C of I enjoys summer of archaeological discovery

It has been a busy summer for Jan Summers Duffy, an archaeologist and curator at the Orma J. Smith Museum of Natural History on campus.

Duffy recently partnered with other professionals and students through the Idaho Archaeological Society – which meets at the museum – to excavate a historic Boise surgeon’s house that dated to the 1860s. The building was one of the first constructed as part of Fort Boise. The excavation took place because the building is being renovated and the Veteran’s Administration and Preservation Idaho recognized a unique opportunity for archaeologists to partner with the preservation community and offer a glimpse into life in Boise 150 years ago.

In addition to the excavation, Duffy was contacted at the museum by Michael Heinle, a researcher for the UCLA Cuneiform Digital Initiative project. Duffy was pleasantly surprised to learn that the College’s Robert E. Smylie Archives are home to clay Cuneiform tablets – one of the earliest known forms of writing famous from the ancient Mesopotamian site Ur. The nine small tablets were given to the College many years ago by Edgar J. Banks of the Oriental Institute during a campus visit and lecture.

“I’m excited to find these tablets in the archives,” Duffy said. “I am happy we have them in the College’s collections and can collaborate with other institutions on important world cultures.”

The Cuneiform tablets date to the Sumerian civilization of Ur III, ca. 2100-2000 BC. Sir Leonard Wooley excavated there in 1922. Heinle recently came to campus to scan, photograph and document the tablets into the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative database, where they will be studied further.

“The tablets are mostly receipts from after the Ur lll civilization,” Duffy said. “And the one cone-shaped cuneiform cites a building dedication.”

Any students, faculty or staff interested in learning more or participating in future excavations are welcome to contact Duffy at [email protected].

Founded in 1891, The College of Idaho is the state’s oldest private liberal arts college. It has a century-old tradition of educating some of the most accomplished graduates in Idaho, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three Marshall Scholars, and another 12 Truman and Goldwater Scholars. The College is located on a beautiful campus in Caldwell, Idaho. Its distinctive PEAK curriculum challenges students to attain competencies in the four knowledge peaks of the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field, enabling them to graduate with an academic major and three minors in four years. For more information on The College of Idaho, visit