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Archive for September, 2012

UNL team unearths giant Roman mosaic in southern Turkey

Monday, September 17th, 2012

A University of Nebraska-Lincoln archaeological team has uncovered a massive Roman mosaic in southern Turkey – a meticulously crafted, 1,600-square-foot work of decorative handiwork built during the region’s imperial zenith.

It’s believed to be the largest mosaic of its type in the region and demonstrates the reach and cultural influence of the Roman Empire in the area in the third and fourth centuries A.D., said Michael Hoff, Hixson-Lied professor of art history at UNL and the director of the excavation.

“Its large size signals, in no small part, that the outward signs of the empire were very strong in this far-flung area,” Hoff said. “We were surprised to have found a mosaic of such size and of such caliber in this region – it’s an area that had usually been off the radar screens of most ancient historians and archaeologists, and suddenly this mosaic comes into view and causes us to change our focus about what we think (the region) was like in antiquity.”

Since 2005, Hoff’s team has been excavating the remains of the ancient city of Antiochia ad Cragum on the southern Turkish coast. Antiochus of Commagene, a client-king of Rome, founded the city in the middle of the first century.

“This region is not well understood in terms of history and archaeology,” Hoff said. “It’s not a place in which archaeologists have spent a lot of time, so everything we find adds more evidence to our understanding of this area of the Roman Empire.

“We’re beginning to understand now that it was more Romanized, more in line with the rest of the Roman world than was suspected before. (The nature of the mosaic) hammers home how Roman this city truly is.”

Antiochia ad Cragum had many of the trappings expected of a Roman provincial city – temples, baths, markets and colonnaded streets, said Hoff. The city thrived during the empire from an economy focused on agricultural products, especially wine and lumber.

Excavation has focused on a third-century imperial temple, and also a street lined with shops. In July, the team began to explore the mosaic, which was part of a Roman bath. The decoration consists of large squares, each filled with different colored geometric designs and ornamentation.

“This would have been a very formal associated pavement attached to the bath,” Hoff said. “This is a gorgeous mosaic, and its size is unprecedented” – so large, in fact, that work crews have uncovered only an estimated 40 percent of its total area.

Hoff said it appears the mosaic served as a forecourt for the adjacent large bath, and that at least on one side, evidence shows there was a roof covering the geometric squares that would have been supported by piers. Those piers’ remains are preserved, he said.

Meanwhile, the middle of the mosaic was outfitted with a marble-lined, 25-foot-long pool, which would have been uncovered and open to the sun. The other half of the mosaic, adjacent to the bath, has yet to be revealed but is expected to contain the same type of decoration, Hoff said. Crews expect to unearth the entire work next summer.

Team members first noticed the mosaic in 2001 when a large archaeological survey project that included Hoff noticed plowing by a local farmer had brought up pieces of a mosaic in a field next to a still-standing bath structure. The find was brought to the attention of the archaeological museum in Alanya, who two years later made a minor investigation that revealed a small portion of the mosaic.

Last year, the museum invited Hoff to clear the mosaic and to preserve it for tourists and scholars. Hoff’s 60-person team also included Birol Can, assistant professor of archaeology at Atatürk University in Ezrurum, Turkey, a sister university to the University of Nebraska; students from UNL; other students from Turkey and the United States; and workers from a nearby village. About 35 students participated in the project as part of a summer field school Hoff runs.

Watch a video of Hoff discussing the find and see footage of the excavation.

Phalin Strong, a sophomore art major from Lincoln, said the work was difficult but satisfying.

“It is strange to realize that you are the first person to see this for centuries – a feeling that also made me think about impermanence and what importance my actions have on humanity and history,” Strong said.

Ben Kreimer, a senior journalism major, agreed: “(Working on) the mosaic was great because the more soil you removed, the more mosaic there was,” he said. “Visually, it was also stunning, especially once it got cleaned off. It wasn’t very deep under the surface of the soil, either, so … we had to be careful not to swing the handpick too hard so as not to damage the priceless mosaic that lay just inches beneath us.”

Hoff said the significance of this summer’s discovery has him eager to return to the site and see what the rest of the excavation uncovers.

“As an archaeologist, I am always excited to make new discoveries. The fact that this discovery is so large and also not completely uncovered makes it doubly exciting,” he said. “I am already looking forward to next year, though I just returned from Turkey.”

Contact: Michael Hoff, Hixson-Lied Professor of Art History, (402) 472-5342 or

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UNL in the national news, August 2012

Thursday, September 6th, 2012
National media outlets featured and cited UNL sources on a number of topics in the past month. Appearances in national media included:

Namas Chandra, mechanical and materials engineering, had the Trauma Mechanics Research Initiative that he is leading appear in an Aug. 9 story in Popular Science.

Wheeler Winston Dixon, film studies, was quoted Aug. 2 by the Boston Globe on celebrities facing PR crises.

Ismail Dweikat, agronomy and horticulture, was featured Aug. 9 on CBS News about the harvest potential of sorghum, particularly during a severe drought.

Sarah Gervais, psychology, had her research on how men and women are perceived appear in a number of media outlets in early August, including the Huffington Post and Prevention Magazine.

