Digging In

Since 2009, Dr. Joanne Murphy (left) has guided UNCG students like Michael Bell (right) through six-week professional internships at an archaeological field school on the Greek island of Kea.

Repost from the Fall 2019 Research Magazine

Senior classical archaeology major Michael Bell can easily point to how opportunities for undergraduate research have changed the trajectory of his life.

He met Dr. Murphy on his second day of classes as a transfer student at UNCG. During a discussion of ancient graffiti, Bell recounted an instance of Greek mercenaries scrawling their identities and deeds into the stone of Abu Simbel, while fighting on behalf of sixth century BCE Egyptian pharaoh Psamtik II.

Murphy challenged Bell, asking for a short presentation on the subject at the next class. Though he was, he says, “filled with trepidation,” he successfully completed the assignment – and learned about the graffiti’s connection to “The Iliad” in the process.

Since then, Bell has traveled to Greece three times to conduct research. As a first-generation college student with financial need, Bell assumed he would not have the opportunity to study abroad, but he applied for and received an award through UNCG’s URSCO.

Using data collected by the Kea Archaeological Research Survey, Bell is analyzing the use of apicultural goods, like honey and beeswax, and metallurgical material on the Cycladic island of Kea – the earliest known site for metal production in the Aegean. He’s exploring prestige goods production and how they relate to social organization and economic priorities. Bell has presented his work at the Southern Conference Undergraduate Research Forum, as well as at UNCG’s Thomas Undergraduate Research and Creativity Expo.

He plans to apply for graduate programs in classical archaeology this fall, and credits hands-on research and mentorship as experiences that have developed him as a scholar and otherwise.

“The experience I gained in field work, research methods, experimental design, data collection and analysis, and presenting results has been instrumental in preparing me for my future academic endeavors – and in helping me to build confidence in my personal life,” says Bell.

“The opportunities undergraduate research has afforded me have allowed me to develop skills that go far outside the bounds of standard coursework.”

Repost from the Fall 2019 Research Magazine


The URSCO blog helps UNCG’s undergraduate scholars share their work and impact with the world. Interested in sharing your work? Contact URSCO Director Lee Phillips at plphilli@uncg.edu or Office of Research and Engagement Media and Communication Manager Sangeetha Shivaji at s.shivaji@uncg.edu.


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