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Something to Write Home About

USC College archaeology students connect by blogging as they travel the world conducting hands-on research.

This summer USC College archaeology students will blog about their experiences excavating and researching at various sites in Turkey, Spain, Alaska, Belize, Italy and Peru as well as the United States. Photo credit Emily Cavalcanti.
This summer USC College archaeology students will blog about their experiences excavating and researching at various sites in Turkey, Spain, Alaska, Belize, Italy and Peru as well as the United States. Photo credit Emily Cavalcanti.

Summer: time for most undergraduates to look for a part-time job or internship, or maybe just sleep in and get a tan. But if you happen to be a USC College archaeology student, your summer plans are a bit less conventional.

In a recent post on the USC archaeology student blog, Sarah Butler ‘11 described a typical summer day for her classmates as "jumping into a muddy hole somewhere on the other side of the world, using a latrine, taking malaria pills and hanging out with dead/old things."

During the next two months, 16 College students will participate in archaeological excavation and research at sites around the world. Many of them will be posting regular updates on a group blog. All of the archaeology students are encouraged to write for the blog, and six of them will also be video recording their experiences, according to USC College alumna Ashley Sands.

Since graduating in 2007 with majors in religion and classics, Sands has become an assistant curator and researcher at the USC Archaeology Center. She, along with seven undergraduate students, will accompany USC College lecturer Lynn Swartz Dodd on her survey of Tell al-Judaidah, a site near the Turkish city of Antakya.

In Turkey, the students will assist Dodd in the research and publication of archaeological remains dating back as far as 2000 B.C. This is Sands’ third trip to Turkey for summer research, and she will be serving as the assistant to the pottery expert at the site. “I will be organizing and helping to analyze the pottery that has already been excavated — often just the day before,” she said.

Other students’ faraway destinations include archaeological field schools in Spain, Alaska, Belize, Italy, and Peru, and their archaeological interests are as diverse as the locales. Jacob Bongers ‘11 chose a site on the Lake Titicaca basin in southern Peru to refine his specialty in Andean archaeology. The cultural anthropology minor will be part of a survey and excavation project focusing on tombs discovered near the basin, and he hopes to learn more about the social hierarchy of ancient Andeans by studying the artifacts and burial practices.

“I am fascinated with the Andean region and the cultures that emerged in that part of the world,” Bongers said. “The Andean environment is very extreme, with high altitude, volcanoes and minimal resources, and the ways in which ancient cultures adapted and survived in this area of the world is very interesting.”

Meanwhile, in the opposite hemisphere, Cara Polisini ‘11 will be blogging from an archaeological field school on the tiny island of Menorca, Spain, where the classics major will study ruins of domestic spaces used and reused by Greeks, Romans and Muslims dating from Talayotic times (800 B.C.) through the Middle Ages. “As someone who is interested in Roman archaeology, this is the perfect project to work on because it involves not just Romans but everyone affected by the Romans,” she said.

Polisini will also work on her field skills by learning how to prep a site, remove dirt and how to wash, clean and catalogue artifacts. She will continue to keep blog readers abreast of her progress through pictures and regular posts.

Cleverly titled Hunter Blatherer, the blog repository provides a glimpse into the daily lives of student archaeologists. Students both abroad and stateside post about their experiences, including the mundane and the monumental: from permit delays with the Turkish government to once-weekly showers in Alaska to the ups and downs of cataloging ancient screws and nails for an internship in the J. Paul Getty Museum’s Department of Sculpture and Decorative Arts.

The voices and stories are varied, and the students’ enthusiasm for their field is evident. They will continue to update Hunter Blatherer throughout the summer to share their journeys, both with each other and the folks back home.

Complete List of Archaeology Bloggers/Locations:

Jacob Bongers 11 (Lake Titicaca, Peru), Kristin Butler 08 (Turkey), Sarah Butler 11 (Getty Internship), Jennifer Crawford 10 (Arequipa, Peru), Kelsey Hallerman 11 (Italy), Sarah Hawley 10 (Turkey), Lee Kraljev 12 (Turkey), Christian Maltbaek 09 (Turkey), Aaron Muller 10 (Israel), Sara Pitts 10 (Belize), Cara Polisini 11 (Spain), Ashley Sands 07 (Turkey), Alexandra Sinnott 10 (Turkey), Jon Tanis 10 (Arizona, Native American Project), Tiffany Tsai 11(Alaska/ Southern Calif., Native American Project), Hannah Wong 11 (Southern Calif., Native American Project)

Visit the students' blog at