Every day, Monica Neff ’10 shakes out her shoes, looking for scorpions and spiders. It’s just part of life in the desert, and that’s where she’s been living.
Neff is in Bat, Oman, on an archaeological dig at a prehistoric stone tower. “We hope to find evidence of the ancient civilization that lived during the Hafit period (ca. 3100-2700 B.C.),” she says. “Past excavations have provided some evidence to possible irrigation within this area of Oman, and we hope to discover further verification.”
Neff is working alongside archaeologists and specialists from all over the world. Soon, she will be heading home to Cleveland to prepare for graduate school. But for now, she’s enjoying the exotic nature of her work.
“The best part of the dig thus far has been the trips to other archaeological sites, markets and getting to know the locals in Bat,” she says.
Oman presents a prime opportunity for Neff, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Miami University last May, minoring in both Middle Eastern Islamic Studies and the Arabic language. Her interests were cultivated first at Gilmour, where she worked in the anthropology lab at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History as a senior in Gilmour’s Catalyst science program.
Living in Oman has heightened Neff’s awareness of social customs and gender roles. “Many situations and conversations that I have had with people in Oman have conformed to different social customs that I was not used to,” she says. “It’s important to remember that these social customs are done to be polite and out of respect.”
Neff is sure Oman has changed her, but it’s too early to say how. “It isn't until you get home and you are around people who know you that you find out exactly how you have changed,” she says. “I just feel like I have accomplished something and gained a great deal of experience.”
It presents questions that you have to answer about the past using only the evidence you do (or don’t) find.
What do you hope to be doing five years from now?
I hope to continue my studies and be in a Ph.D. program.
What is your favorite time of day?
It depends on what I am doing that day.
What's the most random thing you brought with you to Oman?
In the desert, everything can be used purposefully.