Transcribing Hidden Knowledge from the Past
Classics major Max Gavenman ’22 transcribed religious artifacts from Latin to English and learned about life in ancient Rome in an internship through the REAL program.
By Sarah Stoddard ’23
When Max Gavenman ’22 (Classics) was in high school, his affinity for learning Latin began. After he came to Santa Clara University, he was able to really focus on studying the language and exploring related interests. During the summer of 2020, he participated in an internship through the REAL program that allowed him to gain real world job experience while exploring his passions. Working with Biola University, Gavenman transcribed religious artifacts from ancient Mediterranean regions, translating from Latin into English in order to better understand how the ancient Romans viewed their gods.
Working full-time, Gavenman’s internship occurred remotely. “Sure, it was grueling,” he says, “but when you're doing something you like, it’s worthwhile and you enjoy it.” He got the opportunity to spend a lot of time working one-on-one with his internship director, Zehavi Husser from Biola University. During each of their weekly meetings, Gavenman would learn something new about various facets of ancient Roman society that would aid with his translations. The internship was both an opportunity to practice skills he had already learned in school and gain new knowledge about the subject.
“There was a very wide range of objects with inscriptions I was translating,” he says, describing an average workday. “And these inscriptions acted as records of what ancient Romans thought about their gods.” The inscriptions were found on items such as chalices, goblets, pillars, and tombstones. Every day, Gavenman would study these inscriptions in online databases, translate them, and look for key information such as the names and identities of the dedicator(s). Ultimately, his findings are just one part of a much bigger project and will be utilized by Husser in her research to form important conclusions about ancient Romans and their views on their gods.
As for his future career, Gavenman gained a lot of insight from Husser who encouraged him to consider attending graduate or law school and to continue studying the subjects he likes. The work he completed over the summer was very meaningful—it gave him real world experience doing a job that allowed him to discover valuable information, and he would love to continue finding other opportunities to use his skills and uncover hidden knowledge from the past. To those interested in Classics and learning Latin, Gavenman gives a bit of advice: “Classics, in part, is sort of like a juicy soap opera: the more you watch and study it, the more sucked in you get! However, soap operas inevitably get old; Classics never does, the content sticks with you for life. Stick with it, the material may be harsh and unforgiving, but the end result is so worth it!”
About the REAL Program
The REAL Program provides paid experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate students in the College of Arts and Sciences. Developed to allow students to discover their interests, gain a rich understanding of a particular field, discern their career goals, and explore future employment fields, the program has distributed nearly $1.7 million to more than 300 students across all majors since its inception in 2018. Placements range from non-profit and community service organizations to research labs, governmental organizations, and beyond. Learn more at www.scu.edu/real/.