January 2008 Issue
Ohioan - Dr James Harrell, Geologist + Egyptologist
|Dr. James Harrell, Geologist and Egyptologist
Photograph by James Harrell
OCCUPATION: A professor of geology at the University of Toledo, he’s a leading expert on ancient Egyptian mines.
HOW HE GOT HIS START: A fossil and coin collector, Harrell came across his first Roman coin at age 12, “beginning a love affair with ancient history.”
ONE OF MANY CLAIMS TO FAME: Harrell discovered the world’s oldest paved road, dated between 2600 and 2200 B.C., in a basalt quarry outside Cairo.
COMMON REQUEST: “Is this real or a forgery?” Harrell is often asked to look at objects, including “a beautifully carved Egyptian granite head of King Tutankhamun,” which turned out to be a fake.
DANGERS OF THE JOB: Canvassing the desert for artifacts is a bit more dangerous than his day job, Harrell recognizes. He once took a walk after dinner, got lost and found himself surrounded by wild dogs. On another occasion, he spent a cold, rainy night perched at the top of a tower after stumbling upon an old Egyptian military bunker.
LOOKING FORWARD TO: More ancient discoveries and eventually funding a no-kill animal shelter to satisfy the pet lover in him.
— Jill A. Duling