Page 21 - Summer Alumni Magazine 2012

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The dogs were buried during the Persian
period in Ashkelon, Israel, several
thousand years ago and unearthed by
TROY anthropology professor Dr. Bill
Grantham nearly a quarter century ago.
This summer five of Grantham’s students
returned to the Middle East as part of
the Leon Levi Expedition to Ashkelon
to study the skeletal remains for the first
time since they were encapsulated in
plaster and removed from their burial
places.
“It’s a real mystery as to why the dogs
were buried,” Grantham said. “There’s
just not a good explanation as to why they
were buried.”
Equally perplexing is the fact the burials
only occurred over a relatively short time
period – perhaps 50 years of the more
than 200-year rule of the Persians, he
said.
The students worked with
zooarchaeologist Dr. Paula Wapnish,
who worked with Dr. Grantham and
is the widow of his major professor at
University of Alabama - Birmingham,
Dr. Brian Hesse, who was a long-time
Ashkelon scholar.
The 150-acre site alongside the
Mediterranean in southern Israel, the
Ashkelon area is home to at least 20
ancient cities dating from at 3500 B.C.
to 1500 A.D. Canaanite, Philistine,
Babylonian, Persian, Phoenician and
Israeli civilizations are reflected in the
strata of the excavation.
“I’ll be a long way from Andalusia,” said
John Barbaree, a senior social science-
anthropology major. “But the people
there (Israelis and Arabs) do things just
like we do – they’re people just like us.”
Barbaree and fellow students Joel
Jackson, a junior from Millbrook and
junior Benjamin Conner from Prattville
won’t be strangers in the Holy Land,
either. All three worked on the “Ashkelon
Dig” last summer.
“(Last year) we were introduced at
the site as ‘Bill Grantham’s students.’
Everyone there knew what I was about
when that happened,” Barbaree said.
“That says a lot about the quality that’s
expected of us all.”
Joining the three veterans were Hailey
Hillsman, a senior from Sandersville, Ga.,
and Jared Aquayo, a senior from Stone
Mountain, Ga.
“Our students are being recognized as
bone specialists and they’re being singled
out,” said Hillary Wikle, an anthropology
graduate who now directs TROY’s
Ashkelon component.
The dog burials, she said, would
give a glimpse of the ritualistic life of
the ancient Persian people, but more
importantly the recognition TROY
students are receiving in the field is giving
contemporaries a unique view of the
University.
“When people think ‘TROY’ they don’t
think ‘archaeology,’” she said. “We want
to see that change.”
Indeed, the archaeology program is
growing, thanks in part to the consortium
the University joined this year with
Harvard University, Wheaton College and
Boston College.
“It’s hard to put a price on it,” Wikle
said. “Our students are receiving Harvard
training, making contacts for graduate
school and Ashkelon is just an incredible
draw for students.”
Last year, Grantham and Wikle took all
students who applied for the summer
excursion. This year, she said, some 45
students – many from other disciplines –
applied and the field had to be narrowed
to just five.
As part of the consortium agreement,
the University will send five students for
the next five years to Ashkelon. Since
1985, the Leon Levy Expedition has been
the premier America expedition in Israel,
training two generation of students to
appreciate the ancient culture and uncover
history, said Dr. Lawrence Stager, the
Dorot Professor of the Archaeology of
Israel at Harvard.
“Over the past two seasons, students
from Troy University have become an
integral part of this Ashkelon experience.
Their excitement about the work at
hand, capacity for learning new skills,
and leadership among their peers have
made them true assets to our team and
examples to our other participants,” he
said. “We are excited to see what new
abilities TROY students will bring over
the coming seasons and we are happy to
know that the excavation will continue to
benefit from their integrity and ingenuity.”
For Grantham’s part, he’s enjoying
seeing both his students find meaningful
study while laying the groundwork for
future academic study. He’s also proud of
his institution.
“For TROY to be a part of the formal
agreement is very satisfying,” he said.
“It brings so many opportunities for our
students.”
Lusk is a coordinator of university relations.
TROY Magazine
19
(left to right) Oil lamp uncovered intact from the Ashkelon dig., Joel Jackson removes dirt from an artifact., Dr. Bill Grantham,
now a TROY professor, took part in the Ashkelon dig nearly 25 years ago.