If your research requires you to examine materials from an ancient Mediterranean shipwreck, find the only existing copy of a historical arrest record or ask Kenyan herders about their food preferences, you need to travel to the source.
July 30, 2014
, BY Paula Myers
Find out what some Bucknell faculty were studying this summer as they traveled to Turkey, the Canadian Arctic, France, Germany and Kenya.
Kris Trego, Assistant Professor of Classics & Ancient Mediterranean Studies
Nautical archaeology begins underwater. Professor Kris Trego, Classics & Ancient Mediterranean Studies, begins there too. She was a member of the team that excavated the Kizilburun shipwreck on the coast of Izmir, Turkey, and from 1999-2001, the team that excavated the Tektaş Burnu, a shipwreck dating back to around 425 B.C. Since then, she's collaborated with her research partner, Deborah Carlson, President of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA) and professor at Texas A&M University, to uncover the everyday mysteries revealed by the Greek merchant ship.
After excavation is complete, years of research and analysis of recovered materials begin to answer questions about the maritime cultures of the ancient Mediterranean. "When materials have been on the sea floor for that long, you have to slowly desalinate and stabilize them before they can be dried and examined," Trego said. The materials from the Tektaş Burnu have gone through conservation and analysis for over a decade.
As the artifacts emerge from conservation, Trego returns to the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology and INA's Bodrum Research Center to use the library's resources and catalog, photograph, and analyze artifacts. This summer, with the support of a Bucknell Faculty Scholarly Development Grant, Trego continued her work.
"These sea routes were how goods and culture traveled," she said. "I'm fascinated by the human element. Cooking pots, fishing equipment, tools, and personal items — that type of material gives us insight into the size of the ship, the number of crew, and the activities that took place on board, information that doesn't survive in the written record."
Trego believes the ship was small and had around two crew members. In addition to a smaller cargo of decorated tableware, there were roughly 300 amphoras — large, two handled jugs made of terracotta. They contained wine, olives, oil and pine resin, goods to be sold at markets in the Greek cities of Ionia. Two amphoras were filled with butchered cow ribs, the remains of what was once likely salted beef. This finding has challenged archaeologists to rethink their ideas about meat consumption during the period, which was previously believed to be limited to special occasions.
Trego's dedication to the project has been sustained by each new discovery. "You fall in love with the place. You fall in love with the project," she said. "We've found some incredibly unique items that have been changing some archaeologists' views of the ancient world."
Andrew Stuhl, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies
When Professor Andrew Stuhl, environmental studies, travels to Inuvik, Canada, he goes with the intent to connect with this Arctic community and learn from the relationships between the people, the environment and the science being done there. Previously, he spent two years conducting research in the Inuvik region and returned this summer with support from an American Philosophical Society's Franklin Research Grant. While there, he shared his earlier work and did new research in the Inuit governmental archives and at the Aurora Research Institute, and interviewed local people and scientists.
A historian, he approaches his work in environmental studies by considering issues from a variety of perspectives like science or geography, in addition to history. "I'm very interested in how we can take into account historical change to better understand our environment and address environmental problems today," he said. "One of the major world issues is climate change and where we're seeing that first and fastest is in the Arctic. High latitude regions are experiencing climate change with more intensity than any other place on Earth."
In contrast to how it is commonly characterized as a new, ecological phenomenon, Stuhl sees Arctic climate change as a series of social events that have taken place over time. "The images and discourse around climate change today suggest that environmental change in the north brings with it the first-ever interactions of industry, politics, Inuit society and the Arctic," he said. "But this just isn't true. It's important to go to the north to do research because within the communities in the Arctic, the history is very well known. It's outside of the Arctic that we don't know it."
He thinks that often we see the Arctic as a frontier on the edge of our world instead of as part of it. "While there are national borders, species don't know those. Pollutants don't know those," he said. "That's why climate change reveals our interconnectedness — the ecology of our life on Earth. History shows that interconnection goes deeper in time and is layered in the landscape and in people's interactions with one another. If we don't learn to see this history, or choose not to look at it, we won't be able to respond attentively to global change in the Arctic — or anywhere."
Professor Stuhl's research will be part of his book, Making the Modern Arctic: The Hidden History of Science and Nature, which will be published by The University of Chicago Press.
Logan Connors, Assistant Professor of French & Francophone studies
Does reading fiction change you? Is it important? Does it distract you from being useful? The debates that professors and students have about literature today are not so different from scholarly discourse in 17th- and 18th-century France, said Professor Logan Connors, French & Francophone studies.
Connors traveled to Paris this summer to study emotion in theater during this period — a time when philosophers like Descartes and Diderot were writing about how emotions function. He began by asking, what can an emotion do? Where do discussions about the function of emotions originate? How are these debates manipulated and why?
"During this time, theater was an important event for socializing," Connors said. "It's a place to study emotions because people are not alone reading, but are out interacting with both the performance and each other."
