Maura Griffith — Adventures in Archaeology

Maura Griffith, Trinity College Class of 2017, with a self-designed major in Classics and Biology, Maura Griffithis spending the summer working on an excavation in Romania, where she is participating in two archaeological digs with ArchaeoTek. “For three weeks,” Maura notes in an article about her and two other Trinity Classics majors recently published in the Trinity Tripod, “I’ll be excavating graves at a 15th century Christian church. The following four weeks, I’ll be working in a juvenile osteology research laboratory. This lab conducts the analysis on the specimens excavated during the previous weeks. Each participant in the osteology lab will be presenting at the Fourth International Osteology and Bioarchaeology Student Colloquium in Odorheiu Secuiesc,”

Maura received a summer research grant from Trinity to support her work.

She recently submitted an account of her initial experiences, the first installment of a series she calls “The Transylvania Diaries”:

The Transylvania Diaries: Week 1 – Into the Breach

After many hours of traveling, I was beyond excited to reach the Hinto Panzio in Transylvania. It certainly was a nice feeling to know that I’d be staying in one place for longer than three days. As much as I loved visiting the United Kingdom and Budapest, I was certainly footsore and ready to settle down for my summer of work with ArchaeoTek. I’m participating in two different projects, the Medieval Funerary Excavation and the Juvenile Osteology Research Workshop. Out of respect for the individuals I’m working with, I will not be posting any photos of human remains.

We were greeted at the train station in Sibiu by Dr. Anna Osterholtz, the project director for the Deviant Mass Grave Mortuary excavation. Once we were sure that everyone who was supposed to be there had arrived, we set off for our lodgings in Odorheiu Secuiesc or Szekelyudharvely. The whole crew was welcomed to the Hinto with snacks and palinka, a traditional Romanian drink. Palinka is made with distilled plums and is strong enough to peel paint. There was also a milder, berry form for those who are not as strong livered, such as myself. We heard about what our routine would be at the Hinto – breakfast and dinner at 7 – pretty easy to remember.

The next day we took a tour of the town, where the directors pointed out important landmarks to us – where to buy essential overalls, Kaufland which is slowly becoming our god (it’s like Kmart), and the location of the ATMs. All essential information. The group got a special tour of the local archaeological museum. They had artifacts from sites all around the Transylvania region; artifacts that would be similar to those that might be found at the active sites this season.

After the museum tour, we were unleashed upon Szekelyudharvely. Grocery shopping is already a difficult task. Grocery shopping in a different language? Nigh impossible. Mix ups included: sour cream instead of yogurt, mixing up yogurt types, yogurt instead of milk (two different people, including me) – clearly dairy isn’t our strong suit. We had the first of many amazing meals at the Hinto and spilt up to prepare for our first field day.

The weather, however, had other plans. A rain day was called by the principle investigator, Dr. Zsolt Nyaradi, so no one went out into the field. The Patakfalva, or Medieval Funerary Excavation, crew met in the lab to wash bones. Some of my fellow excavators, Larissa and Crista, were both patient and helpful in my quest to identify the bones we were washing. Though my biology background has helped with the major bones, I still have a lot to learn. I certainly appreciated their tricks for identifying and siding bones – for example, the patella (knee cap) when placed on a flat surface will fall towards the side it belongs on. Katie Kulhavy, the assistant program director, and some of our more experienced excavators taught us how to sharpen our trowels. If this whole bioarchaeolgoy thing doesn’t work out, I’m opening “Griffith’s Ye Olde Trowel Sharpening Shoppe.” Dr. Katie Zejdlik, the program director, taught us how she wants the paperwork associated with burials filled out. Katie Z. also gave a brief lecture about the history of our site, Patakfalva.

Patakfalva is a site that has been in use from the 1100 to the present. Our excavation site is a stone’s throw from modern graves. The cemetery that is currently being excavated was in use from the 1100’s to the 1700’s; most graves that have been excavated are from the 1500’s and 1600’s. Last season, inside the ruined church was excavated. In that season, almost all of the remains were children and males. Traditionally, being buried closer to the altar of the church was a sign of status (though in theory, it was a sign of devoutness, it is more likely a sign of wealth). This season, the excavation moves outside the church walls. Due to being further away from the church, Katie Z. expects to find more females, in addition to males and children.

