Krista Albers Digs History in a Literal Way
Ever since Krista Albers was a student in grade school in North Platte, Neb. — pondering the common question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” — she’s had her heart set on becoming an archaeologist.
Krista’s passion for history remained strong as she grew older. The stories she heard from veterans for a research paper she wrote in high school on the use and effects of chemical warfare during the Vietnam War inspired a love of oral history.
Now a senior at Wayne State College majoring in history with a minor in anthropology, Krista can say she’s had the opportunity to work as a true archaeologist.
Last summer, Krista, Dr. Susan Ellis, professor of anthropology, and WSC alumna Liz Lofgren traveled with people from across the country to Jordan for an archaeological dig from June to August.
“The Jordan trip really cemented what I want to do,” Krista said. “I love traveling and going on excavations.”
Krista and her group were stationed at Hartha, Jordan, which is near Irbid, the third-largest city in Jordan. They lived at a girls’ school and excavated at an archaeological site called Abila of the Decapolis.
“We would wake up at 4 a.m. and work until noon on our excavations, five days a week,” Krista said. “We would go through pottery, and we got to catalog pottery. Each weekend, we traveled to a different area, like Azraq to see the Crusader Castles.”
Krista said their group also traveled to Aqaba, a port in southern Jordan, where they went scuba diving. At the end of their Jordan trip, the students also got to visit Israel and Egypt.
Despite the joy she got from the daily excavations and the findings she uncovered, such as a worn grinding stone and intact oil lamp, Krista said there were concerns and complications that made the trip challenging.
“The biggest concern was the conflict in Syria,” Krista said. “We were 15 miles away from the Syrian border, and you could hear bombing while we worked.”
Krista said that the plumbing in Jordan is also much different from that of the U.S. In Jordan, students used porcelain holes in the ground Krista jokingly called “squatty potties,” which she said were an eye-opener for some students.
Krista also said communicating with the people of Jordan was often difficult, but once language barriers were broken, relations went very smoothly.
“Being from the U.S., there is very much a stereotype of Muslim people and how they view us,” Krista said. “It definitely opened my eyes to see that these people are really interested in the U.S.”
The interactions and resulting understanding of different cultures are often the greatest benefit for students, according to Ellis.
“It’s always a delight to see students go into a new environment and have that out-of-culture experience and see the growth there,” Ellis said. “If one plans to go into archaeology, one should know what it’s like. It’s neat to see students have these experiences, and we’ll always be able to talk about our discoveries.”
Krista said her overall experience from the trip was a positive one.
“Despite having to be up at 4 a.m., the excavations were great,” Krista said. “We were discovering history, and I loved that. You never knew what you would find. I would really encourage people to go abroad if they have the opportunity. It’s been great for me, and it has a special place in my heart.”
The Jordan archaeological trip, which is run by volunteers, is offered every two years under the aegis of John Brown University. Anyone interested can go. WSC students may also receive college credit.
“It gives an idea of how we get our history,” Ellis said. “It brings history to life and makes it real. You also get to see that other people aren’t just a failed attempt to be American. They have a culture that works for them.”
As for Krista, who will graduate in May, she said she plans to start her master’s degree in Southeast Asian studies in the fall, and eventually get her Ph.D. in forensic anthropology or history. This spring, she will stay involved with the Sci-Fi Club as secretary, Phi Alpha Theta, Cardinal Key, Pi Gamma Mu Social Sciences Honor Society, Phi Kappa Phi, and Holland Academic Success Center history and anthropology tutor.
Krista said she hopes to one day teach at the college level and take her own students on archaeological excavations and share her love of history, just like she got to do in Jordan.