Hopkins Archaeologists Hit the Jackpot

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A Hopkins grad student examines one of the skeletons uncovered during this year’s Hopkins in Egypt dig. Photo by James T. VanRensselaer.

The sad truth of archaeology is that it’s not that much like the movies; even after spending months digging in a site, you may turn up pottery fragments, bits of tools, and other exciting-enough artifacts — but nothing as truly dramatic as human remains. And, let’s face it, what every archaeologist wants to find is a human skeleton — ideally, a mummy. That’s why it’s such a big deal that the longstanding Johns Hopkins excavation in Luxor (which we told you about earlier this year) ended up discovering bodies this year… and lots of them.

The 16 grave sites discovered by the crew, led by professor Betsy Brian, date from around 1700-1600 BCE. (Just stop and think about that for a second — that’s a lot of history between us and them. Just saying.) And lucky for the Hopkins team, it looks to be a burial ground for workers too poor to afford a proper burial — so hopefully the archaeologists will be safe from any mummy’s curses or other occupational hazards.

One of the coolest things about the program is how it gives students actual hands-on experience with a real archaeological site. The university has been conducting digs in Egypt since 1993, and this year Bryan brought 12 Hopkins undergrad and grad students with her. They got to do things like inventory pottery shards, examine amulets, and brush sand off a 3,600 year-old skeleton. This year, the Hopkins crew was accompanied by Hopkins photographer James VanRensselaer, who documented their activities in a rad set of photos you can see here. Do they make anyone else want to consider a second career as an archaeologist?

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