Garrison Forest School Seniors Crack Code on Rare Artifact at Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum

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As part of Garrison Forest School’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program, seniors Kaley Gonzalez and Sarah Hill translated ancient inscriptions on Roman funerary tablets at the Johns Hopkins University Archaelogical Museum.

Garrison Forest School seniors at the Johns Hopkins University Archaeological Museum

Sarah Hill and Kaley Gonzalez at the Johns Hopkins University Archaeological Museum

For most high school students, the recently completed semester is considered ancient history. For Garrison Forest School (GFS) seniors Kaley Gonzalez and Sarah Hill, last semester was ancient history.

As the first Garrison Forest School Classics Interdisciplinary Research Scholars in GFS’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) partnership with Johns Hopkins University (JHU), they spent one afternoon each week during the fall semester at the JHU Archaeological Museum. There, with the guidance of WISE research mentor and Hopkins Classics Department graduate student Elizabeth Schwinge, the students pored over ancient artifacts. Their research focused on the field of epigraphy, the study of ancient inscriptions, specifically three Roman funerary tablets from the museum’s collection.

Central to their research was the translation of inscriptions on the three tablets and a perplexing phrase--ex horreis Faenianis—on one of the inscriptions that referred to a granary. The girls set out to determine why this granary was mentioned. To solve this puzzle, they searched for parallels in other inscriptions. After four months of intensive study, they arrived at a novel interpretation: the phrase signifies the region that an individual inhabited in proximity to the closest granary, and not a vocation, an alternate theory considered by scholars.

In addition to their work in epigraphy, Sarah and Kaley photographed objects in the museum’s collection and described and catalogued those objects for the museum’s database, after receiving training in protocols for handling ancient objects.

In February, Kaley and Sarah presented their original research to a full house of friends, GFS and Hopkins faculty members and administrators, museum guests and family members in the newly renovated Archaeological Museum. They also have submitted a paper applying to present their research at a Hopkins symposium in April, where, if selected, they will share their research and learn about the work of undergraduate and graduate student scholars.

Founded at GFS in 2005, the WISE program places talented Upper School students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), including public health, in hands-on research opportunities at Johns Hopkins. Research projects in the humanities—including the JHU Classics Department—have been made possible through the JHU WISE partnership. GFS Latin teacher and archivist and Hopkins alumnus, Dante Beretta, Ph.D., approached the museum with the possibility of hosting GFS students to work with museum objects. Initially, Kaley and Sarah, who were inducted into Cum Laude Society as juniors, found it challenging to shift from translating Latin texts to Latin inscriptions but quickly became adept at analyzing repeating patterns. Both plan to continue their study of Latin in college.

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Aja Jackson
Garrison Forest School
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