I owe my shift toward environmental studies to my interactions with extraordinary people here who helped me look at what I was interested in from a different and a larger perspective.
Archaeologist Janet Jones loves sorting through the shards of ancient civilizations. As a specialist in ancient glass, her laboratory houses an extensive collection of glass from Roman, Byzantine and early Islamic sites.
"I'll get a box in of 10,000 fragments and over the course of a year or two, my students and I will sort through all the materials and see what we have," she says. "I just love doing that. You never know what you will find."
Recently, Jones started looking beyond the stories told by the individual pieces of glass to ask environmental questions. "I began to look at landscapes where industrial technologies were a strong part of that culture, and I began to see what was going on in the landscape, which was deforestation and lots of soil erosion," she says.
For example, Jones has worked extensively at Gordion, in central Turkey. "At Gordion, they drowned their city under 20 feet of sediment from cutting down all the trees," Jones says. "They were extraordinary metallurgists, but that's fuel intensive and so they drowned their site."
Jones chalks up her new focus to the natural cross-pollination of ideas at Bucknell. "It is a small enough school where we all interact," she says. "I owe my shift toward environmental studies to my interactions with extraordinary people here who helped me look at what I was interested in from a different and a larger perspective."
Jones brings this perspective to her students in a course on the environmental history of pre-industrial societies. "Bucknell students are going to go out and have an impact on the world," she says. "I can have a little impact on how they do that, by showing them the history of human activities and their impact on the natural world."
Posted Aug. 10, 2012