Meet Dr. Alison Sterrett-Krause, Visiting Assistant Professor in College of Charleston’s Department of Classics, better known by her students as “Dr. S.K.” Dr. Sterrett-Krause completed her undergraduate studies at Randolph-Macon Woman’s college, participated in an international Summer Program in the Classics at the American Academy in Rome, and earned both her MA and Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati where she focused on gender and urban development. Inquisitive and academically driven, Dr. Sterrett-Krause’s deep-seated interest in analysis of civilization, the past, and the relationship between the two has ultimately led her time and time again back to classical archaeology, namely through the study of ancient glass. Even as she pursued gender and urban development during her doctoral work, Dr. S.K was simultaneously analyzing glass in Albania during the summer. Laughing, Dr. Sterrett-Krause looks back on her undergraduate work when she initially became interested in glass analysis, her first encounter prompted by a professor who handed her ancient glass saying, “Work with this. You can’t hurt it; it’s already broken!” Ever since that day, Dr. S.K has been intrigued, seeing each weathered shard of glass as a piece of a larger puzzle that she seeks to understand and decipher through research.
While it is only Dr. Sterrett-Krause’s second year here in Charleston, she is already an integral part of the Classic’s program, her students’ academic careers, and has brought with her a fascinating undergraduate research opportunity involving the understanding and utilization of specific analytic skills practiced by only four others in the nation. By day, Dr. Sterrett-Krause teaches classes in the Classics such as Latin, Women in Classical Antiquity, and Homes and Households; but on Friday afternoons from 2:30-5:00pm, you will find Dr. S.K and a dozen undergraduate students spread out across three tables on the second floor of BellSouth examining, discussing and cataloging 2,000 year old glass excavated throughout the 1980’s, all of which originates from two sites in ancient Carthage, located today in northern Tunisia. This glass is inherently unique in that artifacts can no longer legally be taken out of Tunisia, making this a one of a kind research opportunity within the U.S. Dr. S.K was given this collection of glass for study by a colleague, meaning the extensive collection goes with her wherever she goes. The College of Charleston is fortunate to have her for the time being as she is hard at work passing on her methods of analysis and specialized knowledge of the characteristics of ancient glass to students. Around the world today, many are employing scientific technique in determining the composition and exact age of glass artifacts, but only a handful can identify pieces using solely their eyes, and can therefore make inferences about where, how, why and when people once used the glass vessels composed of the tiny pieces we observe. These are the skills being taught during the glass lab, as a new generation of “typologists” emerges.
After hearing Dr. S.K speak about her research during BGS last month, I knew Dr. Sterrett-Krause’s Glass Lab research was something I wanted to pursue. As a Historic Preservation major and potential Archaeology minor, getting the chance to actually handle something that was last used and touched by someone who lived 2,000 years ago was so exciting, and I have loved every minute I have spent in the Glass Lab learning to identify characteristics, and similarities while differentiating between a folded rim and a hollow tubular base, or how to identify a pontil mark. I hope to continue to learn from this research opportunity and look forward to the plans of academic publication that lie in store for the Carthaginian glass and the collected data. While learning to observe finite features, I have come to realize, through Dr. Sterrett-Krause’s guidance, that history is a story told in minute detail; it takes a patient, discerning eye to piece together a grander image that provides us with insight, understanding, and wisdom.