Students work at the Excavations at Amheida program in Egypt. Photo courtesy of the program Web site.

Student Heading to Egypt for Coveted Archaeological Dig

December 3, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – While many students will be bundling up to ring in the New Year, Illinois Wesleyan University junior Aislinn Lowry's plane will be touching down in Egypt, taking her to excavations of the ancient world.

 Lowry, a Greek and Roman Studies major, has been accepted into Excavations at Amheida program through New York University. She is one of only 10 undergraduate students chosen from across the nation, and is the first Illinois Wesleyan student admitted into the program.

"To say this is an opportunity of a lifetime is an understatement. I'll be learning from the most innovative minds in the field today," said Lowry, a Jefferson City, Mo., native. She will arrive in Egypt on Dec. 31 and will return in late March 2009.

The Excavations at Amheida program combines classroom seminars, field trips and work on a functioning archaeological dig site. Nestled in the Dakhleh Oasis in western Egypt, the site draws professionals from around the world. "When we are working on the site, we will be there from sun-up to sun-down, and staying at the field house at night with some of the top archaeologists in the world," said Lowry.

Aislinn Lowry

Archaeologists have been studying at Amheida for decades. Home to the remains of the city of Trimithis – a large ancient Roman settlement – scholars have declared Amheida one of the most important towns of northwest Dakhleh. During her time there, Lowry will visit temples, tombs and palaces throughout the area. Lectures will include speakers working on the Library at Alexandria and the Valley of the Kings. Her group will meet with prominent archaeologists, such as Colin Hope, who will lead a trip through a city that he identified in 1986 as the remains of ancient Kellis. And, of course, Lowry will be part of the actual excavation going on at Amheida. "These are some of the most important people in the field I want to enter. This time will determine a lot for me," said Lowry, who hopes to pursue graduate degrees in museum studies.

In 2001, Columbia University started the Excavations at Amheida program, bringing students in as part of excavation efforts. The highly selective program, which was taken over by New York University (NYU) last year, is geared toward students who want to pursue archaeology as a profession. "Admission to the program is indeed competitive," said Ellen Morris, academic director of archaeology and History in Egypt at NYU. "The archaeology and travel portions of our program are exciting to students who want an alterative to the usual study abroad offerings in major European metropolitan cities."  Morris added she is "thrilled to have Aislinn on board" for the program.

Lowry learned of the program when Excavations at Amheida Program Director Roger Bagnall came to Illinois Wesleyan as a Phi Beta Kappa speaker last April. Professor of Greek and Roman Studies Nancy Sultan invited him to speak in one of her classes where Lowry was enrolled. "He did a presentation on Greek graffiti in Turkey which was wonderful and engaging," said Lowry. "When he mentioned the program in Amheida, my jaw dropped at the idea of working with some of the most exclusive people in the field."

Under a tight deadline to apply for the program, Lowry turned to the International Office for help. "Beside the regular paperwork of a study abroad program, there were Egyptian security forms to submit. [Director of the International Office] Stacey Shimizu and [International Student and Scholar Advisor] Reenie Bradley were amazing."

Lowry knows her three months away will provide more than a look into the past. "I believe in order to be a complete person, you need to be everything you can," she said. "This is my chance to discover what I want to do, and who I want to be. That's not something I'll find in a book, but in the field. This will be a challenging and revealing journey."

Contact: Rachel Hatch, (309) 556-3960