William Glanzman uncovers a passion for archaeology

You could say that Associate Professor William Glanzman’s passion for archaeology took root as a child when his mother would often find stones, bugs and all sorts of treasures he’d dug up from the garden in his pants pockets.

A typical funerary sculpture that once adorned a slot inside of a tomb, showing the deceased male elite in full dress recumbent on a couch with a cup raised in honour of his funerary feast; he and each of his family members are identified (through the father's line) with inscriptions in the curvilinear Palmyrene script set on their right side.

Today, Glanzman shares his passion for archaeology and all things related to the Old World (Europe, Asia and Africa) through the Old World Researchers’ Speaker Series that he regularly hosts at Mount Royal University, including his recent presentation on the Caravan City of Palmyra, Syria on March 22.

“Six years ago, I decided to create a forum to highlight the wonderful research that faculty are doing in the area of the Old World,” says Glanzman, PhD, about the free speaker series that takes place at the University every couple months throughout the academic year, and is open to the public to attend.

“There were so many faculty members at Mount Royal doing research on the Old World, but nobody knew anything about it.”

An expert in the field

Glanzman, an archaeologist with a specialty in the ancient Near East and its civilizations, has traveled widely throughout the Middle East. He has extensive field experience in Jordan (including Petra), and Yemen (as field director for the Mahram Bilqis Project in Marib).

His current research focus is camel caravan tracking from the Sultanate of Oman (as co-director of Brigham Young University’s Dhofar Project), through the Republic of Yemen (Wadi Raghwan Archaeological Project [WRAP]), and Saudi Arabia (as field archaeologist and ceramicist for the University of Miami’s Jurash Project).

Glanzman has led tours through Syria, especially Palmyra — the topic of the recent Old World Researchers’ Speaker Series. In graduate school he studied and has subsequently taught courses on Palmyra.

“I’ve been there, learned the language, studied the archaeology and led tours through the area; so I’m very well prepared and quite knowledgeable about the ancient customs,” says Glanzman.

Glanzman in front of a frankincense tree near archaeological sites close to Khor Mughsayl, Dhofar Governate, Sultanate of Oman.

Diving into Old World culture

To an audience of approximately 30 people, consisting of Mount Royal faculty and several students from his class, as well as individuals from his tour groups, Glanzman shared his insights of the Caravan City of Palmyra, Syria — one of the world’s most important ancient urban and commercial centres during the heyday of the Roman Empire.

“For many students who come, this experience is considered a wow factor for them,” says Glanzman. “They often say: ‘Wow, you were there? I didn’t even know anything about this place.’”

During the speaker series event, Glanzman focused on various aspects of the Palmyrene culture, including their unique architecture and art, extensive commercial activities, language and peculiar funerary customs.

“This very wealthy community arose because of its unique location by an oasis. If you were going to conduct any commerce at all you had to go through Palmyra — you had to stop here, eat, drink and stay,” he says.

“They had taxes on everything you could possibly think of — from prostitution and cooking oil, to salt and burial grounds.
“It’s a very interesting view into the ancient economy. No other civilization has this kind of data in terms of tax law; this is really unique in the ancient Near East.”

Hands-on learning

Glanzman brings materials from his field expeditions back to Mount Royal for conservation, study and analysis. The ancient artifacts are used in his hands-on classroom assignments and research projects for students, as well as for his student volunteer activities.

“I try to always bring my research activities into the classroom. I don’t see any separation from my research and teaching,” says Glanzman.

“I share with my students what archaeologists actually do. It’s not just about digging a hole and finding stuff. It’s not Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, it’s not Indiana Jones; though there are elements of danger that are real.”

— Jondrea De Ruyter,
April 11, 2013