Research Assistant, Near East Galleries, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Bachelor of Arts in Archaeology, minor in Anthropology and French, University of Wisconsin—La Crosse ‘10
Master of Arts in Archaeology, Boston University ‘10
“What I needed to be competitive in pursuing a PhD was more specific knowledge of the scientific analysis of ancient materials as well as a grasp of ancient languages,” shares Kyra Kaercher, a Post-Baccalaureate (post-bacc) student here at Penn and research assistant at the Penn Museum. Through her tuition benefits, Kyra took three courses and an independent study that focused on cuneiform (Akkadian and Sumerian written language) and petrography.
With a background in ancient ceramics of the Near East, Kyra was thrilled to gain experience with Penn’s Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM) through the post-bacc program. “When I started working at the Penn Museum, I knew I had to take a class with Dr. Marie-Claude Boileau. She is the Lab Coordinator for CAAM and is an expert in ceramics.”
Along with state-of-the-art technology that can read the mineral makeup of an artifact, CAAM and the Penn Museum are home to what Kyra calls the “pieces that live in every history and art history text book,” from the Ur-Namu Stele to actual clay from the great Ur flood.
“Sometimes I am still taken aback that I can look at these collections under the microscope. I love how you can look at ceramics and see the ancient people. You can see the time and effort they put into it. You can also discover identity in ceramics through what they painted on it, how they made the vessels and what they ate with them. You can pick up a bowl, and somebody made that. It was there.”
In her fieldwork and academic endeavors, Kyra has traveled all over the world—from Bolivia to Egypt, Syria and Iraq. Much of her work has centered on heritage projects that help maintain and rebuild historic sites in areas of conflict. “I think it’s important when we go out into the field to involve the local people.”
Looking towards her future, Kyra is in the process of starting her PhD in Archaeology. “The nice thing about Penn and the classes I took with Marie-Claude is that there is a lot of independent research. For my stage of life, I want to learn the material in class and put it to work on my own. I hope to teach at a university. The more I’ve worked at large research schools like Penn where there are labs, classrooms and museums, the more I want to keep going.”