Megan Daniels

Study program:
Ph.D. Archaeology
Current affiliation:
Stanford University

She is analyzing how ancient Mediterranean civilizations used religion to mediate the complexities of cross-cultural interaction.

Megan Daniels is an archaeologist who specializes in the Mediterranean and Western Asia. She is currently working on excavations in Turkey and Tunisia. Her research questions the role of religion in cultural evolution and social development over the long term, as reflected in archaeological remains and written records. She is especially interested in how long-term historical perspectives can inform pressing and emergent issues in the modern world, such as how religion spurs social cohesion and cooperation as well as social fragmentation and violence.;

Doctoral research

The Queen of Heaven and a Goddess for All the People: Religion, Cultural Evolution, and Social Development in the Iron Age Mediterranean

Megan's research adopts a large-scale approach to socio-economic development within the ancient Mediterranean world through the lenses of social theory, social sciences economics, archaeology and history, focusing on the 9th to 6th centuries BCE. Specifically, she examines the growth of multiethnic religious institutions in areas of intense, cross-cultural exchange. These institutions formed around worship of deities such as the Greek Aphrodite and the Phoenician Astarte, which, during the first half of the 1st millennium BCE, experienced complex cross-cultural syncretisms from the Levant to Spain. She investigates how religion acted as a structuring force for burgeoning, pluralistic urban communities, particularly as a means of social cohesion through the fostering of common identities. In addition, her project will incorporate a comparative historical perspective, comparing these historical situations to analogous situations in more recent times. These will include pre-modern societies such as the Dutch settlements in South Africa and the Balkan states under the Ottoman Empire.

Megan is an archaeologist and ancient historian specializing in the history of the Mediterranean world and Western Asia. Her research investigates the long-term role of religion as a driver of cohesion, cooperation, and conflict in societies, particularly through its use in articulating shifting ideas of sovereignty within and between communities. She is especially interested in exploring the cognitive and cultural dimensions of religion through a combination of approaches from archaeology, ancient texts, comparative history, and the cognitive and social sciences. Megan received her B.A. from Wilfrid Laurier University, her M.A. from the University of British Columbia, and her Ph.D. from Stanford University. She has participated on archaeological excavations in Canada, Bermuda, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, and currently works on projects in Turkey and Tunisia. Her work has received support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Mellon Foundation. Between degrees she worked as an archaeologist at Parks Canada in the National Parks and Native Sites Program, taught in China and Vietnam, and worked as a barista in Vancouver.

Experience as a Trudeau scholar

The values and the people of the Trudeau community have compelled me to think earnestly about the broader social meanings behind what I research. The members and guests of the Trudeau community have been nothing short of inspiring to me in the exceptional paths they have chosen and the palpable changes they have engendered through their research and actions. At every Trudeau event I have attended I have learned more and more how to articulate my ideas to others across different scholarly fields, social sectors, and generations, as well as how to see my work fitting into larger discourses around social stability, cross-cultural understanding, and responsible citizenship at both the local and global levels. In other words, I have taken the first steps towards becoming a public intellectual and relating my research to social values. I still feel like I have far to go in this respect, but the Scholarship has given me a compelling foundation upon which to build my academic philosophy, beyond what a traditional doctoral program could have provided me. Furthermore, I have felt more connected to Canada and Canadian values, as a Canadian scholar studying abroad. At the same time, I now feel more connected to my own fields of study, namely, archaeology and classics, because I understand better the strengths of scholarship coming from these disciplines – particularly long-term perspectives on issues such as social development and social conflict. I aim for a career where I can continue to bring out these strengths, within and beyond these fields, through my teaching and research.