He worked at the national library, where he read sermons written by Christian clerics who opposed theater. "These sermons claim that theater is going to do all kinds of horrible things to people," he said. "There was a systematic, concerted effort to shut down theater in France."
"In the sermons, actors are portrayed as low-level miscreants who have no business playing noble characters and spectators are described as being influenced so much by theater that they develop a false sense of self-importance and stop focusing on their family and religious obligations," he explained. "Even the government is attacked for funding a costly public theater."
Exploring these documents in person is key to the research, said Connors. "It's really something you have to be there to do," he said. "You may find a handwritten note on the side of a sermon you're reading that refers you to another related sermon. These types of surprises are an exciting part of the process."
To understand both sides of the debate, Connors read pamphlets, often written anonymously, that defend theater and question the opinions expressed in the sermons. "My projects are grounded in the context of 17th- and 18th-century France. You can't get that grounding from just reading a play," he said. "There's this world outside that exists in clandestine literature — all of the pamphlets, police reports and other documents you read give you a much clearer picture of what was happening during the time."
Ann Tlusty, Professor of History and Associate Dean of Faculty, College of Arts & Sciences
Imagine that something you write in your daily life might, 400 years from now, help historians understand how you used language and how that has changed over time.
Professor Ann Tlusty, history, spent her summer collaborating with a colleague in Germany to examine documents written during the 16th and 17th centuries that were preserved as part of court cases and were written by ordinary craftsmen and women. "I spend most of my time in Germany in archives and libraries," she said. "The kind of work I do is dependent on reading a lot of archival manuscripts, many of them records of arrest and interrogations, which exist only in a single copy."
By combining insights from both their fields (socio-historical context and linguistics), she and her colleague were able to explore how close written German was to phonetic speech, how dialect forms affected or were affected by the standardization of the German language, who was literate and where and how they learned to write.
Tlusty also worked on a project on weapons magic — magical spells men used in order to gain hyper-masculine advantages, like having an unbeatable sword or becoming invulnerable. "Many of these spells required parts of dead bodies taken from the gallows or other objects associated with death," she said. "The power in these materials supposedly grew out of a kind of natural sympathy existing between the living and the dead."
Stories about magical weapons and invulnerability have survived as hyper-masculine themes in fiction, fairy tales, comic books, and games, providing data for modern-day pundits debating the link between masculinity and guns. "This project grew out of an earlier work on the right to bear arms in early modern Germany that draws connections between historic European weapons cultures and the idea that the right to bear and use arms is about independence and male power," she explained.
Research travel gives Tlusty access to important sources and connections with other scholars in her field, essential elements of her academic work and classroom teaching. "As faculty, we're passionate about building knowledge in our fields," she said. "We bring that passion and knowledge with us back into the classroom and to research projects with students."
Kevin Myers, Associate Professor of Psychology
The Samburu people, who formerly were semi-nomadic pastoralists, live in scattered settlements in northern Kenya. Professor Kevin Myers, psychology, who studies appetite and eating behavior, traveled to the region this summer with the support of a Bucknell University College of Arts & Sciences Dean's Fellowship. He was part of an interdisciplinary research team that included Jon Holtzman, an anthropologist at Western Michigan University who studies the cultural significance of Samburu food customs, and Jeff Brunstrom and Peter Rogers, experimental psychologists at the University of Bristol who focus on human nutrition and behavior.
The team studied the dietary habits and nutritional psychology of the Samburu, focusing on cross-cultural comparisons about how environment and culture affect eating habits. "Research in the U.S. and other countries that have easy access to a variety of inexpensive, high-calorie, processed foods centers on how environmental factors promote overeating and obesity." Myers said. "The Samburu live in almost the exact opposite type of environment. They have limited access to food and a typical person would only encounter a few dozen types of food in a lifetime, hardly any of it processed."
Among those foods is sugar, which gives the Samburu experience with sweetness, even though its high cost causes them to use it sparingly. However, they have never used artificial sweeteners. This lack of exposure allowed the team to test ideas about the psychological response to sweetness.
"One theory claims that artificial sweeteners have ruined the natural relationship between sweetness and calories," Myers said. "If this is true, for a person who eats a lot of artificial sweeteners the experience of sweetness becomes inconsistent — sometimes high calorie and sometimes low calorie. It fools the brain into expecting that sweet foods should not be as filling, potentially leading to overeating." This hypothesis is impossible to test in places where artificial sweeteners are ubiquitous, so the Samburu participants gave them new insight into the theory.
His work in Kenya has caused Myers to think about psychology from a more cultural perspective. "When it comes to appetite and eating behavior, culture is such a big influence," he said. "This type of research broadens my thinking and opens me up to a whole new set of questions."
"Being out of the lab and away from the U.S. context adds a dimension of different cultural, social and economic factors to the research," he said. "It allows us to do studies that otherwise wouldn't be possible and to test hypotheses about what's involved in the psychology of certain behaviors from a cross-cultural perspective. It forces us to remember that we shouldn't take for granted that humans are a particular way when we're basing that on our Western point of view."
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