Changing perceptions through fieldwork

Posted in: ASOR, March Fellowship Madness, Scholarships
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Excavating a Middle Islamic barrel-vaulted room

By: Nicholas Ames, 2012 Platt Fellow

The first thing that struck me once the post-excavation haze wore off a few weeks after my return to the United States, was the sudden realization of the vast difference between “education” and “edification.” The classroom’s education provides the theoretical framework with which to situate my perception of the world, but through the context of labor, the act of archaeology provides an ephemeral emic understanding of the past, becoming a contextualized reification of the course-based educational experience. And with memories of the field still fresh in my mind, I found I was no longer content to confine my learning to a lecture hall listening to someone pontificate about the past. What I wanted was to go out and uncover it.

Not to sound dramatic, but attending the Dhiban Excavation and Development Project field school in the summer of 2012 changed my life. Besides being my first opportunity to travel outside of the United States, and in turn be exposed to a cultural sphere vastly different from my habitual experience, the structured rigor of the excavation provided a tangible application of my largely theoretical education, and gave a sense of observable progress though excortication that essays seemed to lack. Though I had previously considered myself a student of archaeology, it was not until after a season of fieldwork that I now consider myself a student archaeologist. I have found that to learn archaeology is to do archaeology – there are no words of a lecture elegant or descriptive enough to portray the feeling of changing soil textures under your trowel, how critical the early morning light is for photographing and defining exposed soil matrixes, or the thrill of being the first to find an unusual artifact.

During the project, cultural immersion was inevitable, as we lived and worked alongside our Jordanian peers. Consequently, this exposure was essential to putting my own culture into perspective. In fact, the only discernable culture shock I experienced was in returning to United States when I encountered the chaos of LAX against the fleeting memories of rhythmic Jordanian life; the hauntingly beautiful repetition of the call to prayer, the rink-a-dink prattle of propane-trucks working their way through streets baked in the mid-day heat, or the liberally bleating car-horn as Jordanian drivers wind their way through arid landscapes resonating with history. And it is that the entirety of this monumental perspective was not possible without the generosity of the Platt Fellowship by ASOR.

The ever-increasing expense in higher education, especially in a field devoid of job certainty, is making it increasingly difficult for students passionate about the field to participate in international excavations. In some cases, the school is able to subsidize student participation through financial aid, but the actual cost necessary to travel to these distant areas is an expense borne entirely by the student. It is only upon my ecstatic acceptance of the Platt Fellowship that I was able to afford the cost of a round-trip flight, and engage in this formative, edifying experience. 

Read Nicholas’ original post here.


As you know, ASOR’s mission is to support archaeology in the Near East, and now we have an exciting opportunity for you to support students of archaeology directly! Every year ASOR gives out around 30 Platt and Heritage Fellowships to deserving students to defray the costs of excavating in the Near East. Thanks to last year’s March Fellowship Madness drive we gave out a total of 42 scholarships and we are trying to beat that number this year.

Our goal is to raise $10,000, and if we succeed, two generous donors will give funding for four additional fellowships, meaning a total of 14 additional students will get funding this year!  Help us seize this opportunity to send more students into the field! Donate now!



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