In addition to the history of the site, we learned about the history of the Szekelyfold region of Transylvania. The Szekely (See-kay) people, who are culturally Hungarian, occupy this region. In fact, the Szekely are often considered the “original” Hungarians. So even though I’m in Romania, I hear Hungarian and all the signs are both in Romanian and Hungarian. Out of respect for this culture, I’ll be using the Hungarian place names in my posts. Holding onto this culture is particularly impressive considering every country and their mom have tried to invade the Transylvania region. Invaders have included (but not limited to): Romans, Saxons, the Ottoman Empire, the Hapsburgs, Romania, Hungary, and Russia.

The other lecture this week was about vampires, naturally. Being in Transylvania, I don’t think I could’ve made it out of field school without a lecture on vampires. It mainly focused on biological explanations for the characteristics displayed by vampires of Europe and North America. Many of the classic descriptions of vampires – ruddy face, bloating, leaking blood, making groaning noises, et cetera – can be explained by natural processes of decomposition of a body. Vampires do infect their neighbors or loved ones and cause them to wither and die, of whatever disease the “vampire” died from in the first place. Though it may have removed some of the magic of vampires, it certainly was a new perspective. I had never thought to try to explain biologically before.

The rest of the week was spent in the field. My dig partner, Eleanor, and I spent the week excavating a neonate. Based on femoral and humeral measurements, the infant is between 38 and 40 weeks old. The bones are tiny, of course, and very fragile. This has led to slow and painstaking excavation. Every time we think we’re “just cleaning up for a photo,” we find more bones. My favorite question for Eleanor, who has more experience than me, is: Is this a rock or a bone? It’s surprisingly difficult to tell with bones that tiny. Other ongoing burial excavations at the site include an adult female, a juvenile with a headdress, several adult males, and many unassociated bones. Due to the heavy use of the cemetery, many graves were dug on top of existing burials, sometimes disturbing them.

My hands have cramped from trying to trowel through rock hard clay, I am sunburned, and my back and shoulders are killing me. I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else.

A Day in the Life of Oscar Buitrago

Oscar Buitrago, Trinity College class of 2000 Classics major (with a double major in Art History) was featured recently in the White & Case Reporter, the in-house magazine for the international law firm of White & Case, where Oscar works as Associate Director of Business Development for Mergers and Acquisitions.

You can read all about him here: A Day in the Life of Oscar Buitrago The White Case Reporter 

So: where will your Classics major take you?

Interested in Teaching Latin?

Summer has arrived! At Southern Teachers we spend the summer continuing to help schools find great teachers, and help our candidates find great jobs.

The private/independent schools we work with are still hiring Latin teachers for the 2016-17 academic year! If you know of recent graduates or alumni who are looking for a job, have strong content knowledge, and the potential for making a difference in the lives of young people, please encourage them to complete our online application or just forward this email to them. And remember, they do not need a teaching license or an education major to be successful in independent schools.

As you know, Southern Teachers has been placing teachers in positions at private/independent K-12 schools since 1902. Currently, we work with over 600 schools from Maryland to Miami and west to Midland, TX. The best part? We are a free service to the teacher candidates. Can’t beat that!

If you have questions, please feel free to call or email me. You can also read more about Southern Teachers here.

Contact:

Abby Hall
Director of College Recruitment
(434) 295-9122
Recruiter@SouthernTeachers.com

“The Pompeii of Petersborough”: Bronze-age Britain comes to life?

One of the reasons why Pompeii has so fascinated people since its discovery is the insight it offers into life as people were living it in antiquity, when sudden fiery disaster carbonized them in various states of activity and repose. Fire destroyed a similar site in eastern England, this one preserved by water, which has been excavated and dubbed “The Pompeii of Petersborough.” The New Yorker online edition is currently featuring an article by Charlotte Higgins (who has a degree in Classics from Oxford and is the Guardian’s chief culture writer) about the excavation: “Footprints, Size 10, from Britain’s Bronze Age.” Read about how Britain’s Bronze Age compares to the Greco-Roman Mediterranean’s and what is emerging in Petersborough by clicking here.

Link

The original Brexit? Boudicca’s rebellion against the Roman Empire

Last summer when I traveled to Greece for the “New Heroes on Screen” conference in beautiful Delphi, I landed smack in the middle of the economic and political tumult that pundits soon dubbed the “Grexit”. While that change did not come to pass, lo and behold, nearly a year to the day later I will be heading back over the pond for the biennial Celtic Classics Conference in Ireland, and into another highly contentious vote on the state of the European Union: the so-called “Brexit”.  So I read with great interest historian Tom Holland’s piece in the New York Times this week, in which he draws Boudicca’s rebellion from the Roman Empire in 61 CE into conversation with the movement among Brits to withdraw from the E.U.: “When the Barbarous Brits First Quit Europe”. Read it on nytimes.com.

