From the Field to the Lab – Meet Prof. Daniel Nadel

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 student and professor. With this in mind, I decided to sit down with a few of our professors from the Prehistoric Archaeology program to get to know them a little more. This is the second article out of a series of interviews.

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Professor Daniel Nadel, Head of the International M.A. Program in Prehistoric Archaeology


Associated lab/institute: Zinman Institute of Archaeology
From: Israel
Academic History: Ph.D. from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel (1997)

Current Research: Prof. Nadel is currently focusing on Epipaleolithic sites within the Levant including Ohalo II, Raquefet, and Neve David. Another area of his research investigates ancient game traps, called Desert Kites [see info box below], which are being studied in Armenia, Israel and Nevada. Prof. Nadel has recently incorporated 3-D modeling [see info box below], documentation and analysis into his research as a way of studying complicated features from these sites (i.e. bedrock mortars and cup-marks), especially with regards to Neolithic and Natufian sites. On several of his expeditions, students have had the opportunity to join in the research, traveling to Armenia, Texas and California.[For more information on Prof. Nadel’s current research, please see his website: http://lecturers.haifa.ac.il/he/hcc/dnadel/Pages/default.aspx]

What are your most exciting finds so far?
Ohalo II as a site is one of the most exciting because of its excellent preservation of organic remains under the lake, which is unique on a global scale. It’s like Pompeii, but 23,000 years old; everything is frozen in a way.

Another exciting find was the Judean sage plant impressions from the graves in Raqefet which demonstrate the earliest grave lining with flowers in human history. We were able to extract collagen from some of the human skeletons, and we now have direct 14C dates and DNA characterization, the first and oldest of its kind in the region.”

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Prof. Nadel said: “Communal burial sites and elaborate rituals such as funeral ceremonies must have strengthened the sense of solidarity among community members, and their feeling of unity in the face of other groups.” [Read more here ]

What is the most unique/rare/exciting site you visited abroad?
“That’s not a fair question. How can you choose? The Pyramids in Egypt and Machu Picchu were very impressive, as was Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, Palenque in Mexico and the chains of desert kites in Jordan. I especially love desert sites. However, just a small rock art site can be really touching and amazing. Some of these small sites are simply interesting because of their settings alone, like those on the face of a cliff.”

What do you want non-archaeologists to know about being an archaeologist?
“If I can make only one point; dinosaurs and people are not associated with one another. We have enough exciting things without the dinosaurs. No association whatsoever.”

What is the most common question people ask you?
“The dinosaur thing for one. Also “I always wanted to be an archaeologist,” and proceed to ask me what it is like. They don’t know how much sweat, bugs and dirt are involved.

Do you have any advice for students?
“Work hard and follow your heart if this is what you want to do because there are no promises regarding jobs later on.”

Why do you think it is so important for archaeology students to study abroad?
“Studying abroad widens your horizons on two levels: by getting to know new cultures with different kinds of remains, and by learning about different approaches, research questions, and methods. No books can do as much as studying in two distinct academic environments”

[Editor’s comment: I agree with Prof. Nadel on this. My experience here in Israel has not only exposed me to a different society but to a different academic culture as well. I could go on and on about my experiences with living in a new country and how I have grown from it (perhaps in the next blog!) but there is definitely something to be said about how archaeological research is done in different places. I have learned that while the main objectives and theories that I learned in my undergraduate career essentially remain the same, different methodologies and terms may be used. It is my opinion that learning these differences can result in a better rounded knowledge of the field of archaeology, a knowledge that will be helpful later on.]

What does your family think about you being an archaeologist?
“They support me and come to visit me on all of my digs in Israel. My sons have even volunteered and worked with me on a couple of digs. They have a lot of jokes about it but they support me nonetheless.”

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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