Digital Archaeology

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Malkia Okech, C'19

Malkia Okech, C’19, has been interested in ancient Egypt for as long as she can remember. She recalls childhood books aplenty on mummies, the pyramids, and the mystery of ancient civilizations.

The ancient world still holds a powerful allure for Okech. Now, she is a Near Eastern Studies major with minors in digital humanities and fine arts. She focuses on the intersection between archaeology and technology.

“The disciplines are very much intertwined. I am interested in the utilization of technology to make research efforts more transparent and accessible,” says Okech, who began a student exhibition internship at the Penn Museum this fall.

“It’s not to be flashy and entertaining. It’s about being interactive and getting people who visit museums to be part of the archeological process. There’s a place for creating digital immersive experiences.”

Okech traveled to Armenia in June, where she and a research team used technology including a custom app to pinpoint where artifacts are found, drone photography, and 3-D scanning for pottery shards.

Okech now uses data from the Armenia survey to work on a virtual reality project with Paul Cobb, Professor and Chair of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.

The objects Okech and the team located have the potential to reveal previously unknown things about a long-gone society, she explains. As she continues her education and training, she hopes to turn her attention to ancient Egypt, the time and place that first drew her to her field, and to investigate what is still unknown.

“A very small percentage of ancient Egypt has been excavated. We know a lot about the elite culture of Egypt, but what about the other classes, the common life of Egypt?” she asks. “The nuances of social stratification are difficult to define because of a lack of artifacts. They weren’t covered in gold! One thing we do have is pottery, studying ceramics. You can see artisanal value, everyday life.”