Dig This: OU Senior Studies Archaeology in Turkey

Here at the OU Blog, we’ve heard plenty of stories of students traveling all over the world to enhance their OU education.  Most explore places like England, Spain, and plenty of places in Asia—but a student studying archaeology in Turkey?  That’s a new one for us!

Meet Katherine Harkleroad ’12.  She is an art history major at Oglethorpe, and decided to spend her summer in Turkey, where she attended an international archaeology seminar at Crisler Library.  Crisler is an American archaeological research and teaching facility which hosts some of the world’s brightest researchers and historians.  The program is open to undergraduates, graduates, and PhD candidates, and it’s based in Selçuk, near the ancient Roman city of Ephesus.

But when we say archaeology, don’t think of Katherine with a shovel and brush in hand.  As much as she’d probably love to dig, Katherine was taking the seminar from the standpoint of an art historian, and was a respectful observer of those “on the ground.”

“We are not actually digging in the dirt,” explained Katherine, while still in Turkey. “We are visiting Ephesus and the surrounding sites—such as Priene, Miletus, Didyma, and Aphrodisias—with archaeologists and professors from around the world…Turkey is very strict about who is involved in excavations. Although the archaeologists here are from all over, the excavation crews are from Turkey…[While] walking behind the scenes at many of the sites, our group has been able to view and hear about finds that are not yet published.”

Even without digging, Katherine kept a busy schedule.  Each morning, she and her colleagues traveled to a new site, exploring topics such as Roman private life, cult and politics, pagan sanctuaries, and how the Romans supplied themselves with water.  The seminar is taught by esteemed archaeologists known the world over for their research, including Germany’s Hilke Thür, the main lecturer in the course and a thirty-year veteran in the field.

“It is such a great opportunity to visit Ephesus and the surrounding sites with such a well known and renowned archaeologist,” said Katherine.  “[This] has helped me better understand archaeological practices, excavation, and restoration techniques and strategies. Such things are very useful for historians as well as art historians. [In the past,] I have taken a basic archaeology course, but this seminar has given me first-hand experience with the field of archaeology.”

So, after spending her summer up close and personal with professional archaeologists, can this Petrel see some digs in her future? 

“I am very interested in the work of archaeologists, but I don’t think that I am cut out for the life of an archaeologist,” comments Katherine. “The work season for most [is in] the summer, [when the] heat and sun are brutal. The living conditions in an excavation house are…interesting! …like being at camp,” she says laughingly.  “The program was a great—a once in a lifetime opportunity.  It was amazing.”

Photo: Katherine atop a fortress at the Basilica of St. Johns in Selçuk, near Ephesus.