by Caroline Sausser

By Caroline Sausser

While walking through the underground tunnel system of the Hospitaller compound in Old Acre, my fellow Miami students began a wonderful rendition of the Indiana Jones theme song. As we scurried through the short and narrow tunnel, it conjured images of a giant stone rolling down to chase us all out again. But while some feel like Indiana Jones during the exploration of new places and the work on the Tel, I feel like Nancy Drew.

The Nancy Drew I grew up with was  the independent and self-relying computer game version rather than her book counterpart. The games featured puzzles of varying difficulty in order to solve a mystery. They took Nancy to locations spanning from the Wild West to Scotland to Egypt. My favorite part was trying to figure out the puzzles, using information I had to gather throughout the story and thinking in different ways than I might initially.

Out here on the Tel, I have a chance to solve puzzles and mysteries every day. Some are a little less brain-vexing, “such as where can I put my feet in this square without standing on a tabun (ancient ovens named for the Arabic word for oven) or a piece of pottery with the least amount of discomfort?” But others are much more complex. For instance, the tabuns in my square were originally dated to the Early Hellenistic period. However, in and near the tabun, we have found pieces from the earlier Persian period. This leaves us with a couple of dating options, as the tabuns may have really been of the Persian period the whole time, or they may have been filled by either those from the Hellenistic period or the past excavator from the 1970’s and 1980’s, Dothan. Now our focus in digging in this area is to try to solve this mystery. And each little pot sherd and piece of tabun helps us move toward a solution to this puzzle: which era is the one “who-dun-it?”


Archaeology is all about using physical clues to solve the puzzles of the past, so that we in the present can understand a people we will never see or speak to. This is another aspect of archaeology that keeps my interest in the field. Though I’m not catching any murderers red-handed like Nancy, I am finding out what life was like for people in ancient times, and finding the things they used with hopes to understand how they used them. So grab a magnifying glass and join me on my very own Nancy Drew adventure, complete with secret tunnels—The Secret of the Age of the Tabuns!


Special thanks to my square supervisor, Darcy Calabria, for helping to explain the details of dating the tabuns to me!

Caroline Sausser
About Caroline Sausser
I am a Miami University student, Class of 2019. My majors are Classical Studies and Classical Languages, with a minor in Archaeology.


  • Vicki Sausser Carlson
    10:52 PM - 1 August, 2017

    I knew this was your posting from the title. Thanks for sharing your fantastic adventure.

  • Myrna Sausser
    3:20 PM - 2 August, 2017

    Loved your comparison to Nancy Drew! What you are doing and what I have learned through my work with genealogy is that life is just one big puzzle. Some of us really love to try to solve this. Thanks for sharing this all with me. Love you.

  • Aunt Sissy & Unche Curtis
    7:08 PM - 2 August, 2017

    Now that you are all grown up it is OK to play in the dirt and mud. You are finding really neat things from long, long ago. Go girl! XO

  • Rebecca Felix
    2:09 AM - 3 August, 2017

    Growing up reading all the Nancy Drew series, I too appreciate your vivid imagery relating your quest to a sleuth solving a mystery. Your work sounds fascinating, and we hope you continue to have a safe and meaningful adventure!

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It’s Up to You as Nancy Drew