In an interview with Grace Erny ’12, Professor Jeffrey Pearson discusses his archaeological fieldwork in the Near East, his experience with the Department of Homeland Security, and his musical skills.
Q: What courses are you teaching and which class are you most excited about?
A: I am teaching both semesters of introductory Latin, the Roman World, Introduction to Archaeology, and a research seminar on Greco-Roman Egypt. I'm probably most excited about the class on Egypt. Recent events in the region and the fact that some of the students who will be taking the class traveled to Egypt last January should make it even more interesting with some provocative discussions.
Q: What interested you in Macalester?
A: I really like the idea of teaching at a small liberal arts college where teaching and faculty-student interaction take center stage. I also appreciate Mac’s strong international focus, which sets it apart from many schools of similar size and reputation. Also, there has been a connection between Macalester and the department at UC Berkeley, where I did my graduate work.
Q: Where have you participated in digs, and what were your research goals?
A: I spent two seasons in Israel and two seasons in Egypt, and I worked most recently at the site of Dhiban in Jordan. Due to the political uncertainty, a planned excavation in Petra last summer fell through, but I hope to go there next summer. My dissertation research was on the Nabataeans, the civilization that built Petra as its capital city, so in my archaeological work I am looking primarily at Nabataean material.
Q: You recently worked as a National Security Intern for the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. What were you doing?
A: Along with academia, public service is a career interest of mine, and I received a fellowship to work in Washington, D.C., and to study intensive Arabic. I met a lot of interesting and talented people and got a close-up look at some of the important work being done in Washington.
Q: What first attracted you to classics and archaeology? Why are these fields of study important?
A: I took ancient Greek in my first undergraduate semester at Villanova University and was immediately drawn to the beauty and complexity of the language and to the window it offered into the great intellectual tradition of the ancient Greeks and Romans. I didn't take up archaeology until graduate school, but I love it because it provides for hands-on work in the field of classics and for travel to interesting places. Even if students never master Latin or Greek, they can learn a great deal from reading some of the greats of ancient literature or from studying ancient history or archaeology.
Q: What are some of your outside interests and hobbies?
A: I play a lot of music. These days, I play mostly Irish and traditional American music on accordion and banjo, but I also play jazz and classical piano. I enjoy wine tasting, baking bread, and a number of outdoor activities like fly-fishing, hiking, golf, and cross-country skiing—a good hobby to have in Minnesota, I'm told!