Professional Development for Cornell Archaeology Students

The departments of Classics and Anthropology at Cornell are both offering resources for helping graduate students with professional development and job applications.

Classics Job Market Workshops Fall 2015
Thursday, 4:30 p.m., GSH 122

The Classics Job Market Workshops are primarily geared toward graduate students in Classics seeking academic positions.

9/10: General Information (first draft cover letter & CV)
10/1: Different types of jobs (second draft cover letter & CV)
10/22: Interviews, etc.
further meeting info is TBD

For the first meeting, students are encouraged to read the relevant sections of Joy Connolly’s Job Market Handbook ( The first part of the meeting will cover basic information, of relevance also to those who are not going on the job market. See the “Advice for Candidates” section on the SCS website ( If some of you are ready to share a first draft of their cover letter and CV, that would be great. Please the material in advance to Eric Rebillard (

The Academic job Search: Local Knowledge and the View from the Search Committee
Friday, 8/28, 2:30-4:00 p.m., McGraw Hall 215

The Anthropology department job workshops are geared toward post-field graduate students seeking academic jobs in Anthropology departments, however graduate students at an earlier stage are welcome to attend.

These workshops, based on the series Erick White put together last academic year, will continue through the fall semester and into the spring. Details about the other sessions will be forthcoming.

For this session, an overview of how search committees work will be provided by faculty members who have recently served on departmental search committees: Profs. Lucinda Ramberg and Chris Garces. At the same time, much of the content of the workshop will be dependent on graduate-student questions.

The discussion will focus upon several key areas: 1) the stages of the job search and relevant hiring committee activities; 2) how hiring is influenced by committee dynamics, administrative rules and requirements, departmental cultures, and the constraints of scheduling/timing; and 3) how job candidates are evaluated and ranked at different stages of the search process.

While the workshop is designed with primarily post-field graduate students in mind, graduate students at an earlier stage in their career are welcome to attend.

Future meeting details T.B.D. For more information, contact Perri Gerard-Little (

More Resources

Recommended Reading

The Chronicle of Higher Education
Articles with general advice about the academic job market. For a list of especially relevant articles, see Brown’s General Resources for the Academic Job Market.

The Academic Job Search Survival Handbook – Especially for Graduate Students
Produced by Career Services at UC San Diego

Berkeley Career Center – The Academic Job Search
Advice and resources from early in a graduate career through applying for jobs.

Job Postings

AIA Professional Resources
Primarily academic archaeology jobs.

Shovelbums Job Board
CRM listings, both temporary and full-time

Archaeology Fieldwork – Employment Opportunities
Similar to Shovelbums

The Chronicle of Higher Education Vitae Job Search
Search engine for academic job listings

American Library Association Job Listings
Geared toward library positions, but some digital humanities of relevance


Cornell Career Services

ISIS Increases the Destruction of Antiquities in Syria

The Islamic State released this photo of a detonation in the Temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra. Militant website, via The New York Times.

The Islamic State released this photo of a detonation in the Temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra. Militant website, via The New York Times.

This latest article by The New York Times describes the recent destruction of a fifth-century Roman Catholic monastery and one of the best-preserved temples in Palmyra, dated to the first-century. Both destructions, carried out by Islamic State militants, occurred in the same week in the same province in Syria.

The NYT has also updated the graphical analysis of the strategy behind ISIS’s destruction of ancient sites. Another article describes in more detail the destruction of the Temple of Baalshamin at Palmyra.

The latest destruction of Syrian antiquities follows close on the heels of the gruesome murder of archaeologist and former custodian of Palmyra, Khaled al-As’ad.

The Oriental Institute Speaks Out Against the Murder of Khaled al-As’ad

by Katie Jarriel

Mr. Khaled al-As'ad, via The NY Times

Mr. Khaled al-As’ad, via NY Times

The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago has recently released a statement on the murder of Khaled al-As’ad, the retired chief of antiquities for Palmyra. Mr. al-As’ad was murdered by Islamic State militants, the latest in a series of atrocities perpetrated against Syrian antiquities and the individuals who research and protect them.

Mr. al-As’ad was the principal custodian of Palmyra for 40 years, beginning in 1963. Under his direction, Palmyra was elevated to a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.

Below is the statement in full:

The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago mourns the brutal murder by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (also known as ISIL, ISIS, or Da’ish) of Khaled al-As’ad, the retired Antiquities Director for the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria.

Palmyra, a caravan city on the edge of the Syrian desert is a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its historical significance as part of the Silk Road, its beautifully preserved architecture and magnificent sculptures.

