History major Caleb Bowman wasn’t about to miss his chance interacting with a man who has sat across the table from Vladimir Putin and numerous other heads of state. So when former White House National Security Advisor John Bolton finished his presentation to a group of PBA students Jan. 19, Bowman rose first to ask a question.
“What would you say is the dividing line where we should commit the military to ensure our interests are protected abroad?” asked Bowman.
Secret Service agent looking on, Bolton explained that Caesar’s Commentaries and other ancient reports “read like contemporary events,” as players on the world stage have weighed diplomacy against warfare. “It’s fascinating,” Bolton said.
No doubt Bowman also finds it fascinating. As a member of the Frederick M. Supper Honors Program, he has soaked up great writings from the ancients. He has led overseas trips and landed internships on archaeological digs. He has won a fellowship to research U.S. involvement in Yemen and his country’s relationship with Iran.
“Caleb is an excellent example of a PBA student taking full advantage of our opportunities to build toward a career,” said Associate Professor of History Dr. Elizabeth Stice.
Since high school, Bowman has loved history, but as he thought about possible careers, he looked beyond the role of history teacher. “I wanted to kind of be more engaged with the frontlines of history,” he said. That led him into the ditches of archaeologists, first in the Irish Archaeology Field School. There for a month in 2021 he joined a team excavating Ferrycarrig, the first recorded Anglo-Norman fortification in Ireland.
“Archaeology is not Indiana Jones style where you just go in there and grab treasure,” he told his audience last March, as he presented a report at PBA’s Interdisciplinary Research Conference. Rather, “it’s the study of human past, of heritage, of culture.” Excavating the fort Ferrycarrig represented “a key turning point in our understanding of the tensions between Ireland and Great Britain,” he said.
Last summer, Bowman traveled to Kazakhstan to work as an intern archaeologist on a dig uncovering a Syriac Christian community graveyard. “It was incredible,” he said, recounting extracting DNA from the 800-year-old skeletal remains of Christians “who would have been very ostracized under Muslim rule.” By discovering evidence of this small community and studying DNA, archaeologists can learn much about how these people lived, Bowman said. He found it a “remarkable” and faith-building opportunity to highlight Christian history.
“There’s something about understanding yourself and who you are in a context of a greater narrative,” he said. “Like you’re part of a history of God’s working among peoples and nations.” Through the lens and context of history, Bowman said, “you gain insight to appreciate more the blessings that God has given you now, and the blessings of the society we live in.”
Eventually Bowman hopes to earn a Ph.D. and work in archaeology overseas. At PBA, his attentive professors, his study of history and his growing research and writing skills have provided “a great springboard” for that career, he said.