Matt Fair, historyWhen it comes to discovering and exploring ancient archeological sites, Matt Fair admits he’s no Indiana Jones.

Flamboyant characters who plunder tombs for gold and wear khaki outfits bear little resemblance to the real-world archeologists and historians who investigate forgotten cultures–often by digging in books rather than the ground, says Matt, a history major who graduated in May.

Like the fictional Indiana Jones, Matt has explored exotic places and made his mark in the field of archeological discovery, an amazing accomplishment for an undergraduate.

During his senior year, Matt wrote a research paper on Siraf, a city in Iran that was once among the wealthiest cities in the medieval world. The paper, “Siraf: An Archaeological and Historical Intersection of the Medieval Persian Gulf”—which he wrote for UNCG history professor Asa Eger’s class on the medieval Islamic world—caught the attention of curators at the prestigious British Museum. The head of the museum’s Siraf Research Project was so impressed by Matt’s scholarship, he asked to include the paper in British Museum’s archive.

Nobody wants to read the same histories over and over again—they’re boring, says Matt, who was interested in Siraf because it was ‘off the beaten track.’

Because Matt couldn’t travel to Iran to conduct field research on Siraf (once the center of a vast network of trade routes that stretched from East Africa to China) he spent hours studying archival records and research publications from historians, geographers, archeologists and scholars from around the globe. From this mountain of diverse documents, Matt painstakingly pieced together a portrait of Siraf that synthesized data ranging from ceramic pottery shards to maps of Islamic trading routes.

“It is a little strange knowing that my research will be cataloged next to the work of the archaeologists and historians I cited and studied extensively in my paper,” says Matt.

“It’s extremely rare for anyone, let alone an undergraduate to conduct research of this caliber,” says professor Eger, who has traveled to Turkey with UNCG students to explore 12th century Roman and Islamic sites. “Matt tackled very technical archeological publications. Nothing was an obstruction to him.”

Matt plans to earn a master’s degree in history at UNCG and to teach at a community college, possibly Guilford Technical Community College where he earned his degree before coming to UNCG.

“I can honestly say that I have done something that not every history student at UNCG has done before,” says Matt. “I may be the first, but I will certainly not be the last.”

By Jill Yesko

Photography by David Wilson, University Relations