Tuesday, October 27, 2009

MY OWN STORY -- RECENTLY IN THE GREENWICH CITIZEN

If you dig archaeology, check out the AAG
By Anne W. Semmes
Updated: 10/27/2009 12:46:32 PM EDT

Nancy Bernard is entranced by all things ancient - as befits the co-founder and director of the non-profit Archaeological Associates of Greenwich (AAG). A Greenwich resident since 1974, Bernard took a passion for Stone Age tools, her enthusiasm for archaeology and her teaching skills and used them to help educate more than 65,000 students in area schools and countless thousands of adults who've attended the AAG lectures held at the Bruce Museum.

It was at UCLA's Fowler Museum of Cultural History where Bernard became truly passionate about archaeology. There, as an intern, she became familiar with the Museum's Old World collection of stone tools and was trained to teach the "emergence of prehistoric people" program. She came away with a few tools on loan that she still has today and continues to use them to educate middle schools in Fairfield and Westchester counties. Ultimately, that passion would lead to the founding of AAG.

"When we started this organization," said Bernard. "We didn't know what we were doing. We were very naive."

"Somebody said let's do a day to see what archeologists do," Bernard said. "We had a hands-on day on Indian Field Road. I demonstrated Stone Age tools and we had three speakers." She also unearthed a pot, Late Woodlands, 1,500 AD, "about the time of Columbus," that was promptly given to the Bruce Museum.

However, a man had approached Bernard saying, "How can you be digging here - this is my site." "We had no idea," said Bernard.

But the group moved forward. "We knew we wanted lectures," she said, and the first ones were held at Brunswick School. "Bill Frick (teacher) was interested in archaeology but only three or four people came." Then the lectures moved to an inauspicious room on the top floor of the Bruce Museum - and the numbers grew from 4 to 60 people, with "better and better" speakers.

Today, that number is even larger."We now have from 80-100 people coming," said Bernard.

Bernard's co-founder was Cece Saunders of Westport who early on shared Bernard's interests. She recalled the topic of their first lecturer. "It was on the opening up of China, and archaeology in China. We'd meet every week for a lecture. Nancy trained us to be docents."

"We're very proud of this 35th birthday year of our organization," said Saunders. "Nancy has taken this love of hers to so many thousands of children, the story of evolution, the development of stone age tool making and culture, the legacy of the past."

To learn about that legacy of the past, an AAG family membership ($35) includes six lectures plus newsletters. Bernard also attracts an impressive number of speakers with her many associations. She's a former board member of the Archaeological Institute of America, and serves on Archaeology Magazine's Education Committee. Her next speaker on Nov. 19 is University of Pennsylvania Professor Brian Rose, who was sent to Iraq last spring by the State Department to investigate the status of Iraq's antiquities. Rose spoke to the AAG last year of the desecration of the Iraq historic sites.

Next May, Bernard reported, the subject of one lecture will be on Roman toilets - by a specialist known as "Queen of the Latrines."

For information on the Archaeological Associates of Greenwich visit their Web site is http://people.brandeis.edu/~jbernard/brucemuseum/aag.html

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