephemeral riverbeds), and up mountains along transects. Transects are pre-determined paths which are assigned through geo-spatial information system (GIS) software. The goal was to find, record, draw, and photograph the remains of anything that looked man made in order to determine how the land around the fort was used. As well as finding walls, graves, and possible structures the area was littered with pottery, we even found the occasional coin and ring. One of the more interesting aspects of working in Jordan is meeting the people, especially the Bedouin, who are incredibly friendly. The Bedouin are nomadic peoples and thus, are extremely familiar with the topography of Jordan and very often can identify the remains of something “old” in areas where it is particularly difficult. It was a special and unique experience working with the Bedouin, who in turn taught me a little bit of Arabic.

On the weekends, we had the chance to go out and explore Jordan. I used this time to go to Aqaba (Roman Ailia) and Petra, where I got up close and personal with the Khazneh, walked into the Urn Tomb, explored the Great Temple, and rode a camel. I also saw the Roman forts at Humayma and Da’ajaniya, as well as a medieval castle at Shobek. At the end of my trip, I got to spend a little time in Amman at the American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR), where I had the chance to do some research and explore the city.

Jordan is an amazing country and its people are incredibly welcoming. I am grateful to ACOR and King’s College London for funding my Jordanian adventures, through the Jennifer C. Groot Fellowship and the Jeeve’s Travel Grant. This experience has greatly informed my research and I hope to return to Jordan next summer to continue adventuring in the desert.

(Photos courtesy of author: top: the author on camelback, below: the Wadi Arabah region with Roman settlement circled in red)