Professor Rhys Townsend and student Ed Connor searched for archaeological evidence of pirates along the Cilician coast in Turkey.
Meet the researchers: Off the beaten path
An interview with Ed Connor
Ed Connor ’01 is a University
Scholar with experience in land surveying, a career he still pursues in addition
to being a Clark student. Although his major is in
Science and Policy, his interests got diverted—to Turkey! We talked with
him recently about his participation with professor Rhys Townsend of the Art History
department in the Rough Cilicia Project. One objective of the project is to
search for evidence of Roman-era pirates in the Cilician area of Turkey. Ed
visited the site during the summer of 2000, and will be returning again this
summer. He plans to complete his master’s degree in ES&P through Clark’s
free MA program.
When you came to Clark did you know you’d be doing research?
Yes, I knew that Clark was a research school. But I didn’t expect to be doing research in archaeology.
ES&P major, how did you get involved with archaeological research?
For fun, I took Introduction
to Archaeology with Rhys Townsend. I’m trained as as a surveyor and have been
doing surveying in the Worcester area. I was interested in how land surveying
works in the archaeological world, and what better way to find out than actually
going and doing it at a site. I talked with Rhys about getting on the grant for
the Rough Cilicia Project and I was written in as a field assistant. Rhys and I
really hit it off. I did topographical [elevation] as well as positional
surveying [latitude/longitude] at several sites around the town of Gazipasha. We
used both GPS [global positioning system] and a total station [surveying
equipment that allows one to measure elevation, latitude and longitude, and
It was a good learning
experience—seeing how site mapping is really done by archaeologists. I’m
used to working with engineers, putting up new bridges—this was working with
ancient buildings. These people put up structures thousands of years ago without
the benefit modern technology. Quite an interesting experience.
Had you traveled outside the U.S. before?
No, this was my first time
going abroad. Suddenly I was on a plane going east, 12 hours later I was landing
in another country--I couldn’t even say hello to half the people. It was a
shock to me to think that I’d be on a plane going to another country to do
I have the impression that this area of Turkey is
characterized by pretty rough terrain.
Yes, hence the name Rough
Cilicia! Scrub oak, spiders whose
bites make you ill, 100 degree temperatures in the shade.
Even though it’s not your major, do you think
you’ll continue doing archaeological work?
I intend to. Right now I’m
taking a course in remote sensing [a technology that uses aerial photographs and
satellite images to provide information about the earth’s surface]. For a
final project I’m looking at using balloons as platforms for taking pictures
of terrain from low altitudes. That approach would lessen the field work
involved in surveying. Thorny bushes, scrub oak and mountainous terrain are not
the easiest things to navigate carrying surveying equipment.
Changing the subject, what is your final project for
your ES&P major?
Estrogen mimics. Some cancers, such as
breast and uterine cancer, are very influenced by estrogen, or chemicals that
mimic estrogen. I’m investigating a suspected toxin, nonylphenol, a chemical
found in most plastics, paints, liquid detergents--it’s very ubiquitous. The
EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] hasn’t done a lot of testing on it.
It’s been shown to shrink testes in male rats and cause inverted-uterous
births in rats. Its presence may create a cancer friendly environment.
It sounds like a hot topic.
Yes, because the plastics
industry is so important. Everything these days seems to be made of plastic.
It seems like you’ve been going in two separate
directions here at Clark.
I never thought I’d be
looking at thousand-year old castles! Now I have two perspectives--the
archaeological and the environmental. From an environmentalist standpoint, going
to Turkey, regardless of the archaeology involved, has given me a unique
perspective on a culture’s ability to adapt to a climate. This climate is not
friendly. The people there know that water is precious and they’re doing
everything in their power to preserve what little water they have. I saw trash
piles piles being burned out there in Turkey and found out that sewage was just
being pumped into the Mediterranean. There are people living in shacks,…but
then they’re doing that here in America…
By uncovering the past I’ve gained
an understanding of a past society’s adaptive skills. What were the people
doing there, why were they there? Was it the same environment as today, or was
it different? There aren’t many trees there today, but we think there were
during the Roman era.