James Goecke and John Gates, earth and atmospheric sciences, were both quoted extensively in an Aug. 6 special report by the Washington Post on the Keystone XL and the Ogallala Aquifer.

Matthew Jockers, English, had his text-mining project that plotted the relationships between 3,500 18th- and 19th century novels featured by several outlets in mid-August, including New Scientist, WIRED, NBC News and Smithsonian Magazine.

Bruce Johnson, agricultural economics, was quoted by United Press International on Aug. 29 about U.S. farm incoming rising despite persistent drought.

Experts at UNL’s National Drought Mitigation Center continued to appear regularly in national and international media outlets as drought persisted in August. Mark Svoboda, Brian Fuchs, Mark Hayes were quoted in dozens of outlets throughout the month, including the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press, NBC News, Reuters, the Kansas City Star and many others.

Christal Sheppard, law, was quoted in the Wall Street Journal on Aug. 24 about Apple’s legal victory over Samsung in a much-watched patent case. She was also quoted by the Dow Jones Newswire about the International Trade Commission’s finding that Apple did not violate Google’s patents. The story ran in several media outlets around the country.

Paul Steger, Director of the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film, had his Houston-based production of Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” reviewed by the Houston Chronicle.

Eric Thompson, economics, was quoted Aug. 17 by The Associated Press about the state’s unemployment rate topping 4 percent, and about UNL’s Bureau of Business Research’s economic indicators for the state.

David Wilson, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs; Ruth Lionberger, international projects manager; and Pat McBride, coordinator of student engagement; appeared in an Aug. 26 Associated Press story about UNL changing its programming to improve service to international students. Students Guman Singh, Mei Yee Ng and volunteer Beth Cordell were also quoted in the story, which ran in dozens of media outlets around the country.

National media often work with University Communications to identify and connect with UNL sources for the purpose of including the university’s research, expertise and programming in published work. Faculty and administration appearances in the national media are logged at

To offer suggestions on potential national news stories or sources at UNL, contact Steve Smith at or 402-472-4226.

National survey of economists finds vast gender gap in policy views

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Is there a “gender gap” in the views of professional economists? A new national study finds that while most economists agree on core economic concepts, values and methods, they differ along gender lines in their views on important economic policy.

The study – believed to be the first systematic analysis of male and female economists’ views on a wide variety of policy issues – surveyed hundreds of members of the American Economic Association. The research team found that despite having similar training and adherence to core economic principles and methodology, male and female economists hold different opinions on particular current economic issues and specific economic policies including educational vouchers, health insurance and policies toward labor standards.

Women economists in the study, for example, are less likely to favor limiting government-backed redistribution policies than men. They also view gender inequality as a U.S. labor market problem more than their male counterparts do, and are more likely to favor government intervention over market solutions than men.

Meanwhile, the average male economist sees government regulation as more excessive, exhibits greater support for reducing tariffs, and is more opposed to mandating that employers provide their employees health insurance.

“We wanted to learn if it would make any difference if men or women were at the table when economic policies were debated and alternatives considered,” said Ann Mari May, professor of economics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Business Administration and the study’s lead author. “These results suggest that the answer to that question is a clear and definitive yes.”

The research also found very different interpretations of the status of job opportunity for men and women, both in economics academia and in the broader job market. Male economists, on average, said that opportunities are relatively equal between the genders in the United States, while the average female economist in the study disagrees.

Similarly, when economists were asked about the gender wage gap, the average male economist agrees that differences in productivity and voluntary occupational choices lead to men earning more, while female economists tend to disagree.

The study comes at a time when the national discussion, including the presidential campaign, is dominated by the economy and about which policies are best for the United States. The authors say their results highlight the importance of including economists of both genders when forming policy to ensure that a variety of professional perspectives are included.

“If demographic differences such as sex help shape our views of policy related questions, it is important that women be included on boards and in policy-making circles at all levels of decision-making,” said Mary McGarvey, UNL associate professor of economics and one of the study’s co-authors. “While including women in policy-making circles does not prevent the selection of only those individuals with shared beliefs, it nonetheless may increase the possibility that diverse viewpoints will be represented.”

Also among the findings:

- By 20 percentage points, women economists are more likely to disagree that either the United States or the European Union has excessive government regulations. They also are 24 percentage points more likely to believe the size of the U.S. government is either “too small” or “much too small.”

- Women are 41 percentage points more likely than men to favor a more progressive tax structure and 32 percentage points more likely to agree with making the U.S. income distribution more equal.

- Men support the use of vouchers in education more strongly and were more likely to support drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The study is forthcoming in the journal Contemporary Economic Policy. In addition to UNL’s May and McGarvey, the study was authored by Robert Whaples, professor of economics at Wake Forest University.

Contacts: Ann Mari May, professor of economics, (402) 472-3369 or; Mary McGarvey, associate professor of economics, (402) 472-9415 or

Coverage: USA TODAY | Slate | Wall Street Journal | Bloomberg | Chronicle of Higher Education | Inside Higher Ed | NBC News | Daily Mail (UK) |