Professors to do Research in Oslo

   Agenda | Posted on August 20, 2014

by Becky St. Clair

The 2014-15 school year includes an exciting opportunity for professors Øystein and Asta LaBianca. Øystein is the associate director of the Institute of Archaeology and professor of anthropology and Asta is instructor of English, both at Andrews University, and both have a long-standing involvement with Andrews’ archaeological dig at Tall Hisban in Jordan.

Øystein’s involvement has included working with Terje Stordalen, a professor at the University of Oslo in Norway. During the coming school year, Oystein will be based at the Centre for Advanced Study (CAS) at the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters in Oslo. This appointment is part of the CAS’s annual selection of three research projects they fully fund and host for ten months.

Terje and Øystein’s project, “Local Dynamics of Globalization in the Pre-Modern Southern Levant,” is the CAS’s humanities project this year. Projects are selected based on a rigorous vetting process involving Norwegian and international review teams. The multi-disciplinary and international team of eight full-time researchers was awarded a generous grant to collaborate on their research.

“We’re looking to understand the role of canonized texts such as the Bible and the Koran in influencing and shaping the cultural and political programs in the pre-modern southern Levant—Israel, Jordan and Palestine,” says Øystein. “Particularly we’re interested in those that were championed by kings and emperors.”

In addition, their research is looking at the daily lives and aspirations of individuals, families and local communities in this area throughout the centuries.

“This research will contribute insight into the impact of globalization on traditional sources of cultural and political legitimacy, social order and conflict in the region today,” he adds.

Øystein’s input to this collaboration will be his research on the role of “great” (imperial) and “little” (local) traditions in shaping changes over time in the way of life of the inhabitants of Tall Hisban since early Iron Age times (1300 BC) to the present. In addition to contributing chapters to joint publications of the research group, Øystein aims to complete writing the final volume in the 14-volume series about Tall Hisban, “Hisban in Global History.”

Asta has been part of many field seasons in Jordan and has helped gather ethnographic information about the way of life of the present-day population living in vicinity of the ancient archaeological mound.

She will serve as lead editor and contributing author of the fourth and final publication of the series about Tall Hisban, Ethnoarchaeological Foundations. Kristin Witzel, adjunct professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences, will also be assisting with this volume.

“This part will document and explain the nature of various ‘little traditions’ observed in the village of Hisban in the recent past,” says Asta. “This includes residential flexibility, hospitality, honor and shame and tribalism.”

A faculty research grant from the Andrews University Office of Research & Creative Scholarship has enabled two undergraduate anthropology majors, Brittany Swart and Doneva Walker, to assist the LaBiancas with computerizing archival records, ethnographic notes, photographs and relevant articles. This will make them accessible in digitized form in Oslo for Asta’s use.

Learn more about their project at