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Classics Student Wins Fellowship for Dissertation Work in Israel

Peter Stone will work at an archaeological site in Tel Kedesh thanks to a grant from the W.F. Albright Institute.

Date: 3/9/2009
By: Kim Burdett
Phone: (513) 556-8577
Photos By: Peter Stone
When Peter Stone graduated high school, he didn’t plan to go to college.

It wasn’t until a friend told him about an opportunity to participate in an archaeological dig in Tel Kedesh, an excavation site in the Upper Galilee of Israel, that he started to envision his passion for history in his own future. That experience pushed him to enroll at University of Minnesota to study Latin and Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology. He's been in the field ever since.

Peter Stone.
Classics student Peter Stone (right) is sifting through soil at Tel Kedesh.

How fitting, then, that Stone recently received an Educational and Cultural Affairs Junior Research Fellowship from the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research that will take him back to the very same site to work with the same archaeologists for his dissertation.

“That initial experience is what convinced me to go to college,” he says. “Interestingly, between the time I was 18 and last summer, I hadn’t been back to that location. But when the opportunity came up for me to go to work there for my dissertation, I was absolutely thrilled and agreed to do so.”

Stone, a graduate student in the Classics department, received the $10,000 fellowship for his dissertation work on a case study of how the people at Tel Kedesh responded to being under imperial rule and how it affected their relationships with other local groups. He’ll spend four and a half months in Jerusalem and hopes to continue his research in Greece, Egypt, Cyprus and Turkey in the second half of the year, should additional funding become available.

“Pottery is the main body of evidence that I work with,” Stone explains. “There is so much of it and it tells you a lot about economic patterns, how places are connected with other places and it can also tell you about peoples’ lifestyles.”

Peter Stone.
Stone looks through pottery artifacts, a large component of his dissertation work.

The site he works at was a provincial palace and administrative center where taxes were collected under the Persian Empire and Seleucid and Ptolemaic kingdoms established after Alexander the Great’s conquest. Because it was staffed by locals who oversaw the surrounding villages, Kedesh provides an opportunity to consider how changes in political authority affected the rhythm of everyday life in antiquity.

“One of the reasons I like dealing with physical remains is because there is a very intimate connection,” he says. “You have these objects that form continuity that otherwise wouldn’t exist. That’s always fascinated me.”

Stone’s dissertation will look at how the administrators’ lifestyles changed between empires and how comparable they were to the local people they oversaw.

“Peter’s dissertation work at Tel Kedesh is innovative in that it’s using ceramic evidence to answer bigger social and cultural questions,” says Kathleen Lynch, an associate professor in Classics and Stone’s advisor.

“This is a very prestigious fellowship,” she continues. “I was not surprised he received it because the project is excellent and he is well-deserving of it.”

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