 

Trinity College Graduation 2016 — Classics Rules!

A cloudy, chilly start to Trinity College graduation ceremonies on Sunday, May 20, did nothing to

Grad 2016 Sign

Grad 2016 Sign

quell the enthusiasm of students, parents, relatives, faculty, and staff who had gathered to send off yet another class of newly-minted Trinity alumni. The sky cleared just as President Joanne Berger-Sweeney was giving her charge to the graduates, and a bright, warm sun shone on the traditional “tent city” on the lawn below the Chapel, where everyone gathered to celebrate and say good-byes.

Jami Cogswell

Jami Cogswell

Darcy Cogswell

Darcy Cogswell

This year Classics majors took the two top spots in the class: valedictorian Jami Cogswell (who also graduated with honors in Classics) and her sister salutatorian Darcy Cogswell garnered the top GPAs in the Class of 2016. They looked splendid in their Eta Sigma Phi swag — yellow and purple cords and a gold sash — and their valedictorian and salutatorian sashes. WFSB, the local CBS affiliate, ran a story on Jami and Darcy.

Besides Jami, three other Classics majors took honors in Classics: Dimitri Adamidis, Kate Giddens, and Julia (“Cheeky”) Herr. Jessica Rudman (who wrote an amazing senior seminar paper but didn’t do a year-long thesis, and so wasn’t eligible for honors; the same was the case with Darcy) also graduated with a BA in Classics.

For Jami, summer plans include teaching at a rock-climbing school, with a year off before applying to grad school in Classics; Darcy, who loves the sea, will be off sailing. Dimitri is starting a post-bac program at the University of Connecticut before dental school; Jessica will be studying dentistry at the UConn. Cheeky’s looking for work in New York City, while Kate, who plans on attending medical school, will take a CPR course and then is off for a year teaching English in Denmark.

Julia ("Cheeky") Herr

Julia (“Cheeky”) Herr

Kate Giddens

Kate Giddens

Dimitri Adamidis

Dimitri Adamidis

Jessica Rudman

Jessica Rudman

Everyone in the Classics Department joins in congratulating our 2016 graduates. We are very proud of them and wish them the very best in their future endeavors — about which we hope they will keep us informed!

In the meantime, though, we wish them all a happy, relaxing summer. They’ve earned some downtime after four years of hard work and remarkable accomplishments!

Crowds at Tent City

Crowds at Tent City

Classics Majors Recognized at Trinity College Honors Day

Dylan Ingram

Dylan Ingram

Matt Reichelt

Matt Reichelt

Darcy Cogswell

Darcy Cogswell

Mary Bennewitz

Mary Bennewitz

Jami Cogswell

Jami Cogswell

Lydia Herndon

Lydia Herndon

Kelcie Finn

Kelcie Finn

Friday, May 6, 2016, at its annual Honors Days, Trinity College celebrated students receiving honors and awards. Seven current Classics majors, including two seniors, one junior, three sophomores, and one first-year, received awards and honors, Jami Cogswell, ’16, shared the College’s highest award, the Trustee Award for Student Excellence and also picked up the James Goodwin Greek Prize, which she shared with Matt Reichelt, ’17. Darcy Cogswell, ’16, and Lydia Herndon, ’18, shared the Melvin W. Title Latin Prize. Dylan Ingram, ’18, won the Rev. Paul H. Barbour Prize in Greek; Kelcie Finn, ’18, received the James A. Notopoulos Latin Prize; and Mary Bennewitz, ’19, won the John C. Williams Prize in Greek. In addition, Darcy took from the History Department the George B. Cooper Prize in British History.

The Classics Department at Trinity College is delighted to celebrate and honor the academic excellence of its majors, and we congratulate each on his/her accomplishments!

What Do You Do With a Classics Major? Maybe Make the Cover of the Washington Post Magazine

Sally Steponkus, Classics major and Trinity graduate 1998, runs a design firm called Sally Steponkus Interiors. Her designs were featured in a recent issue of the Style section of the Washington Post! (The cover’s below.) On her website she writes: “A semester in Rome, Italy inspired her love of Classical Art and Architecture, from which she draws much of her design style. She describes her work as updated traditional – classic with a unique twist.”Stephanie Wash Post Cover

Where in the world will Classics take you?Sally Steponkus Roche