An Archaeological Excavation on the JCU Terrace

On February 6, 2024, Professor Jens Koehler’s Archaeology of the Ancient Mediterranean World class carried out its first archaeological excavation. The class investigated and dug through a container full of various soils and artifacts.

Archaeological Excavation at JCU
An archaeological excavation at JCU

Professor Koehler had the idea for the project in mind for several years. He wanted to transform the “Theory of Excavation” lesson into an experimental archaeological dig, and in Fall 2023, a think-tank with teaching assistant Samantha Tracy and JCU students Nicolette Balazs and Alex Zimmerman contributed creativity to the planning process. Art History and Archaeology Professor Inge Hansen and the Art History Department contributed funding and support to the project. Administrative Facilities Manager Corrine Sabbatucci and the JCU maintenance team provided logistic support.

The preparation for the project took place at the end of January 2024. Professor Koehler and his new teaching assistant Antonio Cazzato filled an 80-liter box (70×50 cm) with different layers of clay pieces, sand, gravel, and earth, creating a mix of colors and consistencies. They placed a fake artifact in each layer, which guaranteed success for the students in their excavation process. While the project was small-scale, it was an authentic model of an excavation site.

The project came to fruition on February 6. Students took turns working as active diggers, while others watched and gave advice. Some students approached the project quickly, while others were more hesitant to destroy the “Roman road paving” and dig through each layer. The students were enthusiastic each time something new was found, such as a metal pipe or an amphora handle. After being discovered, the artifacts were cleaned and identified. Once the students reached the bottom of the box, the activity was complete. The experiment was a success, and to be an educational and fun opportunity for students to understand excavation. 

Adjunct Assistant Professor Jens Koehler studied Classical Archaeology, Ancient History, and Archaeology of the Ancient Near East. After moving to Rome in the early 1990s, he worked for the German Archaeological Institute, researched and published on ancient Roman spa baths, and worked on aqueducts and latrines. Since joining JCU in 2003, Professor Koehler has taught classes in archaeology, Roman art, and architecture.