“Asking Why Leads to New Ideas”

by Christina Luke '95

Christina LukeAs I negotiate the spheres of international cultural policy, archaeological and ethnographic research, and university teaching, I am always mindful of the unprecedented skill set I learned at Scripps College. As an anthropology major with minors in studio art and art history, the cornerstone of my Scripps experience came through the interdisciplinary approach to the humanities in the classroom and the research opportunities made available to me through the art collections at Scripps College. This research culminated in the August/September 1995 exhibition, Expressions of the Ancient Americas: Selections from the Scripps College Permanent Collection, at the Scripps Clark Humanities Museum.

The extraordinary leadership of Scripps’ student body and faculty, complemented by internships at the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, the Athenian Agora (Greece), the Denver Art Museum, and the Fowler Art Museum (UCLA), spurred my drive to pursue graduate studies. I went on to earn my PhD in anthropology at Cornell University, where I enjoyed a mosaic of experiences: fieldwork in Honduras and research with collections in more than 25 museums in Central America, Europe, and the United States. In addition, I was a field assistant for one year in the province of Manisa, Western Turkey. It was during this work that I decided to pursue a career in cultural policy.

In 2001, I began a position at the U.S. Department of State as a cultural policy researcher. I then moved to the University of Pennsylvania Museum to design and implement training programs and policies focused on quelling the illicit trade in art and antiquities for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. These experiences exposed me to many different forms of leadership, honed my diplomatic skills, and provided the foundation for my recent book, with M. Kersel, U.S. Cultural Diplomacy and Archaeology: Soft Power, Hard Heritage (Routledge Studies in Archaeology, 2012).

For nearly nine years, I have worked with my colleague, Chris Roosevelt, to co-direct the Central Lydia Archaeological Survey in Western Turkey, and this year we will embark on the Kaymakçı Archaeological Project. Both are part of a landscape program that explores the long-term human experience in the middle Gediz Valley. Our work is firmly part of cultural policies at the international (World Heritage Centre, Unesco), national (Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism), regional (Manisa Museum, plus Yaşar and Ege Universities in İzmir), and local levels. Our home base is in the small village of Tekelioğlu, Turkey’s first organic village. Our harvest kitchen crew works with local farmers to ensure fieldto- table meals for our participants; the arts program brings children and elders together to explore artistic expression in the context of community engagement; and the conservation program integrates local expertise to preserve monuments.

Our future plan focuses on designing a new research center that will be the base for two long-term projects: a wise-use management plan integrating wetlands and cultural zones and the exploration of Kaymakçı. Dating to the 2nd millennium BCE, Kaymakçı is impressive for its size—four times larger than contemporary Troy—as well as its strategic geographic location. As recorded in Hittite texts, its leaders practiced the art of diplomacy well, negotiating with Aegean communities and Hittite kings. Geophysical techniques and aerial imagery offer tantalizing evidence of houses, streets, and perhaps palaces. Paleo-ethnobotany and environmental archaeology datasets tell us not only what people ate for dinner, but also how they manipulated their landscapes—of great interest to local farmers and urban planners as we explore long-term sustainable approaches to management.

This work is firmly rooted in my experiences at Scripps. I have always asked “why,” hoping to have the opportunity to work with those committed to dynamic conversations and new ideas. Scripps and the wider Claremont community also instilled in me a firm belief that innovative research arises through a willingness to take chances and to believe in the power of partnerships.

Luke is a senior lecturer and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Field Archaeology at Boston University and chair of the Cultural Policy Committee of the Archaeological Institute of America. She lives in Boston with her husband and their two children.

Research in Turkey is supported by public and private sponsors, including the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

 

 

« »