Passing the Trowel: Instructing Tomorrow's Archaeologists
“It is always surprising and often impressive what students bring to the table with a perspective that’s different than my own.”
Alan Kaiser, PhD
Professor and Chair, Department of Archaeology
Discover the World with Archaeology
Alan Kaiser, PhD, is chair of the Department of Archaeology and has been a member of UE faculty since 2001. His work as a classical archaeologist has taken him all over the world to places such as Spain, Greece, England, the Caribbean, and Pompeii.
“Pompeii is one of the greatest sites in the world – it’s where archaeology began,” Kaiser said. “It has been an archaeological dig site for more than 200 years, and we still have maybe one third of it left to discover.”
Making Contact with an Ancient World
Some of what is left to discover includes artifacts already dug up by archaeologists in the past. The investigators were not always as thorough or detailed as archaeologists today. Hours are spent sifting through the artifacts dug up many years ago and trying not to think of what may have been discarded, never to be recovered. “Ancient archaeological sites are a finite resource,” said Kaiser. “Were they all to be uncovered today, there would be no more. Making new observations about old artifacts may be just as important as discovering new ones.”
As the archaeology field grows and techniques are honed, it is up to experienced faculty members like Kaiser to teach these skills to developing archaeology students. One of the ways he does this is by getting students involved in actual digging and recording experiences at archaeological digs around the world. Some students have gone to Florida, New Mexico, Texas, Egypt, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Romania, and Turkey – and many start building their skills at a dig site right on UE’s campus – a little location known as Tin City.
UE in the Past
After World War II, veterans came flocking to college campuses all over the country thanks to a generous bill that paid for them to get a degree. Many of these students came to what was then Evansville College, very nearly overwhelming the small campus. Undaunted, the Evansville administration welcomed war veterans and their families to campus by buying barracks and constructing them on the campus’s west corner – a location that quickly became known as Tin City because of the aluminum siding on the houses. After the barracks were destroyed years later, Tin City became a part of UE’s nearly forgotten history. Then, in 2003, Kaiser and his archaeology students began looking for the site, and Kaiser has since continued to take his Field Techniques course out to discover a little bit of UE’s own history.
Opportunities for UE Graduates
The skills archaeology students gain at UE are applicable to a variety of jobs after graduation. Andrea Kendrick graduated in 2010 and has since gone on to work as assistant acquisitions editor at Rowman & Littlefield Publishers for their anthropology, archaeology, communications, and performing arts division. Her position there brought her back in contact with her old professor, Alan Kaiser, and she was instrumental in getting his latest book published.
“As one of only 17 archaeology departments in the country, we feel it is very important to make sure students are being taught the kinds of skills that potential employers are looking for,” said Kaiser. When UE students are brought out into the field, they are learning skills that can be held up against the highest standards of archaeological methods. “Employers like that.” Working with students is a rewarding and humbling experience for Kaiser. When working with students at a dig, whether it’s at Jezreel in Israel or at Tin City in UE’s own back yard, Kaiser has formed his own conclusions as to what they might find and what those findings could mean. “But sometimes, a student will show me something or make an assessment that is totally different than mine,” he said. “It is always surprising and often impressive what students bring to the table with a perspective that’s different than my own.”