Anthropology Teacher Digs to Discover History, Not Just Deserts Syrian Excavation Site Will Be Inundated by Lake in Three Years

By Charles Hurt Of the Post-Dispatch | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), August 22, 1995 | Go to article overview

Anthropology Teacher Digs to Discover History, Not Just Deserts Syrian Excavation Site Will Be Inundated by Lake in Three Years


Charles Hurt Of the Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Michael J. Fuller spends his summers working in warm sand, but it's no day at the beach.

This summer, as in the past seven, Fuller worked in the desert of Syria, squatting and crouching and digging in 120-degree heat for answers.

"Archaeology is always a labor of love," said Fuller, a professor of anthropology at Florissant Valley Community College. "No one is in it for the monetary rewards. It's a lot of hard work."

Fuller's dig is the remains of Tell Tuneinir (pronounced "too-ne-NEER") - a town that first was inhabited 5,000 years ago.

Fuller and his archaeologist wife, Neathery, take area college students for the seven-week digs.

Fuller, 41, who speaks "hillbilly Arabic," has been digging through the sands of the world since 1978, when he went to Egypt while earning his doctorate from Washington University.

The Syrian site, along with everything found in it, belongs to Syria, which has granted Fuller and his wife full control over the excavation. The dig should be complete in about three years, when the site will be submerged by a lake that is being built for water and energy supplies.

Chip Clatto is a former student of Fuller's and one of six people who spent $2,500 on this summer's trip.

"Fuller enjoys teaching a lot in a classroom," Clatto said. "But being outside at an actual site, that is his bread and butter." Clatto is a senior at Fontbonne College, studying to be a high school history teacher.

This year's dig centered on uncovering a market dating back 700 years. Fuller said the market was a little like the farmer's market in Soulard, with factories, warehouses and hotels surrounding the actual marketplace. …

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