by Santiago Pardo, Harvard College ’16 (History)
I first experienced the initiative for the Science of the Human Past at Harvard through the Digital Atlas of Roman and Medieval Civilization (DARMC). I joined the team through the invitation of, my then TF, Dr. Ece Turnator the summer before my sophomore year. I remember the first meeting feeling a bit out of place since everyone in the room seemed so much smarter and accomplished. My first DARMC project was a geodatabase of communications from 700 to 900 CE within Prof. McCormick’s Origins of the European Economy. This project taught me how to create an efficient database, but also, how historians use GIS for historical study.
My sophomore year I took my first class with Prof. McCormick, Fall of the Roman Empire. It was in this class where I found out about SoHP’s Harvard-Oxford Medieval Archaeology internship, a chance to learn how to excavate alongside Oxford undergraduate archaeology students in England. I ended up applying and that summer I left for England to excavate. I dug for eight hours each day, six days a week, in the blazing summer sun, but I loved every minute of it. I primarily excavated a late Roman ditch dating to the late fourth century. These were late Roman enclosure ditches that cut through the town and had some connection to the North-South Roman road that cut through the village. The ditch fill produced a lot of artifacts and so I got to excavate pounds of potsherds, mounds of animal bones, many iron nails, and the odd copper coin or two. The dig was an incredible experience. There is something incredible about doing archaeology that you will only understand once you leave the theory and do field work. I learned so much not only about Roman culture and archaeology, but also about myself and where I want to go intellectually and academically.
I continued to work for DARMC throughout my Sophomore year, but starting my Junior year, Prof. McCormick and I began a new project to geographically and temporally map the writings produced in Gaul during late antiquity. This was a great experience to plan and execute my own research projects under the mentorship of Prof. McCormick. After more than a year of work, the preliminary database and maps were presented at the “Quantifying Problems in Ancient History: Working with Numbers from the Distant Past” conference hosted by the Yale University Economic History Workshop (May 6, 2016). Attending this conference allowed me to interact with scholars on a professional level outside of the classroom. The highlight of the conference was meeting Prof. Kyle Harper, whose work inspired my senior thesis on extramarital sex in late antiquity.
My senior year, Prof. Christopher Loveluck taught in the History Department as a visiting professor of medieval archaeology. I took both of his classes: Anglo-Saxon and Viking Age Archaeology and Archaeology and History of Western and Mediterranean Europe. Prof. Loveluck’s classes were an incredible opportunity to learn how archaeologists use scientific approaches to understanding the past. He taught in a clear and insightful manner that not only demonstrated the depths of his knowledge and analysis, but also conveyed new concepts and taught them to the entire class regardless of prior experience. His remains one of the best courses I took at Harvard. I was blessed to have him be a part of SoHP during my undergraduate education.