Postgraduate Classical Archaeology Personal Statement

Archaeology is the material connection between our history and the contemporary present. Analysis of each artifact, site, or feature brings us closer to understanding where we came from, and pushes us towards discovering where we are going. It is this focus on material culture that first drew me to the discipline. My interest was cemented when, in high school, I job-shadowed a local archaeologist and had the opportunity to work with a variety of artifacts first hand. I decided to continue following my passion by double majoring in Anthropology with a concentration in Archaeology and History at Western Washington University. I have since added three minors onto my studies: Arabic & Islamic Studies, Latin, and Geographic Information Science (GIS), and will be completing all of these qualifications in June of 2017.

As a result of my ventures into these subjects, I have developed a set of skills that range from increasing my knowledge of the ancient past – through my studies in History and Latin – to understanding how that past influences contemporary culture, largely gained from the classes I took for my Arabic & Islamic Studies minor. I have also developed analytical skills as a result of my GIS minor that relate to my goal of becoming an archaeologist. My experience with GIS software and spatial data analysis allows me to investigate assemblages of artifacts as well as isolated finds. Double majoring and triple minoring required me to be highly organized in order to complete all assignments on time and of good quality. These skills, as well as my current 3.98 GPA, honor roll presence, and membership in the Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Alpha Theta honor societies exemplify my preparation for the challenges and rewards of graduate level coursework.

I put these skills to work in my most recent employment in public archaeological education. Last summer, I was employed as a Cultural Resource Intern by Grant County Public Utility District. For the entire summer, I monitored and assessed archaeological sites, worked with museum collections, and educated visitors about prehistoric Native American presence in the Columbia River Valley. Working in cultural resource management and public archaeology gave me valuable experience of educating an audience about a relatively specific field and explaining how the distant past still has a lasting impact on contemporary society.

Within the discipline of archaeology, I am most intrigued by gender relationships in classical civilizations. In the summer of 2015, I participated in a field school in Septemvri, Bulgaria through the Balkan Heritage Foundation and Field School. Under the supervision of Dr. Evelina Todorova, I learned different analytical and interpretive approaches to excavating a site, including finds washing, storage, sorting, and baulk stratigraphy drawing. My team was responsible for a 3x4 meter trench to be taken down in a series of 10 cm spits in order to better define the stratigraphy and investigate two specific features thought to be pits. The pits held a variety of ceremonial objects and offerings, indicating the importance of the divine in Thracian culture.

This experience was one of the reasons I chose to write the thesis for my history major on the portrayal of women in mythology of Ancient Egypt and Greece. In that thesis, I explored how female portrayal in myth then impacted male treatment of women, specifically noblewomen, in the corresponding civilization. Choosing to focus on a topic dealing with gender has helped me to develop my research and interpretive skills considering the vast majority of ancient texts were written by men and for men. Our knowledge of women in this instance stems from interpretation of their treatment by reading between the lines of primarily male literature.

I value the links that archaeology has with other disciplines, such as history, the sciences, and geography. Since my interest lies in the classical world, I decided to apply to Durham University’s MA Archaeology Classical World strand because of its world-renowned Roman Archaeology department and relationships with other disciplines. I am especially attracted to research focused on the transitions from paganism to Christianity; personally, I would like to explore how these ideological transitions impacted gender relationships within ancient Mediterranean cultures. Research opportunities that Durham University participates in also greatly increased my interest in this program.

The project at Binchester Fort fascinates me because of its distance from Rome and the religious influence Rome possessed, and because it housed a civilian population as well as a military one, allowing gender relationships to be examined through material remains. The program at Durham seems like an ideal fit for me because of its relationships with other disciplines and strands within archaeology, yet there is an emphasis on the acquisition of specialist skills relating to classical world.

I am a highly motivated student who is self-driven and has the ability to adapt to a constantly changing research environment. My lifelong goals include becoming a field archaeologist focused on Ancient Mediterranean societies, and I believe the MA Archaeology program at Durham University is my next step towards achieving that goal. I am confident that I will be an asset to the program because I embrace the lessons experts in my chosen field give me and I welcome constructive criticism as it betters my own understanding and builds me up as a future professional. Being able to physically see and touch artifacts that haven’t been handled for thousands of years makes me feel as if I have a personal connection to the people who came before us. This program will enable me to grow in my skills as an archaeologist and help me fulfill my purpose – to strengthen the connection between our past, present, and future.

Description: 
American applying to overseas universities here! This personal statement was specifically for Durham University, though was used for other programs as well. I changed the university specific portion of my personal statement for every other program/university I applied to, but kept all the rest basically the same. My personal statement ended up being two pages long, double spaced. It was really hard to write, but after tweaking it a bunch and having professors and other people edit, I am really happy with how it turned out! Universities applied to: University of Manchester (accepted) University of Edinburgh (applied to 2 programs, accepted to both) Durham University (accepted) University College London (accepted) University of Groningen (Netherlands - accepted) University of Oxford (Still waiting on decision)
Year applied: 
2016
Subject: 
Archaeology
Postgraduate

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