I grew up in Western Springs, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago. I attended high school at Benet Academy, a Catholic prep school in Lisle, Illinois. I received my B.A. from The Ohio State University (1981) in the History of Art with a specialization in Medieval architectural history, and History, and my MA (1985) and Ph.D. (1992) from the University of Chicago (the Oriental Institute) in Egyptology, specializing in Demotic (Egyptian) language and texts.
Most of my early work was within a framework I would call Analytical Papyrology - establishing an historical framework in which documentary papyri can be interpreted. With that as a technical base, my earlier work has been done in Hellenistic Mediterranean economic history with a focus on Ptolemaic Egypt. I am now working within an even broader historical scope examining climatic change at various scales, and global societal "responses" on both micro and macro scales. That means for my purposes the investigation of human societies since the last Ice Age and the role of climatic change, among many other factors, in understanding change. In this case the goal is to understand complexity, rather than to simplify. I lay out my philosophy, including the necessity of working in teams, in the first chapter of my latest book, The Open Sea, Princeton University Press, 2018. As I suggest at the beginning of the book, I am not interested in building new theories of the ancient world. Not yet anyway. Each sub field requires particular theory. At the moment, I think that the Seshat project via cultural evolutionary theory and Cliodynamics is on the right track in terms of integration at the societal level. My intent in Open Sea was simply to summarize some of the best work in the field of Iron Age Mediterranean and western Asian history ca. 1000 - 200 BCE) toward suggesting that there is a great deal yet to do in pre-industrial history worldwide, and far beyond a Classics paradigm.
I am deeply involved in mountaineering and cycling in my free time.
I am always on the hunt for excellent students who want to work with me on projects or for a PhD. So get in touch.
Training in New Hampshire; If I don't respond to email quickly, I am probably here.