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Unearthing Opportunities: Honors Thesis Spotlight

May 04, 2021 3:00 PM
Renee in Crete



Cradled in the Mediterranean Sea are remnants of an ancient world. Weather-worn stone buildings, elaborately painted pottery, and fresco wall art are some of the remaining grandeur that was the Aegean Bronze Age. These ruins leave scholars like Tulane senior Renée Trepagnier literally piecing together a historical record about what life was like at the time, a task she began undertaking as a first-year Honors student and has since transformed into an Honors thesis topic.

Trepagnier, who is receiving a dual degree in Classical Studies and Anthropology, has been researching different facets of the Aegean Bronze Age throughout her time at Tulane while also pursuing a Geographic Information System certificate. Her work focuses on the Minoan civilization, which flourished from 3000 BC to 1450 BC and is credited as the precursor to the Ancient Greeks. In her first year, Trepagnier embarked on her interests in the Classics with the Greek Art and Archaeology course, led by Dr. Emilia Oddo, focused on Minoan pottery. Upon completing the course, Oddo encouraged students enrolled to participate in a research project she was leading that summer in Crete. Trepagnier eagerly pursued this opportunity, with the help of Newcomb Institute and CELT funding, and assisted in collecting data and conducting ceramic analysis for the project.

While on the island, Trepagnier also conducted her own personal research on the Minoan fresco paintings. She began examining the work, analyzing the iconography and their relation to gender. Trepagnier credits this trip and her own independent research as sparking a life-long interest in the subject and desire to be an Aegeanist.

Upon returning to Tulane, Trepagnier headed to the library and began researching the Minoans, building on what she learned in her Honors colloquium class and utilizing her courses as a Newcomb Scholar to further tailor her interest. Trepagnier also applied for grant funding with Newcomb-Tulane College, CELT, and the Newcomb Institute to continue her work and fund digs.

Trepagnier’s senior Honors thesis, which incorporates a gender-focused lens, concentrates on Crete’s mortuary landscapes. She’s analyzing these  cemeteries and tombs to determine if there’s any gender identity and personhood found, questioning if Minoan gender identity changed in death and how gender was preserved.

Under the direction of her Honors thesis committee, consisting of Dr. Emilia Oddo (Classical Studies) and Dr. Jacquelyne Thoni Howard (Newcomb Institute), and Dr. Christopher Rodning (Anthropology), Trepagnier has successfully submitted her research twice to the Classical Association of the Middle West and South. In fall 2020, she presented related research in a virtual undergraduate poster conference. In fall 2021, she gave a second virtual presentation on her thesis topic and Was featured as a panelist with graduate students and industry professionals.

“The continuous support for my research has been amazing,” says Trepagnier, “I encourage everyone to apply for funding and do research. It’s so easy with Tulane to do that.”

With much gratitude for the guidance she has absorbed from her Tulane mentors, Trepagnier plans to pursue a master’s program in London, England. She aspires to be a professor on Minoan and Aegean archeology.

Newcomb-Tulane College encourages undergraduate research, as it engages students in meaningful and rigorous academic experiences and connects them to faculty-driven or independent learning opportunities. To further empower students to incorporate research into their academic plans, NTC has launched the Research Network database, our new Office of Fellowship Advising for those interested in prestigious, nationally competitive post-baccalaureate scholarships, in addition to the Grants Program.

To take the Honors experience to greater heights, Newcomb-Tulane College is making changes to increase opportunities for our high-achieving undergraduate students. Visit the Honors website to learn more about these changes.