UW-Madison students make discoveries, explore Italy in archaeological expedition

For two UW–Madison students, Italy is more than just a place with great gelato (although they say that certainly is a large part of it.) Instead, they view the country as a place brimming with possibilities for discovery and exploration.

Embarking on an archaeological expedition, Jack White and Megan Bernards — two seniors in the College of Letters and Science — traveled to the ancient city of Agrigento on the south coast of Sicily this past summer.

“Our goal was to develop a more accurate historical timeline of the city and get a better picture of why it is important,” White says. “We were looking for the pieces to the city, what they served, and the extent they were being used in the first place.”

White and Bernards both won Wisconsin Hilldale Undergraduate/Faculty research fellowships for their projects in Sicily.

As one of the largest archaeological sites in the world, White and Bernards contributed to mapping, excavation and interpretation of the Sanctuary of the Chthonian Deities alongside UW–Madison scientists from the Cartography Laboratory, alumni and professor William Aylward — an archaeologist in the Department of Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies. Their research particularly focused on a round building within the sanctuary, called a ‘tholos.’

According to White, accurately dating the tholos and other artifacts served as “pieces that fit into the whole puzzle, which is the sanctuary itself.” Bernards, in particular, found a significant and rare piece of the puzzle — a bronze coin that supports new conclusions about the date of the tholos. Though the coin was small, it had big implications for dating the city.

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