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FYI Online

  May 2002   

Inside This Issue

UMUC Course Named "Best" by Maryland Distance Learning Association

Your Thoughts: Can I Borrow That? Is it Plagiarism?

UMUC Instructor Becomes Cyber-Crime Expert—the Hard Way

Graduate Earns Award for September 11 Valor

Commencement News

Around the World in 15 Days
Heidelberg Honors Maryland VIPs
Schwartz Receives Honorary Degree

Professor Studies Pompeii

Professor Shares Submarine Expertise on NOVA

News Updates and Briefs

Kudos: News About
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UMUC's Online

UMUC Professor Studies Pompeii

Betty Jo Mayeske
  Betty Jo Mayeske

By Alita Byrd
Special to FYI Online

What did the doomed citizens of Pompeii eat and drink? Where did they do their shopping? How did they prepare the food? How far away was the nearest bakery? These are all questions Betty Jo Mayeske, longtime UMUC professor and Pompeii historian, spends her summers working to answer. Mayeske has been offered a grant from Earthwatch to study all excavated areas of Pompeii, focusing on food and drink in the lives of ordinary Pompeii citizens pre-Vesuvius.

"We plan to analyze more than 200 structures this summer," Mayeske said. "The areas of the city we will study contain remarkable houses and a full complement of shops, temples, and markets."

This summer will be her second year working under the Earthwatch grant and Mayeske plans to spend at least three more seasons in Pompeii after this one.

"We are using some pretty jazzy computer programs and digitized maps, besides our five-year effort to study every structure," Mayeske said. "Pompeii alone of ancient cities permits an analysis of daily life of this scope and complexity."

Mayeske has special permission from the superintendent of Pompeii that grants her and her team total access to the city. Together with 30 staff members and Earthwatch volunteers, Mayeske is studying shops, hotels, temples, markets, and houses for evidence of how food and drink was stored, sold, or served. She has a variety of tools and methods at her disposal, such as measuring distances to learn how far households were situated from the nearest shops and bakeries.

According to Earthwatch, "this Roman town may have much to teach us about creating energy-efficient communities with a country flavor in densely populated areas."

Pompeii holds a wealth of unique information, well-preserved by the smoldering ash of Mt. Vesuvius. For instance, thanks to the rapidly carbonized remains, Mayeske now knows that when the ash began raining down on the town on August 24 of the year 79 A.D., Egyptian priests at the Temple of Isis abruptly abandoned their meal of fish and eggs.

This isn't Mayeske's first experience in Pompeii. She cataloged the 35 bakeries in Pompeii for her PhD dissertation. Her advisor was the esteemed American historian working in Pompeii, Wilhelmina Jashemski, who has studied the gardens in the ancient city.

Mayeske's current work is possible because of the backing of nonprofit volunteer organization Earthwatch. Her proposal for the grant was one of 40 selected from more than 600 applicants.

Mayeske is chair of humanities at UMUC and has taught a class called Roman Republic and the Roman Empire for nearly 25 years. She also introduced a UMUC course on the classical cities of Rome, Pompeii, and Tikal. In addition, she teaches courses in myth and culture, religion, and business ethics.

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