Michael is a student best characterized by his expressiveness and vitality. With a jovial yet intelligent smirk and long flowing hair, he is constantly telling stories from his many travels across Europe and at home. In these tales of creature-rescue and connection and timeless moments with strangers, his compassion for animals and the importance of interpersonal relationships in his life become clear. Even when the twenty-three year old History major and Mediterranean Archaeology minor from the University at Buffalo and I sat down to conduct his interview, the cat whom he coined “Sebastian” wandered over to join us. Michael can always be found scratching behind the ears of every animal he sees, and the image of his hand reaching out to touch Sebastian finds itself in every picture of Michael reaching out to touch ancient structures and artifacts to feel the life within the ancient material. For this inquisitive student, the former aspects of a place are inextricable from their continued lives, and every creature and person still wandering among those structures is a part of that site’s story—a story of continual change unfolded in layers by archaeology as an active field of study, and a story within which Michael realizes his own role. He believes that “when you go to places, you imprint on them,” and even though every layer and contributor is fleeting, each helps create a new form or phase of life for those places. As the saplings he once saw full of beauty and life at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany withered between Summer and Winter before his eyes, Michael realized the power of change as a form of continued existence.
In Michael’s mind, as the people behind the IMPERO project are simply a phase of a site’s continued animation, they are not separate from the site itself, and every member of the team likewise imprints on the others even when we are not working. As we spoke, Michael recalled how, driving back home from working at Podere Cannicci after just three days of working side-by-side, “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen came on the radio, and the entire car-full of archaeologists danced and sang along in tandem. Through the beautiful moments of truly enjoying life together, moments where music plays a tremendous role, Michael is reminded of the living nature of our work. With every burnt fragment of cooking ware, with every structural outline, Michael imagines the communities of the past bound together like our own team by uncovering the artifacts of their day-to-day lives, and he greatly appreciates the new emphases on community structure, formation, interconnectivity, and daily life in archaeology. In studies of the present and his own life, Michael values these same emphases, and he is happiest when he is in solidarity with others, particularly in the political sphere in intellectual communities. Michael believes that understanding community formation, interpersonal connection, and changing phases of life in the past and present is imperative for changing our future.
Text by: Elisabeth Woldeyohannes
Photograph by: Riley James