The 83 year old Mr. al-As’ad was arrested, tortured, and beheaded for refusing to reveal the location of antiquities from Palmyra that he had hidden away to prevent them from being looted and sold on the illicit antiquities market.

We condemn this brutal and senseless act. We mourn the loss of a scholar and courageous man who gave his life to protect the irreplaceable cultural heritage of Palmyra, and Syria more generally.

In response to the recent destruction of antiquities and archaeological sites carried out by Islamic State militants, CIAMS professors Adam Smith and Sturt Manning have published opinion pieces in the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire and CNN, respectively.

On behalf of the archaeologists of CIAMS, I would like to express deep sorrow at the loss of our brave and dedicated colleague.

The Oriental Institute’s original statement may be found here. The NY Times and The Guardian have published articles with further details about Mr. al-As’ad’s life and work.

Let’s welcome the new directors

Image result for schooner sunset picturesTo all the CIAMS community:

As I ease out of my Assistant Director role at CIAMS (to spend more time with boats, dogs, the family, and possibly even to write), I want to thank all the staff, especially former Director, Sturt Manning, for giving me the chance to make an impact on our Institute. It has been a uniquely rewarding pleasure, and above all the students and their energy have impressed me to no end. It’s going to be an exciting year, with Kurt as our new Director,  and I must say that I’m very glad to have been replaced by Katie Jarriel, who is not only a talented doctoral student in Classical Archaeology but the designer of that catchy CIAMS logo! I think this was an inspired choice, and after you meet Katie at the Welcome Back Reception on September 3  I hope you’ll support her throughout the year by participating in the various lectures and podcasts she’ll be organizing (and please support Kurt in his role by following his orders!) Good luck, Katie, and see you all out there.

All the best,

Chris Monroe

CIAMS 2015 Welcome Back Reception


Come and help CIAMS students and faculty kick off the start of a great academic year! You’ll meet our incoming students and catch up on everyone’s summer adventures. Fare includes the traditional pizza and sushi, as well as cheese, wine, and other libations. Thursday, September 3, 2015 at 5:00 p.m. in the History of Art lounge (Goldwin Smith G08).

Applying to Graduate School: An Archaeological Perspective

[Re-posted with permission from Adam Smith’s blog, Assemblages]:applying to grad school

Having just supervised my third year of admissions into the MA program in Cornell’s Institute of Archaeology and Material Studies, I’ve come to see the process as increasingly shaped by poor communication on both sides.  We, as an institution, do a pretty poor job of communicating what an ideal application dossier looks like.  And students, many of whom boast sterling credentials, nevertheless often seem to have neglected to fully consider what graduate school entails.  Inspired by my colleague Sturt Manning’s post last year on graduate admissions in Classics, I digest here a few points of advice that I seem to repeat often to applicants and prospective students.

The elements of a graduate school application are relatively standard across programs and universities.  Typically they include:

  • Your undergraduate transcript;
  • Letters of recommendation (3 seems to be the magic number);
  • A writing sample (usually a term paper written for an advanced seminar);
  • Test scores (usually GRE, but also TOEFL for international students);
  • A statement of purpose (sometimes misleadingly called a personal essay).

Transcripts can be read in a numerous ways.  A few attest to a goal oriented, highly motivated student who knew their chosen path from day 1.  Some tell a story of struggle and success as grades improve and courses sharpen focus over the 4 years.  Some tell of students who wander listlessly through the curriculum until they discover their passion (e.g., archaeology) and then commit themselves fully to achievement.  Some tell of students who were driven into narrow pre-professional courses by social, economic, or perhaps parental forces in their freshman and sophomore years, only to find themselves miserable until a stray course in archaeology opened a new door.  Other transcripts testify to students  who never really clicked with anything and look to graduate school as a place to kill some more time while searching for self and future.  What story does your transcript tell?  How would you want an admissions committee to narrate your intellectual development?

Often times, the story of your transcript comes out most clearly in the letters of recommendation.  Faculty who care deeply about their students will often tell us about the unique challenges applicants  have faced or opportunities they have seized.  Their testimonials can often be incredibly powerful since they have the kind of firsthand knowledge that admissions committees lack.  So it is important in choosing letter writers to have established relations with faculty who a) know you and b) care about you.  This means you cannot rely on the instructor in the 500 person intro class that you did well in but who you never saw again.  That said, it is relatively rare that all three letter writers have the same kind of familiarity with students, but if one or two can speak knowingly of you and are committed to you, then chances are, that will be an impactful letter.

