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Study Abroad students head to Armenia for archaeological dig

by Michael Kirk - May 4, 2009


Seven UConn undergraduates will accompany anthropology professor Daniel Adler on a Study Abroad program to Armenia this summer to participate in archeological excavations at three Stone Age sites.

The trip is sponsored by UConn’s Armenian Studies Program, and by a partnership between UConn and Yerevan State University in Armenia. The students, selected through a competitive process, will be in Armenia for the month of June. They will work at the archaeological sites under the direction of Adler and three anthropology graduate students.

For two years, Adler has been conducting research at several sites in Armenia that he estimates are between 25,000 and 200,000 years old. In time, he expects the sites to provide significant new information on Neanderthal evolution and behavior. To date, the sites have yielded stone tools and animal bones.

“This is a great opportunity for undergraduates who are interested in the field, providing them with very valuable field experience,” Adler says.

“It will also help create stronger ties between UConn and Yerevan State University, as well as highlighting the important work of our Armenian Studies Program.”

Five of the students are juniors and two are sophomores. Four are anthropology majors, and the other three are majoring in history, journalism with anthropology as a minor, and nutritional sciences.

Adler notes that the research is physically taxing work.

“They are going to be working in a somewhat rugged, rural area several miles outside Yerevan, and they will be living in close quarters with one another,” he says.

Junior Maria Darr, the journalism major minoring in anthropology, says, “I have aspirations to become an archaeologist, and this seemed like an opportunity I did not want to pass up. I always knew I wanted to study abroad during my years at UConn, and when I saw this option, it combined everything I wanted in a Study Abroad program.”

One student for whom the trip has special significance is sophomore Danice Tatosian, the nutritional sciences major, who is of Armenian origin.

“Spending a month experiencing the culture of a foreign country, while working on an extraordinary archaeological site, is a once-in-a-life time opportunity,” says Tatosian.

“When I first read about this trip my heart must have momentarily stopped, and I knew this was something I had to work for.”

Tatosian says she applied because it is an opportunity to do something she had always dreamed of doing: working on an archaeological site, “sifting through and studying materials that haven’t been touched in thousands of years” in a place she says she regards as home.

The students will earn six honors credits for their work.

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