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Creighton students earn National Science Foundation grants for archaeology study

Exploring the Athienou Archaeological Project in 2014.Grants from the National Science Foundation will allow two Creighton University undergraduates an opportunity to participate in an archaeological field school in Cyprus this summer.

Junior art history and Classical languages major Caity Ewers and sophomore Classics and art history major Mesel Tzegai have earned NSF—Research Experience for Undergraduate grants that will carry them to the field school at the Athienou Archaeological Project in Cyprus’ Malloura Valley, a site continuously used for industrial, religious, funerary and settlement purposes for thousands of years.

Caity Ewers“It’s an intense class experience,” said Ewers, a Creighton Honors Program student from Spokane, Wash., who also did research last year at Athienou with a College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Summer Research Grant. “This is the kind of learning you can’t get from a book or from looking at pictures on a screen. I feel honored to be able to go back and take part in the fieldwork and explore in greater detail all the places my research has taken me.”

In 2014, Ewers went to Athienou with Erin W. Averett, Ph.D., assistant professor of archaeology in Creighton’s Department of Fine and Performing Arts, and took part in hands-on experimentation in the use of digital technology in archaeology, helped to catalogue and study artifacts excavated at the dig site and also explored her own academic interests related to the Athienou site, specifically depictions of the Greek goddess Artemis and the implications of gender in early Cypriot religious traditions.

Tzegai will also be traveling to Cyprus on a CAS Dean’s Summer Research Grant, in addition to the NSF grant. Tzegai, of Louisville, Colo., said as a newcomer to the field, she’s eager to soak up the experience and sees the trip as a conduit for her future academic career.

Mesel Tzegai“I’m not sure what to expect, except that it’s going to be a great experience,” she said. “I’m really excited about this opportunity, getting to spend six weeks in a place I’ve never been and getting to participate in real archaeological work.”

Ewers, Tzegai and Averett will spend most of June and July at the Athienou site, further expanding the dig and learning more about the multiple peoples that have inhabited the site. They’ll also immerse themselves in the present culture surrounding the village of Athienou where, Ewers said, the archaeologists have been a welcome part of the community fabric for a quarter of a century.

“Being on the Athienou dig, you feel truly welcomed into the village,” she said. “The people are so welcoming and warm, so appreciative of what we’re doing because they know that it’s work that matters.”

Averett, assistant director of the Athienou Archaeological Project, said Ewers and Tzegai will be exposed not just to the dig, but also to the continually evolving methods involved in doing archaeology. That includes technology’s latest advent in the field, the use of 3D imaging, the use of photogrammetry to record stratigraphic layers and the recording of the landscape for the purposes of preservation and contextualization.

“Mesel and Caity are both excellent students and are both interested in pursuing careers in cultural heritage and/or archaeology, so participating in the Athienou Archaeological Project’s field school is excellent experience for them,” Averett said. “It promises to be a productive and exciting summer as we continue to excavate and develop our digital archaeology methods.”

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