The writing sample is a complicated element of the process.  Presumably by the time you graduate from College, if you were in the humanities or social sciences, you will have written 4-8 term papers, by which I mean extended writings on a single topic that muster evidence to an argument (I do not include more personal or reflective essays or fiction writing, neither of which are proper material for a writing sample in an archaeology application).  I have seen writing samples evaluated generally for just two qualities.  The first is the quality of composition; is it well written?  The second is its use of evidence; does it understand the bases of archaeological arguments.  Occasionally samples are highly original, provocative, or pioneering, but these are not the expectations for a college term paper or honors thesis and so tend not to be the expectations of admissions committees either.  Of our two expectations–composition and argumentation–my experience is that the quality of writing trumps all.  Hence when students ask for advice on which writing sample to submit, I always advise them to submit the one that is best written, most polished, and most edited, whether it is about archaeology or not.  I would be far more impressed by a well-written writing sample about Georgian polyphonic singing than a second rate essay on excavations at Ur or Abydos.

It is important for students to realize then that at the time of application 3 out of 5 of the elements in a dossier are essentially out of your hands.  Your transcript was compiled over your 4 years in college; ditto your relations with faculty who will provide letters of recommendation; and writing samples tend to be (quite wisely) recycled term papers or honors theses.

In addition, in my experience test scores tend to be a secondary data point in admissions.  They might reinforce a sense conveyed by transcripts or they might force a second look if not in keeping with the impression conveyed by a writing sample and essay.  But it is rare that I’ve seen test scores work as a determining force of any kind on an admissions decision when the preponderance of other evidence points in a different direction.

So that leaves just the statement of purpose as the critical contribution that an applicant can make to a dossier at the time they are considering graduate school.  As a result, it is to my mind the most consequential piece of the application.   And yet it is also the portion that students often seem to have the most trouble with.  So let me set out what I think a statement of purpose should do.

  1. It needs to  clearly define a research project.  Graduate schools is primarily about training you to do research–what will it be about? But this is tricky.  If your proposed research project is too narrow (level 3 courseware sherds from site X) then you run 2 risks: a) no one who reads the essay is all that interested in level 3 coarseware sherds from X (or alternatively, only one person is and that is not enough support) or b) faculty will see the project as so fully developed that they have nothing to contribute.  If a proposed research project is too vague (“I think I’m interested in ancient religion or maybe politics”) then admissions committees will immediately conclude that you are not sufficiently prepared fro graduate education.  So research projects need to thread the needle between being too vague and too narrow.
  2. It needs to answer the question: “Who cares?”. It is not enough to simply have a research interest of your own, you need to make an argument for why anyone else should be interested.  Such an argument might appeal to wider anthropological theory (e.g., this project will inform accounts of state formation), or to historical questions (e.g., the data collected will clarify the political economy of late Classic Maya polities), or to specifically archaeological concerns (e.g., innovations in method, practice, theory, etc).
  3. It needs to explain why you want to come to Cornell (or anywhere else). Applications are not just presentations of your work and interests, they are arguments.  You are making an argument as to why you should be admitted to a program.  Hence you must explain why that program can cultivate the research you plan on conducting.  This can and should involve key faculty (never cite just one potential interlocutor, you will need at least 2 and maybe 3).  It can also include material resources (e.g., collections, archives, etc.).  But it should also appeal to the curriculum since that will shape most of your experience as a graduate student.  You cannot take courses from just one or two faculty, hence you need to point to ways that the curriculum as a whole can advance the method, theory, data and conceptualization of your project.

What is not on this list to be included in a statement of purpose is a personal story of your budding interest in archaeology since you first found an old spoon in your grandparents’ back yard when you were 9.  Those almost never work.  Also to avoid: that time you saw a discovery channel show on dinosaurs, a general love of working outside, and, most of all, Indiana Jones. Such appeals appear with alarming regularity–at least twice each admissions season.  Students should know that these are not read as charming, but as vacuous platitudes that do nothing to help us understand what you want to study and why we should care.  The essay, regardless of what universities might call it, is not a personal essay.  It is a statement of purpose that defines a sphere of interest and describes the graduate training you seek that will help advance that work.

One element of your experience that does fit into a statement of purpose is field experience (if you have any).  Discussing the intellectual impact of field experiences is an excellent way to show the admissions committee that not only do you have a strong sense of archaeological practice, but you have also reflected on it in a way that suggests it was not simply a lark, but a transformational educational experience.

If you can avoid the pitfalls of the overly personal and make a clear case for a compelling research project that fits well with the faculty, then your essay will have made a pretty compelling case.

