By MARTY LEVINE
“I did not naturally have the Indiana Jones thing,” says Maggie Beeler, trained field archaeologist and new teaching assistant professor in the Department of Classics in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences.
As an undergrad at New York University, Beeler jokes, she was simply “too lazy” to test out of the foreign language requirement, so chose to take Latin. “I kind of fell down the rabbit hole from there,” she says, studying Greek, which led her to look into pre-history. And, she says, “I wanted to find someone to pay for a trip to Greece.”
Since then, she has spent the last half dozen summers helping to excavate the Roman era harbor town of ancient Corinth in Greece and next year will be taking Pitt students there. There at the Lechaion Harbor and Settlement Land Project, the students will take part in everything from field methodology to museum work.
In her work, Beeler is most intent on looking at how the non-elites lived in ancient times — as opposed to the kings who left their chronicles of conquests on stone pillars and their portraits in bas relief on temple walls.
“Greece and its interactions with the entire ancient world around it” is Beeler’s focus — the daily lives and cooperation among people as the engine of social change. She chose Pitt, she says, because of the way her new department approaches the subject.
She teaches “Marginality in the Ancient Greek World,” part of this new direction in Classics, which takes a critical view of the long-held notion that “we” — as represented by the Greeks and Romans — “are the start of Western civilization. There is more to the studying of the ancient world,” Beeler says. One of her research topics is “Reception Studies,” for instance, which looks at how we respond to the ancient world, and how this era is relevant to students’ lives here.
“‘Classical’ is classical to Europeans,” she notes. “We value Romans and Greeks because white Americans see our world as a descendant” of theirs. Modern Classical instructors have a “call to action to think of global approaches to classics.”
Next semester she will teach “Archaeology of the Body,” “Greek Art” and “Introduction to Mediterranean Archaeology.” She is also a supervisor of the archaeology minor with colleagues in history of art and architecture, anthropology and religious studies.
Her subject is not hard to generate interest in, she acknowledges: “Everybody likes archaeology. Archaeology sells itself. It is inherently interesting to discover new things.”
One new thing she discovered recently was Pittsburgh, which still has visible archaeological layers in older neighborhoods — the painted advertisements for businesses that remain on the brick walls of smaller buildings, for instance.
“Pittsburgh is very cool — nobody told me,” Beeler says. “This is a whole big city but everyone knows everybody else. I came up to visit and fell in love. You have everything” a big city has, but “you can stop and talk to people.”
Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at email@example.com or 412-758-4859.
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