Philip Williams doesn’t know precisely where his future career in archaeology will lead. For now, he is content to learn and contribute to the field as a sophomore through an internship at Berkshire Museum.
Philip, an Archeology, Geography, and Applied Anthropology (AGAA) major from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, is working with Berkshire Museum and the Digital Archaeology Project to document and preserve the museum’s collection of ancient Palmyrene funerary reliefs through a series of high-resolution 3D scans. He is working with funding from a Student-Faculty Summer Research Grant.
When the project is complete, Berkshire will receive a 3D-printed copy of a bust that can be used in classrooms and other locations around the county.
“It’s really hard to say what is most valuable from this experience; so much of it is brand new to me, working with artifacts, the process of 3D scanning, the entire concept of digital archeology,” Philip said. “All of this is both practical knowledge for my major but also will help me as a student while I progress through the program. I think that working with a museum and building relationships is really valuable because I want to continue to work with artifacts and learn through the process of the work that I’m doing.”
Philip said the best part of his internship was the hands-on experience and discovering things that we didn’t know before. He said that when they moved one of the reliefs to scan, they found a small leaf carved into its back, which was unique from the others.
“Connecting it to my classroom learning is an awesome example of how well the program gives these skills. I am taking a class during the fall to learn more in-depth scanning tools and technology for my major,” Philip said. “My future career plans are really to pursue archeology and keep working in the field until I have a Ph.D. and, hopefully, maybe become a professor myself down the line.”
Dr. Matthew Moriarty said the project is particularly important because of ancient Palmyra’s recent history. After being looted for centuries, the site was extensively damaged during the Syrian civil war. He said Philip’s work could help make the art accessible to a much broader audience and increase appreciation for Palmyra’s remarkable history and culture.
“Moving forward, this partnership with the Berkshire Museum is exactly the kind of work we want our students engaged in. Museums around the country are looking for ways to engage with global audiences that are experienced and savvy with digital resources. We hope that by training our students to work with these technologies, we can help prepare them for a wide range of careers and disciplines,” Moriarty said.
The Digital Archaeology Project was founded in 2019 to explore new avenues in archaeological research and to digitally curate cultural heritage resources from Vermont and the South Lake Champlain Basin.
“We started the Digital Archaeology Project a couple of years ago because it was becoming really obvious that 3D technologies – 3D scanning, 3D printing, and virtual reality – are revolutionizing many fields,” Moriarty said. “In archaeology, having a really nice, high-resolution 3D copy of an artifact allows for lots of new technical analyses, but it also makes it possible to share an artifact and its history with a much larger audience.”