Mary Hollinshead was recently recognized with the 2012 Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award by the Archaeological Institute of America. Hollinshead is an associate professor in the Art and Art History Department at the University of Rhode Island. She studied classical and near-Eastern archaeology at Bryn Mawr College before attending the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. Hollinshead holds an M.A. in classics from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in classical and near-Eastern archaeology and Greek from Bryn Mawr.
PBN: How did you become interested in archaeology? What challenges are there for students entering the field?
HOLLINSHEAD: As a pre-med student at Bryn Mawr College, I took archaeology as an elective, and encountered an array of superb professors. … Archaeology as a field of study appeals to me because it requires both precision and imagination, in varying proportions… [It] is often romanticized as the search for lost treasures, but in reality our goal is to gain information about the past and to discern meaning from physical remains.
Challenges for students include needing to know ancient as well as modern languages, to have some familiarity with science, and to exercise initiative and agility in researching such a variety of information. … The intellectual range and analytical rigor of our field has turned out to be excellent preparation for many other careers, including law and medicine.
PBN: What subjects of archaeology are you currently researching?
HOLLINSHEAD: I recently completed a book on monumental steps in ancient Greek architecture, a study that continues my longstanding interest in the social and political role of architecture, and its interaction with peoples’ behavior. … A spin-off from the book is an article I’m writing about the Erechtheion, an atypical temple of Pericles’ time … on the Acropolis in Athens.
PBN: Can you tell us about the URI Archaeology Group you helped found?
HOLLINSHEAD: After URI hired three new archaeologists in 2005, the three archaeologists already on campus and the three newcomers got together monthly, since the six of us are in four different departments. Our monthly gatherings have so far led to a team-taught course for entry-level students and a position paper on ethical behavior in archaeology. •