The Colgate Scene
November 1998
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Computers and classical archaeology
by Rebecca Miller Ammerman
Associate Professor of the Classics

Professor Rebecca Ammerman and her students use technology to support their research at the Temple of Ceres, south of Naples.
Colgate's study group in Italy has just returned to Venice from the sunny archaeological site of Paestum south of Naples. Under heavy autumnal rain, the Adriatic tide is swelling the canals and flooding the sidewalks. The watery streets of Venice present a stark contrast to the balmy days we spent last week at Paestum, where students could still swim in the waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

     Paestum, once a flourishing Greek colony in southern Italy, is best known today for its three well-preserved Doric temples that are landmarks of ancient Greek architecture. As a project for their course on the archaeology of Italy, students carefully study and sketch the remains of the temples in order to assess the differences between the temples and the canonical Doric order exemplified, for instance, by the Parthenon in Athens.

     This year, however, Colgate students had the unique opportunity to examine the temples more closely than any previous (or probably future) study group. Scaffolding has been erected around the temples for conservation work on the architectural monuments. Colgate students gained permission to climb the scaffolding and examine at firsthand every block of the temples from foundation to rooftop.

     Over the past several years, other Colgate students have also been engaged in study of the archaeological finds from the northernmost of Paestum's temples, the so-called Temple of Ceres. Most of these students were prepared by their study of Italian archaeology as members of Venice study groups that I have directed in the past to help me conduct archaeological research at Paestum.

     My research focuses on some nine thousand terracotta figurines (statuettes of baked clay) that were dedicated as votive gifts for more than six hundred years at the Temple of Ceres. Students have assisted me both on site at Paestum (funded by student stipends for summer research in the humanities) and back on campus as student research assistants during the regular academic year.

     Although these students' perspectives may not have been as dramatic as that recently had by the 1998 study group from the dizzying height of a temple pediment, their enthusiasm and dedication has been perhaps even more intense. Much of their work has involved compiling a computerized database for the thousands of terracotta figurines from the Temple of Ceres. Students have recorded directly into the computer such basic information as the measurements, state of preservation, and color of the clay fabric of each statuette based on their own observations of the figurine itself.

     Moreover, photographic and video images taken of the terracotta figurines at Paestum each summer have later been digitized into the database during the academic year at Colgate. The database, with its short movies of each statuette revolving 360deg. on a circular base, will eventually form the basis of a publication of the figurines from the Temple of Ceres.

     In the meantime, however, the aid of computer technology and student researchers has reduced considerably the time spent in documenting observations on the figurines as well as the weight of my luggage. The recording of such information in earlier studies of similar assemblages took me at least three times longer and the dozens of notebooks with written descriptions and photographs of the thousands of figurines filled two footlockers, which I regularly shipped back and forth across the Atlantic. Today, the copious notes and far more detailed and numerous photographic images are all stored on the small portable Macintosh computer upon which I have written this short essay and sent it via electronic mail to the editors of The Scene! Viva La Mac!

Computing in the classroom
More perspective than I know what to do with
by Charles H. Holbrow, Charles A. Dana Professor of Physics

Joint learning across the ocean
by Dierk Hoffmann, Professor of German
A tale of two classes and the Web
by Jun Yoshino, Associate Professor of Psychology
Computers and classical archaeology
by Rebecca Miller Ammerman, Associate Professor of the Classics
Ecrire La Fontaine: technology for teaching literature
by John Gallucci, Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures
Enhancing student presentations
by Michael Haines, Professor of Economics

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