The astrophysicist and the archeological dig

Meaghan Accarino ’21 with a new friend

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In the summer of 2019, an archeological dig was taking place in Greece that would bring new light to our understanding of history. And physics major Meaghan Accarino ’21 was there helping to bring it to light.

Accarino was the only undergraduate student from Denison on the dig, which was headed by Denison graduate Sharon Stocker ’81. Stocker and her husband, Jack Davis, are both archaeologists and professors at the University of Cincinnati. In Pylos, Greece, they discovered the 3,500 year-old tomb of a warrior, full of gorgeous artifacts. The contents of the tomb are also changing our perceptions of ancient Greek history.

For eight weeks, Accarino lived in Greece and worked with professional archeologists and graduate students on a new area of the dig. “I was the youngest one,” she says. “Everyone was assigned code names — mine was ‘tiny snail.’”

A New York Times article about the dig features a gold pendant — one that Accarino was almost credited with finding.

For eight weeks, Accarino lived in Greece and worked with professional archeologists and graduate students on a new area of the dig.

“I was working a trench very carefully and had found several small beads,” she says. “My team leader liked what she was seeing and decided to step in for me. Literally minutes later she found the pendant.” Accarino did find many smaller objects, including beads, bone pendants, and rosettes (little flowers made of gold and ivory).

The snug quarters (they were literally in the trenches together) meant that everyone on the project became close. “It was very strenuous, both physically and mentally,” says Accarino. “We worked eleven-hour days, digging all day with a couple of breaks from the heat.”

It wasn’t all work, however. Accarino and her crew explored the country as well. “We went to the beach — there are so many beaches,” she says. “We went to Olympia and saw the original Olympic track. And I had the best meal of my life.”

By the end of her time there, Accarino was “finishing” trenches and writing reports. And one of her co-workers commented to her trench leader, “You turned a 19-year-old astrophysicist into an archeologist.”

Note: Accarino is still a physics major, and is investigating graduate schools with astrophysicist degrees.

March 2, 2020