Archaeologists in Action: Susanna Faas-Bush

In this installment of Archaeologists in Action, Katie Maleckar and Rachel Vales speak with club founder Susanna Faas-Bush, OC ‘18. At the time of the interview, Faas-Bush was preparing for graduation and life beyond Oberlin. We are happy to report that she has now finished her first year as a PhD student at UC Berkeley.

Faas-Bush was involved in the Oberlin Archaeology Society from the very beginning. She and her co-founder Will Austin (OC ’15) noted that while Oberlin had an entire major devoted to archaeology, hands-on applications of the discipline were virtually nonexistent within the college’s program. OAS became a space for Oberlin community members to learn about and explore the past through crafts and tactile activities, a genre collectively dubbed experimental archaeology. Faas-Bush credits the beginnings of her forays into experimental archaeology to her love of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series as a child. Of her impulse to create objects based on the past, she says, “I’ve always been a crafter myself, so drawing on my own experience to try and understand what was happening back then has always been really natural to me and very interesting”.

Faas-Bush at Sangro Valley, Tornareccio Italy

Faas-Bush’s participation in Oberlin’s archaeology scene was positively impacted by the college’s involvement with the Sangro Valley Project, a field school to which Professor Susan Kane brought Oberlin students for many years. After attending an info session freshman year, her subsequent involvement with the project felt fairly natural to her: “And so for the next couple of years in July that was what I did, between the heat and the flies and just the…everything else that was”. It was this initial experience, Faas-Bush says, that ultimately helped her decide to pursue archaeology. It gave her the opportunity to experience fieldwork before committing to Oberlin’s demanding archaeology major, and she feels fortunate that the experience did not end up being a deterrent.

Her interest in the ancient world started early. In high school, Faas-Bush studied Latin for two years and took a class called “World of Rome” that looked at Roman history in conjunction with ancient texts. Faas-Bush knew she wanted to continue studying the ancient world. At Oberlin, she majored in Latin Language and Literature and Archaeological Studies. She was able to combine her interests in ancient languages, history, and material culture.

Faas-Bush at her internship at Boston’s Harvard Art Museums

Faas-Bush has decided to dive deeper in archaeology and is now pursuing her PhD in Roman Archaeology at UC Berkeley. She is excited to add her own contributions to the field of archaeology and is interested to see what happens next, with legacy data, new archaeological techniques, and future discoveries. For her, archaeology is both a career path and a personal passion. Even when she saw Kinky Boots, her archaeological training was never far away. As an audience member, she observed how one clothing item—the kinky boot— had a significant socio-cultural effect in the musical.

Her specific archaeological passions are questions of social history, specifically gender identity formation and presentation, and textiles. During the 2018 Senior Symposium, Faas-Bush gave a presentation entitled “Ancient Textile Production in the Archaeological Record of Karanis, Egypt”. In the same semester, she led an OAS Textile Workshop where students (read: experimental archaeologists) made spindle whorls, spun wool into yarn, and wove using the ancient weaving method sprang.

Faas-Bush teaches OAS Textile Workshop attendees how to sprang

At the time of this interview, Faas-Bush had recently decided to continue her studies UC Berkeley.  She advises anyone interested in graduate school to reach out for support and visit programs, interact with the program faculty and current students. As part of her application, she submitted a personal statement, as well as a writing sample, which she adapted from a paper she wrote about the Temple of the Syrian Gods in Rome at the Centro (Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies).

Her decision to go to Berkeley came down to the faculty that she wanted to work with and the fit of the school in general. She jokes that she grew up in “hippie Boston [Cambridge/Arlington, Massachusetts]”, went to college in “hippie Oberlin”, and thus the choice to move to “hippie Berkeley” felt right. Faas-Bush also knew and took several classes with a UC Berkeley alumna, Elizabeth Wueste, our first Archaeologist in Action, who was a postdoctoral  fellow and visiting professor at Oberlin College, before becoming an Assistant Professor of Archaeology and Classics at The American University of Rome.

Faas-Bush on site at Sangro Valley

Over the years, Susanna has been an integral member of this organization. Her passion for experimental archaeology is something that inspires every person she meets. Her dedication has made OAS what it is today, an educational organization  designed to appeal to even the least experienced archaeologist. She saw a need to create an environment where people could learn about the past through experimental archaeology at any level, to engage their passion, and to build a community. It has been our pleasure to continue her work.


For examples of Susanna’s craft: see Polytropia on Etsy and Instagram.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: