Ancient Athens Meets Modern Technology

by Michael Van Ginkel 16C

From the moment I entered College I had already decided to pursue my passion and eventually attain a doctorate in military archaeology. When presented with the opportunity of research, I immediately gravitated toward a topic emphasizing the use of ancient material culture to answer a research question. The project I began to undertake, however, revealed the usefulness of a multidiscipline approach to humanistic topics.

I began my involvement with the Scholarly Inquiry and Research at Emory Partners program in my sophomore year. Working with Dr. Cynthia Patterson, a Professor in the History department and head of the Program in Ancient Mediterranean Studies, I fostered a persisting interest in 5th-century Athenian war-dead commemoration. As the project progressed, the focus of the research sharpened into an attempt to conceptualize and visualize the ancient burial grounds within their natural context.

The subsequent acceptance of my research proposal by the SIRE program allowed me to continue the project over the summer, where I created a digital three-dimensional reconstruction of the kerameikos burial grounds. Combining history, archaeology, digital humanities, geography, and architecture, the experience has given me the opportunity to plan and execute a multifaceted research project firsthand. The project has also provided a preview of the inevitably complicated nature of questions and answers in humanistic inquiry.

This semester I am continuing my research at the Fox Center for Humanities. I am currently using Geographical Information Systems to create an interactive map of the ancient Athenian burial grounds, allowing for a more in depth analysis of the special interactions between objects in the kerameikos. Along with the three-dimensional renderings, the map will provide insights into Athenians mindsets and commemorative ideology.

The Fox Center, accessible to participants in the program at all hours, holds an ever present opportunity to work in a quiet, productive environment. Set aside from the multitude of activities, clubs, and social events unavoidably associated with the main Emory campus, the Fox Center provides a center devoted solely to the pursuit of intellectual development. The house stands witness to innumerable scholars who spent their time immersed in books and notes, dedicating endless hours to the pursuit of long forgotten, or yet to be discovered, information. Researching as part of the intellectual community of the Fox Center has proven an extremely beneficial experience that will undoubtedly aid me in my future academic career.

Michael Van Ginkel, 2014 Fox Center SIRE Fellow, will spend the spring semester studying and conducting research in Greece.