Archaeology has a fascination that attracts students through stories of spectacular discoveries ranging from paleolithic humans to fabulous tombs (Pyramids), amazing temples (Maya cities), and precious objects (King Tut’s mask) and through romanticized movies like the Mummy, Indiana Jones, and Laura Croft series.
Archaeology at Calvin College is designed to penetrate that husk of archaeological myth to introduce students to the serious scientific practices that make up the profession. The program will move you from the aura of discovery and treasure hunting to the serious techniques of excavation, analysis, and presentation of results, which are moving increasingly into the worlds of the scientific laboratory and computer programming.
Our goal is not the unearthing of treasure but answers to more significant and, yes, more interesting questions: How can the material remains people left behind tell us how they lived? And what meaning did their lives have as individuals and social groups?
In the field
The archaeology minor grew out of student participation in field work conducted by Prof. Bert de Vries in Jordan from 1972 to the present. These projects offered field schools in which students enrolled for credit through the sponsoring institution, in most cases de Vries’ own, Calvin College. Then in the 1990s, student involvement was expanded to the archaeology minor. Through the 90s, the field school was attached to the Umm el-Jimal Project in Jordan. But in the past decade, students have had field placements in Greece, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, Jordan, China, Belize, Indian, and Arizona as well as at Umm el-Jimal. At Calvin, archaeology minors are able to study and practice archaeology anywhere in the world.
The program stresses thorough grounding in archaeological theory as a prerequisite for doing the required field work. As a result, Calvin College students have received excellent reviews from field school directors; they even compare favorably with students enrolled in graduate archaeology programs.
Why a minor?
Students often ask why Calvin College does not offer an archaeology major. The answer is that a minor is more suitable in an undergraduate liberal arts college, where the stress is on attaining expertise in the various disciplines, like history, art, and geology. This grounding in a discipline is itself preparation for archaeology, which is inter-disciplinary, and really requires prior education in one of the essential disciplines. For example, if you would like to be a specialist in artifact restoration, an undergraduate concentration in chemistry would be essential preparation. With this combination, a major in a discipline and a minor in archaeology, a student is qualified for MA and PhD level graduate study, for-pay field work in contract archaeology, teaching archaeology units at primary and secondary levels, and reading archaeology publications intelligently.