Harvard archaeology students routinely venture into the past, traveling all over the globe in search of new knowledge. This semester, they are using the technology of today to travel into nearly 90 virtual classrooms as special guest speakers, telling more than 2,500 public and private school students and teachers from elementary, middle, and high schools about subjects ranging from ancient tombs offerings in Mexico to trade practices in the Red Sea region.
Like all the student guest speakers, anthropology Ph.D. candidate Kate Rose produced a video for the grade school students, introducing herself and her field work using animation, still photographs, video, or illustrations. Though she has excavated in Spain, Jordan, Amarna in Egypt, and Çatalhöyük, Turkey, Rose highlighted her use of drones at the Nubian pyramid site of El-Kurru on the Nile (850–650 B.C.), showing students how aerial views of royal burial sites became 3D models that may reveal insights about gender and power in this African country.
“I was excited to share my work, which uses drones and new technology to find and record sites in Sudan,” said Rose. “The kids have a concept of drones now that you can find them in toy stores, and some kids had even flown drones themselves. So, I was able to relate that to science and archaeology, and to 3D models that we use to experience the site in an accurate way.”
After each video, the young students got to engage directly with the guest speaker during a live 30-minute Zoom call that touched on favorite finds, college choices, careers, and life in the field.
The Harvard students focused on a wide array of excavations and inquiries across the globe. Grad student Sara Zaia dazzled her classes with a 3D model of an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus, revealing the painted deity inside. Andrew Bair transported his students to a 14th-century Anglo-Norman castle in Ballintober, County Roscommon, Ireland, where he used high-tech field equipment including ground-penetrating radar, magnetometry, and global-positioning systems. Sarah Loomis focused on Los Guachimontones in Jalisco, Mexico, where she analyzed cemetery and household goods to learn about gender roles from 200‒900 A.D.
Rose fielded questions about the cemeteries where her aerial research took place. “Sometimes the students would ask about mummies or skeletons. I would tell them how, when we’re studying the past, we’re also studying real people, so we are very careful, and very respectful of them.”