The Second Annual Thesis Conference of the International MA Program in Archaeology and Ancient Near East Cultures / Joshua Errington
About a week after being acknowledged as the leading archaeology department in Israel and as one of the leading research centres in the world, the International MA program of the Archaeology Department at TAU held its second annual thesis conference.
Students of the program, who pursued a second year thesis track, presented their research work to peers, staff and guests, with each of the presenters showcasing their process from identifying a topic and research question, to conducting an investigation of previous research, developing their own tools and techniques to address the issues raised in the research, and finally reaching their conclusions.
Prof. Oded Lipschits greeting guests at the second annual thesis conference of the International MA Program
Due to time limitation and the immense amount of differing research projects being conducted by the students of the program, only a select number of students presented their thesis work. However, the following brief summary of the research presented in the conference easily conveys the diversity and richness of fields currently undertaken at TAU.
Sabine is a TAU PhD student, originally from Germany, who came to Tel Aviv in 2012 for our one year MA program, but loved her new academic field and the country so much that she has stayed on to complete a thesis and is now enrolled in a PhD program at the department.
Sabine gave the opening presentation, directed primarily toward our first year students, explaining the various stages of completing a research thesis, using her own study of a Late Bronze Age pottery assemblage from Tel Azekah to demonstrate the process. The eminent message she conveyed was how important it is to study something you enjoy and how this can set you up for an exciting career in academia or within the professional world.
International MA alumni, Sabine Metzer
Vanessa also began her studies with the program in 2012, and has since submitted her MA thesis and enrolled to a PhD track. She began working with Dr Erez Ben-Yosef of the Central Timna Valley Project with her own research focussing on a collection of ancient textiles and fabrics discovered in the ancient copper mining sites with unparalleled preservation. So rare are these materials that other remnants are known only from the much earlier Chalcolithic Period and much later Roman Period from this country. Vanessa’s research therefore serves to fill gaps in our understanding of the manufacture of these fabrics over the course of a millennia.
International MA alumni, Vanessa Workman
Zhixia (Summer) Chen
Summer joined our program in 2013, and is now in the early stages of a nation-wide study of imported Chinese porcelains in the five centuries leading up to the Crusader Period, a study without parallel in this country. Working with archaeologists in both Israel and China, her research is slowly revealing the extent of sea trade and exchange along the Silk Road under the Arab-Islamic Empire.
International MA Student, Zhi Xia Summer Chen
Emily began her studies at Tel Aviv University in 2014 when she discovered a new passion for ancient languages, especially that of the ancient Hittites. Her intriguing study, entitled “On Sheep, Shame and Sodomy” involves analysing a number of ancient texts of which partial transliterations and translations have ever been published. A large portion of her research involves breaking down ritual elements and formulas used in rectifying transgression. One enthralling aspect relating to this study involves analysing the use of the word hurkel relating to abomination or impurity, typically stemming from sexual depravity. She has been able to demonstrate that the Hittites believed impurities could never be destroyed, but rather needed to be passed onto another living animal, such as a scapegoat!
International MA student, Emily Bischoff
Mark, also part of the Central Timna Valley Project, entered our program of archaeology in 2012. His research, combining the physical and botanical sciences with archaeology, has involved the analysis of charcoal samples taken from different areas of the copper mining sites which were in use in different periods. He has been able to show that different fuel sources were used throughout the lifetime of Timnah and that the demise of the industry can, in part, be attributed to the deforestation of the region.
International MA alumni Mark Cavanagh
The focus of Erin’s research can be attributed to the excavation at Tel Megiddo, which she joined in 2012. So enthralled in the archaeology and history of the Land of the Bible she experienced at Megiddo, Erin joined our program only months after the completion of the excavating season, and eventually undertook a thesis project examining the phenomenon of hoarding in ancient times.
She presented the results of her work with one hoard discovered in Area Q at Tel Megiddo during that same 2012 season. Subsequently she has also been involved in the Tell es-Safi/ Gath excavation.
International MA alumni, Erin Hall
Sean was our final presenter of the day, describing his research on artefacts of ancient warfare, specifically arrowheads. He has been part of our international program since 2013, and excavated at Tel Azekah, where he first developed his interest in warfare. His research focusses on the Iron Age, and examines the continuity in the technology into the Persian Period.
International MA alumni, Sean Dugaw
Thank you to everyone involved in the success of the program’s second annual conference.
To further explore the research undertaken by our MA students, feel free to visit our Second Year Thesis Track page.
We look forward to our third annual conference which will take place next year, and learning of all the new and upcoming research that will stem from our students in the coming year!
The Annual Conference presenters with the head of the program, Prof. Oded Lipschits