University of Manitoba archaeologist Haskel Greenfield will co-lead a $2.7 million research project in central Israel, digging up one of the world’s earliest neighborhoods to find out what urban life was like thousands of years ago.
Greenfield was among researchers across Canada to receive a Partnerships Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the federal agency announced today. He was awarded $2,694,791 and will partner with fellow archaeologist Aren Maeier of Bar-Ilan University in Israel.
Their team will unearth buried streets and houses from 2500 BC (about 4,500 years ago) at the ancient site of Tell es-Safi, a city likely destroyed by fire during battle. To date, most of what we know about early urban life is based on macroscopic approaches to archaeology. This will be the first time that archeologists will investigate a lower-class neighbourhood on a microscopic level in order to see what daily life was like for common folk.
For example, they will analyze the soil on site to detect what decomposed in that very spot. Greenfield wants to uncover every detail he can about everyday life in this early community, from what chores the people did and the vermin they had to contend with to the tools they used and foods they ate.
“Imagine somebody coming back to your kitchen a thousand years from now. Most items are perishable; you’d see pots, pans and plates maybe but foods would have been lost. This scientific approach allows us to also get at the foods,” says Greenfield. “We want to really see how the spaces were used.”
During this seven-year project, they expect to locate and analyze human and animal remains, along with more than 100,000 artifacts. They’ll use leading-edge digital scanning technology, which will enable 3D modeling of the excavation area and preserve the removed layers virtually.
“To understand how we organize our lives today, you have to understand where we came from,” says Greenfield. “Modern life in cities and neighbourhoods, whether it’s River Heights or St. James or East Kildonan, really has its origins going back 5,000 years ago to the early cities elsewhere.”
Two other University of Manitoba researchers, Jeffrey Masuda and Arlene Young, were each awarded a SSHRC Partnership Development Grant.
Jeffrey Masuda (environment and geography) and co-investigator Sonia Bookman (sociology) will receive $199,565 to explore long-standing human rights issues facing people who live in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. They will partner with community-based arts and cultural organizations to highlight these struggles and triumphs. The neighbourhood has been the setting for human rights violations against a succession of its communities: the Coastal Salish First Nations, Japanese Canadians, the African-Canadian settlement known as Hogan’s Alley, and most recently low-income residents who are trying to exercise their right to stay despite ongoing gentrification. The researchers will use stories of resilience, race, marginalization and displacement as a strategy to disrupt the current development-driven branding of this neighbourhood as “JapanTown.”
Arlene Young (English, film and theatre), along with co-investigators Brenda Austin-Smith (film studies) and Jason Leboe-McGowan (psychology), will receive $198,764 to provide a better understanding of how the physical expression of emotion—called affect—shapes how we interpret things. They are partnering with researchers at universities in Toronto, Florida and the United Kingdom. Together, they will explore how the experience of emotion—what we think of as gut reactions—determines how we respond to the world around around us, be it movies, books, or political issues. Their research will involve scholarly workshops as well as public debates, film screenings and museum exhibits.
“These research projects are diverse and show great promise,” says Digvir Jayas, vice-president (research and international) and Distinguished Professor at the University of Manitoba. “This funding affirms our ongoing commitment to establishing strong partnerships with other leading institutions and community-based groups locally and worldwide.”
SSHRC is the federal agency that promotes and supports postsecondary research and training in the humanities and social sciences.
For more information, please contact Janine Harasymchuk, client relations coordinator, Marketing Communications Office, University of Manitoba, 204-474-7300.