This is not to say that there is not a place for a personal essay in the graduate school application process.  It is a very good idea for you to write a brief essay entitled “Why I Want to Go to Graduate School”.  In it, you should be candid.  Are you motivated by a thirst for knowledge, a sense of fulfillment that comes from empirically engaged field research?  Or are you thinking of grad school because you can’t think of something else to do?  If you can’t come up with a reason that truly convinces you that research is a calling, then you can stop right there.  If you can, then graduate school probably is for you.  And you can now get to work on crafting a compelling statement of purpose.  And you can file away the personal essay for those times down the road once you are in graduate school when you find yourself wondering, “Now why did I do this?”

–author Adam Smith is the Chair of Cornell’s Anthropology Department and blogmaster of Assemblages

Society for the Humanities Fellowships for Graduate Students

TO:                  Humanities Graduate Students
FROM:            Timothy Murray, Director
RE:                  Call for applications for 2016/17 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Graduate Fellowships at the Society for the Humanities

The Mellon Foundation has made available two fellowships for graduate students to become Fellows of the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University during the 2016/2017 academic year. Graduate Fellows will not teach courses. Graduate Fellows will be invited to all events at the Society for the Humanities.  The Fellowship includes a College of Arts & Sciences graduate tuition waiver, a $26,000 stipend, and health insurance. The two Graduate Fellows will share an office at the A.D. White House during the academic year.

Cornell University graduate students in the humanities who are working on topics related to the year’s theme (description below) are invited to apply. Applicants must have completed the A exam and all requirements for the degree other than the dissertation before the application deadline on November 1, 2015. Awards will be restricted to students entering their 4th, 5th or 6th year of study at the time the Fellowship begins.

Application Procedures
The following application materials must be emailed to by November 1, 2015.  Please email materials in a single PDF in the order below with the subject line “GRADUATE FELLOWSHIP APPLICATION_Last Name”.

Order of Materials:

  1. A cover page with:
    – Full name and net ID
    – Home department
    – Proposed project title
    – Recommenders’ names and emails
  2. A curriculum vitae.
  3. A one-page dissertation abstract in addition to a more detailed statement of the research project the applicant will pursue during the fellowship year (1,000-3,000 words).
  4. A Cornell University etranscript (for instructions, visit ).
  5. One writing sample (published or unpublished) that is no more than 35 pages long.

Sent under separate cover:

6. Two letters of recommendation. Letters of recommendation should include an evaluation of the candidate’s research proposal. Please ask referees to send their letters directly to Letters must be received on or before November 1, 2015.

For further information:

Phone: 607-255-9274 or 255-4086

Awards will be announced by the end of December 2015.

Note: Extensions for applications will not be granted. The Society will consider only fully completed, emailed, applications. It is the responsibility of each applicant to ensure that ALL documentation is complete, and that referees submit their letters of recommendation to the Society before the closing date.


The Society for the Humanities at Cornell University seeks interdisciplinary research projects that reflect on philosophical, aesthetic, political, ecological, religious, psychoanalytical, and cultural understandings of skin.  Thinking skin calls upon cultural horizons, religious traditions, flesh, haptics, signs, texts, images, biopolitics, screens, sounds, and surfaces.  From the earliest writings on medicine and religion to more recent theories of race, sexuality, gender, class, and ethnicity, how might thinking or making skin inform the global cultural experience from North to South, East to West, South to South.  We invite research projects across historical periods, disciplinary boundaries, geographic territories, and social contexts.

For classical traditions, skin plays a role in representing the breadth of mythological empowerment, from the Occidental classics and Ancient Egypt to Navajo culture. Theoretical and philosophical approaches might dwell on the contrasts between tactility and opticality or as the membrane of intersubjective and global connectivity.  Psychoanalysis theorizes skin as the figure of touch, desire, trauma, and “the skin-ego,” while theorists of affect and haptics might study configurations of aging, sexuality, gender, queer and transgender studies.

Also welcome are biopolitical considerations ranging from torture and subjugation to race, eugenics, and genomics whose representations have been central to the arts.  Scholars of the arts and technology might emphasize tattooing, surface architecture, technoskins, prostheses, nanotechnologies, and the touch of mobile devices, connectivity, gaming, and mobile media.

Scholars of “medical humanities” might study questions of the complex place of skin in disease, contamination, and contagion, just as these problematics are important in the history of travel literature, geopolitical tensions, and literary and artistic fascinations with the viral.

Congratulations to Cornell’s 2015 Archaeology Graduates!

Image result for cornell commencement capThe CIAMS faculty and staff wish all the best to Cornell students being graduated with Archaeology Majors and Master’s degrees in Spring 2015
The Undergraduate Majors are Morgan Michel-Schottman, Alexander Morgan, Eliizabeth Napper, and Zachary Peterson.
And the Master’s in Archaeology are William Breitweiser, Cynthia Kocik, Nicholas Lashway, and Katherine Seufer.

Congratulations, and good luck to all of you!