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Finding Something New in the Old

Angelina Phebus

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You’d never guess that Angelina Phebus is from a tiny town in West Virginia, and the first in her family to attend college. But given that background, you might think that she would have stepped gingerly into collegiate life on an urban campus. But you would be wrong. Angelina jumped head first into her studies at the College, tackling subjects that send most other students running for cover: Latin and ancient Greek.

Latin and Greek classwork, however, just wasn’t quite enough. Her passion for ancient languages and all things Classical spurred her to join a College research team heading to Turkey for the summer of her freshman year. She’d be studying with Professor Jim Newhard, who co-founded the College’s interdisciplinary program in archaeology. There, on the steppes of North-Central Anatolia, Newhard, Angelina and nine other College students helped conduct archaeological surveys and manage field operations for the Avkat Project, where more than 50 researchers from nine countries and 21 institutions gathered to explore the surroundings of a village historically occupied by residents of Hittite, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman civilizations.

At Avkat, Angelina was charged with basic data collection. Walking through agricultural fields with five fellow researchers, she collected data that enabled the creation of detailed GIS (geographic information system) maps that help researchers and archaeologists better understand the area’s past. Such work was thrilling for Angelina, who returned to the region the following summer to do field work in the Saronic Harbors Archaeological Research Project in Greece. Hardly catching her breath, she left Greece mid-summer to return to Avkat to work as a GIS assistant and analyst, developing models explaining archaeological data. While she was away, the young scholar’s legend built on campus, among professors and peers alike.

“She’s what I would consider the poster child for what we hope to see in every student – curiosity, studiousness, willing to challenge the status quo, firm in her basic skills, generous in giving back to her peers, institution, and community, and ready (and able) to tackle the world,” says Newhard, who is the assistant director for the Avkat Project. “Angelina’s strength is that she goes the distance – from Latin and Greek to multivariate computer modeling.”

Angelina presented her most recent research at the national conference of the Archaeological Institute of America, winning an award for first runner-up. Her poster (“Analyzing Bronze Age Terrestrial and Marine Communication Routes in the Saronic Gulf and Argolid;” co-authored with College professors Newhard and Norman Levine from geology), predicts the most likely routes taken by ancient peoples traveling from the island of Aegina to Mycenaeon the Greek mainland.

It was an ambitious research endeavor, especially when you consider that the analytical GIS methods Angelina used have traditionally only been used to predict routes across land, not water. It was also the second time Angelina presented at the classical archaeology conference.

“The College funded my work in Turkey and my last two poster presentations at the Archaeological Institute of America,” she says. “I’m lucky to have had so many opportunities.”