iMahal Interview Series:
July 22, 2001
Archeology was now your passion and you were headed for a PhD. But you took a detour, no?
Yes. I got my masters at NYU, but I had the opportunity to go to Harvard, so I went and studied Sumerian for a year with Piotr Steinkeller whom I had always admired and who was very generous to me. I didn't have any ancient Near-Eastern languages at that point. I also studied more Mesopotamian art with Irene Winter, and took a lot of Egyptology classes with a visiting professor from Oxford named John Baines.
John Baines had a profound intellectual affect on my life. I don't know how else to put it. He was very interested in theoretical models that you can use to look at civilizations, and that was very different than the approach to art history and archaeology that I had been taught.
Professor Steinkeller at Harvard
I was already developing an interest in more theoretical ways of looking at archeological material. When I met John Baines, it was really a catalyst for me. He was the one who suggested that I apply to Oxford University. Oxford has a system that is very different from that of an American university. It's like apples and oranges, you can't compare the two. There is a famous professor there named Roger Moorey whose work I had read and admired a great deal. John said to me, "Why don't you write to Roger Moorey and ask if he will take you at Oxford." So I took my masters dissertation and a couple of other papers I had written and I mailed them to Roger Moorey, with a letter saying I would be interested in studying with him. Within 10 days of my mailing the material to him, he had read it and replied to me that he would be delighted to have me as his student at Oxford and to be sure to mention on the application for admission that he would be happy to admit me. That was it -- I knew I was in at Oxford!
..I was already developing an interest in more theoretical ways of looking at archeological material..
All photographs copyright and courtesy of David Gimbel or Archaeos