Students, Faculty Undertake Bronze-Age Archaeological Research in Oman
Dr. Lesley Gregoricka, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, could be considered an Indiana Jones. Instead of searching for cursed treasure and escaping large boulders, Gregoricka excavates the tombs of past civilizations in Oman.
A bioarchaeologist in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, Gregoricka specializes in human mobility and the evolution of social complexity in the Middle East. She has worked on multiple bioarchaeological projects; her current one is the Social, Spatial, and Bioarchaeological Histories of Ancient Oman otherwise called the SoBO project. In 2011, Gregoricka joined the SoBO project as co-director with colleague, Dr. Kimberly Williams of Temple University.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded the project a grant of over $181,000 for use from 2013 through 2016 to aid the team’s research and assist undergraduate and graduate students in participating in the field work. The SoBO project incorporates mortuary archaeology and stable isotope analysis to research past civilizations of Oman through tombs. When asked why she was looking at grave sites for her research, Gregoricka explained, “we’re looking at the tombs scattered throughout the landscapes to determine what the tombs can tell us about how these people were living. Not many people realize but tombs and burials can be a reflection of how people used to live and their culture.”
Gregoricka and her team hope to understand and learn more about the changing sociopolitical civilizations during the Bronze Age and how they were constructing their identities. For four weeks during the 2013 winter break, Gregoricka took three USA students to Oman, allowing them to gain hands-on experience with tomb and skeletal excavation as well as lab processing. Lauren Bennett, an undergraduate senior majoring in anthropology and minoring in history, was awed by the SoBO project experiences. According to Bennett, “It was a lot of work, but getting to learn about the Bronze Age in the area and getting firsthand experience with artifacts and remains from the period was amazing!” Bennett adds, “I was also able to experience a local culture I never thought I would have the chance to.”
Bennett’s positive impressions were echoed by Kat Scott, a junior undergraduate student, majoring in Anthropology and minoring in Music. The opportunity to be immersed in a different culture expanded her future outlook as she prepares for graduate school. “Oman was unbelievable. I learned so much in three weeks that I could never have learned in a classroom for 16 weeks,” said Scott. “I can now put this trip and my experience on my CV and resume, which definitely helps me feel better about being prepared for grad school.” Such praise for the trip to Oman is also echoed by junior Biology major Justine Harris: “Although the trip was a little out of my comfort zone, it was an amazing, once in a lifetime experience.” Harris is emphatic about the benefits of the experience with Gregoricka: “I encourage more students to get out of their own comfort zones to experience new things.”
Like her students, Gregoricka is enthusiastic about SoBO. Any such project, however, does not come without some difficulties. According to Gregoricka, she faces some difficulties as an anthropologist in another country and some difficulties as a woman. “I think that there are inherent stereotypes as far as the capabilities of women, and I hope that we are changing that. You have to negotiate things on so many different levels,” she said. “It can be frustrating, but it is so worth it to be doing what you’re passionate about and exciting to be changing perceptions of women in Oman.”