Three Classical Studies Majors Received Grants to Work on Summer Research

Trinity Students Examined Ancient Pottery, Human Remains, and Letter from Emperor

​Hartford, Connecticut, September 20, 2016 – This summer, three classical studies majors at Trinity College received research grants and were able to pursue their individual interests in the field.

Dylan Ingram ’18 with a book displaying pictures of stamped amphora handles.
Dylan Ingram ’18 with a book displaying pictures of stamped amphora handles.
Dylan Ingram ’18, a classics and mathematics double-major, received a 10-week Faculty Research Committee Student Research Assistant Grant for his project, “Ceramics at Tel Akko.” Ingram helped Martha K. Risser, associate professor of classics, research specific aspects of Iron Age, Persian Period, and Hellenistic pottery found during archaeological excavations for a report that she and Jolanta Mlynarczyk of the University of Warsaw – the ceramicists for the Tel Akko archaeological project in Israel – will prepare for publication.

In June, Ingram worked on campus at Trinity, expanding on the dig library and a field manual full of the types of pottery that are the most common in and around Akko. “I looked up more information to refine the classifications and ages of the pieces of pottery,” he said. Ingram then spent the month of July in Israel, working with Risser in Trinity’s archeological field school at Akko.

“It’s a new experience. It’s kind of exciting to be able to dig in the dirt for a little bit and learn about archeology,” Ingram said. “My main passion is the language aspect of everything. I’ve always been really interested in foreign languages and ancient languages. When I was in sixth grade I taught myself the Greek alphabet because I always thought it was so beautiful and cool.”

Ingram’s focus at Akko was on stamped handles of amphoras, or wine storage jugs. “They break off very easily, so there are tons and tons of broken amphora handles at Akko,” said Ingram, who helped interpret, sort, categorize, and research the notes or images on the handles.

“The field work is very much tied in with the research I’m doing,” Ingram added. “My hope is to continue with classics after I graduate.”

Maura Griffith ’17 (second from right), with some of her fellow archaeological field school students in Romania.
Maura Griffith ’17 (second from right), with some of her fellow archaeological field school students in Romania.
Maura Griffith ’17, who has created an interdisciplinary classics and biology major called archaeobiology, received a Trinity College Student Initiated Research Grant to attend a seven-week archaeological field school, which included three weeks of excavation and four weeks in a laboratory. She worked on a cemetery excavation in Patakfalva, Transylvania, Romania. “The site was a church from the 11th to 17th century. We excavated burials from outside the church walls,” Griffith said. “The project seeks to understand if the political and social upheaval in the region had an impact on the health of the individuals there.”

Griffith said she first became interested in the classical world through reading the Magic Tree House book series and watching History Channel specials with her father when she was young. She studied Latin in high school, and later developed an interest in combining history and biology.

“In the field, I learned excavation techniques, mapping, taking elevations, and proper methods for handling human remains. In the lab, I worked on studying juvenile osteology,” Griffith said. “These skills are directly applicable to my studies at Trinity. The purpose of designing my own major was to investigate how biology can be applied as an archaeological research tool. This experience has helped shape my goals for graduate school and my understanding of potential careers in bioarchaeology.”

Risser is overseeing Griffith’s research project, including her writing for the classics department blog and a presentation at Trinity in the fall.

“This opportunity is an unparalleled one for me,” Griffith said. “While I knew, in theory, this field was where I wanted to direct my energy for the future, after getting my hands dirty and being in the lab, I am sure.”

Matthew Reichelt ’17 and Gary Reger, Hobart Professor of Classical Languages.
Matthew Reichelt ’17 and Gary Reger, Hobart Professor of Classical Languages.
Matthew Reichelt ’17 spent much of the summer working with Gary Reger, Hobart Professor of Classical Languages, on an inscription of a letter sent by Septimius Severus in 197 C.E. in response to complaints about abuses that soldiers had been committing in Asia Minor. “Roman soldiers working under Septimius Severus were torturing the local inhabitants,” Reichelt said. “Those inhabitants wrote to the Emperor, and this inscription is the Emperor’s response to the complaints. It’s basically saying that torture won’t happen anymore, and that we will resolve this.”

A Faculty Research Committee Student Research Assistant Grant allowed Reichelt to spend 10 weeks on campus this summer working in the library and meeting regularly with Reger. Reichelt said the research for this type of project can be time-consuming. “I’m going through the bibliographic work, checking sources,” he said. “Sometimes you have to search through mountains of documents to find that one relevant thing.”

In addition, Reichelt is beginning the research for his senior thesis, on which Reger is advising him. “My thesis is on the Seleucids, a Greco-Macedonian dynasty that ruled after Alexander the Great. They were in power from 301 B.C. to 63 B.C.,” Reichelt said. “I got interested in them my senior year in high school, playing a video game called ‘Rome: Total War’; they were one of the factions.”

Reichelt said that the summer research work and one-on-one meetings with Reger have exposed him to the process of writing an inscription-based paper, which will also benefit his own thesis. “The experience helps me learn how to go about researching,” he said. “We go over things we don’t get to in class.”

According to Reger, classics is a relatively small department at Trinity. “To have three students out of our body of 25 majors apply for and get grants, that gives you a sense both of the quality of the work that they do and their own passion for the field,” Reger said. “To me, it’s emblematic of the students and the quality of the work that we have in the department.” 

Reger added that three students researching such different topics this summer represents the breadth of subject matters to which students are exposed in the classics department. “In terms of the disciplines that are embraced in the field, classics runs the gamut from the study of the languages themselves – particularly Greek and Latin – to the literature written in those languages. It also involves the study of the history of the ancient periods, archeology and anthropology, political science and sociological approaches, the study of gender and sexuality in the Greek and Roman world, and even philosophy,” Reger said. “Classics is, in many ways, a kind of model of what liberal arts is.”