Materials compiled by the late Grace Burkholder, a teacher, and amateur archaeologist, will soon be available to researchers through the University Libraries Special Collections at Binghamton University.
Grace Burkholder became famous in the field of Near Eastern archaeology for discoveries she made while serving as a teacher at Aramco during the 1950s and ‘60s. She found pottery from the fifth millennium B.C. that proved the Mesopotamian Ubaid culture extended further into the Arabian desert than had been known.
Always the adventurous type, it is unsure how Grace made the decision to work for Aramco. She traveled quite a bit before landing in Saudi Arabia, having gone to Hawaii, Guam, and Quagland.
Grace started working in the field of archaeology with no formal training. In Geoffrey Bibby’s book “Searching for Dilmun,” she is described as just one more of the “pot pickers.” Grace was someone who was always attracted to new and interesting opportunities and Arabia presented a fabulous opportunity to engage in her archaeological interests.
Grace worked for Aramco for twenty years before she retired to the deserts of Nevada.
Grace's granddaughter, Jo Ellen Burkholder, facilitated the donation of Grace's expansive work.
Jo Ellen, an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, is following in her grandmother’s footsteps. She currently lives in Whitewater, Wisconsin, and teaches Cultural Anthropology as well as an interdisciplinary social science course. She offers a few specialty courses including “Tombs, Temples & Buried Treasures” (an intro to archaeology), “Archaeology of Women” and for the first time in the Spring she’ll be teaching a course on Pre-Columbian Civilization.
Jo Ellen became interested in archaeology at an early age and even went to “archaeology camp” during the summer of her 13th year. Like Grace, her primary interest in the field of archaeology has been with ancient pottery. Jo Ellen is finishing up a study of pottery and other materials from a site in highland Bolivia, and is in the initial stages of preparing a new project for a site in one of the desert valleys of coastal Peru.
The donation that Jo Ellen facilitated to Binghamton University featured the original documents associated with the preparation of Grace’s book “An Arabian Collection.” These materials included original maps and field notes. The bulk however, amounted to her personal library on Near Eastern archaeology. The collection documents close to 25 years of this extraordinary archaeologist’s life.