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Marking Archaeology Day, UI officials tout their international reach

BY NICK HASSETT | OCTOBER 15, 2012 6:30 AM

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The weather outside Macbride Hall last weekend was damp and dreary, but inside, it was a step into the past.

National Archaeology Day is Oct. 20, and the University of Iowa celebrated the occasion with four days of events and lectures this past weekend. The events happened around Iowa City, but most of the lectures and demonstrations happened in Macbride.

Several anthropology professors at the UI said, in addition to events like these, the department hopes to give students hands-on experience in the field, and events such as these help to bring the department’s work to public awareness.

“This is a darn good department doing darn good research,” UI anthropology Professor James Enloe said. “We want to share our passion with everyone, since none of us are getting rich.”

Enloe said UI professors go on research missions all over the world and publish in international science journals, and though the university provides some funding to the department, much of the research the faculty undertake is sponsored by independent sources, such as the National Science Foundation.

“We’re very competitive in getting grant money,” he said. “These missions are important to the university and to our department.”

Enloe has gone on several research trips around the world, including to sites in France, southern Africa, and right here in Iowa, where he brought several undergraduate students to Woodpecker Cave for field research.

“Students can’t learn everything by sitting in the library,” he said. “They need hands-on experience.”

Undergraduate students aren’t just staying in Iowa for research.

UI anthropology Associate Professor Katina Lillios has carried out archaeological research in Portugal for the past 30 years, and since 2007, she has taken eight students with her, both graduate and undergraduate students.

“This research has provided valuable educational opportunities for students here, some of whom have never traveled outside the U.S. before,” she said. Several of the undergraduate students have gone on to do graduate work in archaeology, she noted.

Lillios believes that field work is valuable not just for students but for her work at the university.

“As an archaeologist in a public institution, I see my job as twofold: to conduct research that addresses important questions about past peoples and to educate students in the history of the ancient world and in interpreting the remains of the past,” she said.

Lillios said the events were important for outreach at the UI.

“This weekend’s events allow the university to open its doors and share current archaeological research going on at the university, and at other research institutions, with the general public,” she said.

Various speakers gave lectures on archaeological topics over the weekend, including Old Fort Madison, Amazonia and early American history, and ancient Jewish history.

Macbride Hall also hosted activities, demonstrations, and tours on the afternoon of Oct. 13, including the “Zoo of Archaeology” demonstration and an exhibit from the UI Museum of Art.

Josh Siefken and Chris Merkle of the museum hosted the exhibit, which showcased various pieces of art from contemporary artists that reflected the history of American Indian objects found in the Southwest United States.

“[These objects] are an interesting line between art and natural history,” Merkle said. “We’re glad that people of all ages can come and look at them.”


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