Sophie Hall, might have a bright future focused on the past.
The incoming Samohi Junior recently finished a stint as the only high school student to attend the Lechaion Harbor Settlement Land Project archaeological dig in Corinth, Greece.
The team of students lead by two mentors spent six weeks digging in Lechaion Harbor to discover the purpose of various ancient Greek buildings surrounding the harbor. This project began last summer with students from CSULB, Case Western University, and Coe College who returned this summer to continue studying the northern third of the large excavation site. Hall joined the work later than her college counterparts due to her high school schedule and said the project took her out of her comfort zone.
Their early start to the busy day allows for them to get in plenty of work before the summer heat becomes too unbearable. They wake up at 5 a.m., leave for the dig at 5:45 a.m., dig until 10 a.m., take a 30-minute water break and dig again until 1 p.m. They return to their dorms by 1:30 p.m. to avoid the more than 100-degree afternoon temperatures.
Hall said the hard work is justified by the results.
“The work, while physically grueling and laborious, is entirely worth the effort as it will help future (and present) historians piece together what life in Ancient Greece was like,” she said.
For Hall, the physical work is as rewarding as the intellectual discovery.
“A reason I love archaeology is that it ties in my love for history with exercise and physical labor (not widely accessible to a Santa Monica high school kid),” she said. “Holding a pick axe in my hand and keeping up with weight-lifting college guys is pretty empowering. Though it’s easy to get discouraged while shoveling dirt in 100-degree heat, it’s all worth it when you realize that the piece of pottery in your hand was held by someone hundreds and hundreds of years ago. It’s extremely humbling to be standing in the exact same place on the same tile that an Ancient Corinthian was.”
This program is run by respected CSU Long Beach professor and director of the Los Angeles branch of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), Professor Paul Scotton, alongside professor at Coe College, Dr. Angela Ziskowski.
Hall said she has been a member of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) for two years, often attending archaeological lectures and lunches. However, her love for history and archaeology began much earlier.
Even in her early memories as a child, she recalls playing with a mock excavation toy set that occupied her for hours. After finally chipping away at a mini sand pyramid it revealed a plastic sphinx that she still has today.
She also accredits much of her love for history to her father who is also a fellow history professor.
“The passion for the past that he’s instilled in me has helped me pursue archaeology as a hobby and possibly as a major in university,” she said.
She said her high school classes have also had an influence on her pursuits.
“This past year, as a sophomore, I took the AP World History course,” she said. “Though it was a lot of work, it taught me how to work through stress, take thorough notes, manage time, and above all, to love history.”
She said prior history classes were too brief to provide the kind of knowledge she craved and the AP class made a big difference.
“AP World History (taught by Ms. Halley Cox, a wonderful, caring, and knowledgeable teacher) provided me with a place to expand my limited knowledge of history,” she said. “I will be forever grateful for that. Though I did an archaeological dig last summer, before AP World History, the class really helped me to lock in my passion for the subject. I find that I am able to offer much more genuine intellectual and historical opinion at site than I was before taking the class.”
Hall said History is an underrated subject and that American students are shortchanged by a lack of rigorous history instruction during their pre-college years.
“History is very often dissed by kids of my generation based off of the notion that it’s boring and useless,” she said. “The fact is, history is extremely relevant to today. By learning the patterns of history, one becomes more aware of the patterns of humanity, can tie in current world crises to those of the past, and can learn to not repeat mistakes from throughout history.”
After completing high school, Hall is considering attending a British University with the prospect of pursuing a major in archaeology.