From the field to the lab – Meet Dr. Reuven Yeshurun

This interview was done and edited by Kathryn Pocklington.

Over the course of the program students and professors spend a lot of time together outside of the classroom whether it is on field trips, in the lab, or at excavations. One of the great things about this program is that this time spent together creates strong academic relationships between the students and professors. With this in mind, I decided to sit down with a few of our professors from the International Prehistoric Archaeology master’s program to get to know them a little more. This is the first article out of a series of interviews.

Associated lab/institute: Zinman Institute of Archaeology
From: Haifa, Israel
Academic History: Ph.D. from University of Haifa, Israel (2012), Postdoctoral research in the Smithsonian Institution – National Museum of Natural History, Washington D.C., USA (2012-2014).

Current Research: Dr. Yeshurun is currently focusing on two main areas of research related to prehistoric humans. The first area is the Epipaleolithic archaeology of Mount Carmel. He co-directs two multi-year excavations at the Natufian site of El-Wad [see info box I] and the Geometric Kebaran site of Neve David [see info box II] to understand sedentism and the transition from foraging to farming ways of life at the end of the Last Ice Age (16,000 to 11,500 years ago).

neve david
Info Box I

His second area of interest concerns zooarchaeological research applied to questions about human evolution in the Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic which involves several projects in Israel including Nesher Ramla and Manot Cave as well as sites abroad. Reuven has been to Georgia and Armenia to work on Middle and Upper Paleolithic sites, as part of projects aiming to understand the replacement of Neanderthals by modern humans in the Caucasus. He has additionally worked on archaeological material (fossil animal bones) from Egypt, Sudan, Turkey and Alaska.
For more information on the Geometric Kebaran and Natufian cultures or to see some of Dr. Yeshurun’s recent publications, please see his website: https://haifa.academia.edu/ReuvenYeshurun

What is your most exciting find?
Maybe the most unexpected find was discovering and excavating a Natufian house at the site of Hof Shahaf during a salvage excavation. It was a special feeling to dig into this 14,000 year old house where people once lived their lives. I had a similar and enduring experience at the contemporaneous site of el-Wad, where I studied what prehistoric humans were doing in their small round houses.

From the Jerusalem Post: “The first permanent settlers, who belonged to a prehistoric entity which the archaeologists call the Natufian Culture, were still hunter-gatherers, and did not practice agriculture; they subsisted on hunting game and collecting wild plants. They built houses in stone, for the first time in human history.” 

El Wad
Info Box II

What is the most unique/rare/exciting site you visited abroad?
I visited Dmanisi, the Republic of Georgia, which is considered to be the oldest archaeological site outside of Africa; I visited the 300,000-year-old site of Schoningen, Germany, where more than fifty wild horses were hunted and butchered. I also visited the fascinating cave art site of Pech Merle in France.

What do you want non-archaeologists to know about being an archaeologist?
It’s all true.
[Editor’s comment: and with this statement the image of that infamous fedora and theme song from “Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Arc” came into my head and I had to smile]

What is the most common question people ask you?
What are you digging right now?

Do you have any advice for students?
Archaeology is a wide field with many sub-disciplines and research questions. Archaeology students should try to do as many things as possible, expose themselves to as many sub-disciplines and different excavations as they can. You never know what will catch your eye.

What does your family think about you being an archaeologist?
They support me. My daughters think it is cool and I hope they will be involved in field work once they are older.

Reuven taught several of the required courses throughout the program (2015-2016) including: Zooarchaeology, Spring Semester MA Seminar, and the Carmel Field Campuses. He is also a thesis advisor for several of the students this year. Here is their perspective: “Dr. Yeshurun is incredibly intelligent and resourceful, we can always go to him with a question and he will either have an answer or refer us to the right source. He is approachable and will always go out of his way to help a student in need. He teaches several of the classes for the Prehistoric Archaeology program which have proven to be not only interesting but helped provide an important baseline for our thesis work. His teaching style is clear despite the challenging material we deal with including theory and seminar courses.”

References:
Israeli Antiquities Authority (2016). The Archaeological Periods in Israel. [online] Available at: http://www.antiquities.org.il/t/PeriodSub_en.aspx?id=7 [Accessed 6 Jul. 2016].

Yeshurun, R., Kaufman, D., Shtober-Zisu, N., Crater-Gershtein, E., Riemer, Y., Rosen, A. and Nadel, D. (2015). Renewed fieldwork at the Geometric Kebaran site of Neve David. Journal of the Israel Prehistoric Society, 45, pp.31-54.

For more information about the master’s in Prehistoric Archaeology at the University of Haifa, click here or email us at infograd@univ.haifa.ac.il.

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