Kathelene Knight, a Johns Hopkins University junior from Fairfax, Va., has performed original archaeological field research, participating twice in a dig at the Precinct of the Goddess Mut in Luxor, Egypt, where she contributed to the ongoing work to determine what the temple and its surrounding area looked like long ago. As part of the Johns Hopkins Provost's Undergraduate Research Award program, Knight spent several weeks last year delving into her topic.
Knight, 20, said her work in Luxor at Professor Betsy Bryan's annual excavation barely scratched the surface of all there is to be uncovered at the site. Yet the two large granaries found within Knight's excavation trenches south of the temple's sacred lake are important finds, according to Bryan, the Alexander Badawy Professor of Egyptian Art and Archaeology and chair of the Near Eastern Studies Department.
"These storage facilities are among the largest found in Egypt," said Bryan, who is Knight's faculty sponsor. "The two in Katie's squares, one of which was already known to us but the other not, have been beautifully defined as a result of Katie's work."
In its 11-year existence, the Provost's Undergraduate Research Awards program has given 483 students grants approaching $1 million to follow their curiosity, thanks to funding primarily from the Hodson Trust. This year's winning students presented their findings in a ceremony on Thursday, March 11, on the Hopkins campus.
With Hodson support, the university is able to offer its undergraduates two opportunities each year to apply for stipends to conduct independent research during the summer or fall. It's a commitment that the university feels is central to its mission, said Steven Knapp, university provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.
"Since its beginnings, Johns Hopkins has always emphasized the value of learning through discovery, and this program is an important opportunity for undergraduates to work in this tradition with our best and most creative faculty at the forefront of their fields," Knapp said.
In January 2003, Knight was a second set of hands for graduate students as they worked their squares, generally doing anything and everything to pitch in and learn more about the archaeological techniques used by Bryan and company. That hands-on experience was invaluable this year when Knight's role was to direct work in two trenches — first in a square that had been opened last year and then in a new square. While taking nonstop notes on her site's progress, Knight directed a crew of local workers led by "gufti" Mahmoud Abady, who was trained in archaeology in the Egyptian town of Guft.
"He's known on site as 'Super Gufti,' and I'm sure there was no mistake in pairing the two of us," Knight said. "He can spot mud brick from 3 centimeters before it would come up, and we're talking about spotting dirt inside dirt."
The two granaries unearthed by Knight and her team were typically used to make beer and bread for religious offerings and personnel rations. While the area south of the sacred lake was industrial and probably partly residential, the specific area investigated by Knight turned out to be entirely industrial, Bryan said. Because the mission of the excavation is to investigate the New Kingdom, Knight was working to define occupation in her square for that period of time, 1550-1069 B.C. She received guidance from both Bryan and Violaine Chauvet, a graduate student and field director at the site.
"Katie did a remarkably fine job overseeing the excavation," Bryan said. "Katie kept on top of the architecture emerging and documented her trench extremely carefully. She participated in developing excavation strategies to better define the emerging granaries and retaining walls, and she has created a plan to aid in our prediction of the volume of grain stored in the round silos."
Because she is a resident adviser at Johns Hopkins' Homewood campus, Knight had to leave Egypt before the end of winter break to return to Baltimore for additional training. She was unable to complete all her drawings and was therefore assisted by Chauvet. Her help was just one example of the close-knit ties between those working the site, Knight said.
"Dr. Bryan and Violaine were making the rounds constantly. I could count on them to be in my square a few times during the day advising me what to do, what I should be looking out for," Knight said. "It's really a familial learning experience."
Knight is already incorporating her study of the New Kingdom into a master's thesis through the Humanities Honors program. She's concentrating on the role of royal women in the New Kingdom and aims to graduate in spring 2005 with bachelor's degrees in both anthropology and Near Eastern studies as well as a B.A./M.A. in the humanities. Her plan is to complete her thesis during next year's winter break, so it's unlikely Knight will be back in Egypt then. But she hopes to attend field school in Peru this summer with the assistance of a second PURA grant.
"As an undergraduate lucky enough to be at an institution like Hopkins, I have this wonderful opportunity, and it's really cool that I can take it," she said of her PURA experience. "It's an incredible opportunity that I'm totally thankful for."
To speak with Knight or her advisor, contact Amy Cowles at 443-287-9904.
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