Dean's Newsletter

A quarterly newsletter from Interim Dean Beverly Wendland

Archaeology in a New Light

Since my first day on the job in early September, it has been my great pleasure to get to know so many of the individual people and programs that distinguish and define the School of Arts and Sciences. As I’ve come to see, this is a school that, at its core, nurtures ideas and rewards innovation. It’s a stimulating place for any academic, and especially for me, because my own career as a sociologist and an administrator has been shaped in large part by ideas that brought together people from different fields to provide new opportunities and foster new understanding.

I’m delighted, then, to have the chance to share with you one story of significance from Arts and Sciences, a success story that illustrates the power of ideas and a commitment to scholarship and teaching of the highest order.

Last weekend we celebrated the opening of the magnificent Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum in the heart of Gilman Hall. This milestone marks a new era in humanities scholarship at Johns Hopkins, as well as, more specifically, for the burgeoning Archaeology Program in the Krieger School.

Although Johns Hopkins has long-held strengths in archaeology, it wasn’t until a few years ago that the school launched an undergraduate major in archaeology. Key to this new interdepartmental program was the renovation of Gilman Hall, with the splendid new Archaeological Museum as its centerpiece and Betsy Bryan as the museum’s director. Led by co-chairs Alan Shapiro in Classics and Glenn Schwartz in Near Eastern Studies, the Archaeology Program is really taking off, its number of majors growing steadily, and the addition of key faculty members infusing the curriculum with courses on Roman material culture, Aegean archaeology, and leading-edge technological approaches to the study of human societies.

Michael Harrower, for instance, is an assistant professor in Near Eastern Studies whose current fieldwork is in Ethiopia and Oman and who is interested in landscape archaeology. He studies long-term social change from the beginnings of agriculture through the rise of ancient states, examining environmental and social landscapes using both scientific and humanistic approaches. He is a specialist in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping, a technology that is revolutionizing archaeology with its ability to collect and present data in ways that vastly expand our understanding of a place and the cultures that inhabited it.

And new faculty members Pier Luigi Tucci in History of Art and Emily Anderson, a lecturer in the Classics Department, are adding immensely to the Archaeology Program’s panoply of courses and opportunities for students.

All of this is much to the delight of our students, including Emily Carambales, a senior from Glen Arm, Maryland, who came to Johns Hopkins thinking she would major in biology or chemistry, but changed course after taking Introduction to Archaeology with Glenn Schwartz and a Museums and Society course on material culture. The interdisciplinary nature of the Archaeology Program has allowed Emily to add a major in archaeology to her existing one in the history of science, medicine, and technology, as well as a minor in museums and society.

“My favorite thing about the program is that it’s very multidisciplinary,” Emily tells me. “There are so many different areas that you can take classes in, and I love getting to see those connections.”

Those connections between, say, an object’s chemical composition and its cultural significance are fundamental to the Archaeology Program, whose course offerings span the natural and social sciences, humanities, and engineering.

This semester’s opening of the Archaeological Museum will build even more connections across departments and divisions, strengthening the Archaeology Program and attracting new students, providing rich opportunities to conduct hands-on research and state-of-the-art analysis of objects in the extensive Johns Hopkins collection.

Students also have an extraordinary opportunity to study a renowned collection of Egyptian art on a long-term loan from Eton College. Emily is part of a class led by Betsy Bryan this fall that is studying the Eton objects and producing educational brochures about the collection. Representing one of the world’s finest private collections of Egyptian art, the Myers Collection was bequeathed to Eton College in 1899 by alumnus Major William Joseph Myers. The collection includes a broad range of ancient objects from the Neolithic era to the medieval era, and it has been exhibited at major museums all over the world. We are thrilled to share this collection with the university community and grateful for the work of those who made this possible, including Eton College and the University of Birmingham, as well as the instrumental efforts of Johns Hopkins board of trustee member Marjorie Fisher, MA ’84.

I hope you have the chance to visit the spectacular new museum if you haven’t already. This facility will have nothing short of a transformational effect on the Archaeology Program and the ways in which its related fields are studied and taught at Johns Hopkins.

Sincerely,

Katherine S. Newman
James B. Knapp Dean