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 currently pursuing a doctoral degree at Stanford University in the Department of Classics, focusing broadly on the archaeology and history of the Mediterranean world. Her first exploration of this fascinating region was through an academic program involving studying creative writing and history while traveling through Europe. She learned on this program to explore the broad trends in politics, economics and religion that underlay the particularities of history, and to thereby understand how the study of any civilization or time period was relevant to the modern world. Her doctoral research is thus a reflection of this broad approach to history that she has found both enriching and challenging.

More recently, Megan enrolled in Trudeau Scholar Rajdeep Singh Gill's course "Transforming Curatorial Practices", which explored the concept of creativity across disciplinary and socio-cultural worldviews. Through this experience, she was able to examine the varying ways in which scholarship could engage with diverse communities and worldviews through the lenses of social and cognitive justice. Before heading off to Stanford, Megan traveled through the western Balkans and was struck by the fact that a region so notoriously divided by ethnic and religious differences not two decades earlier was also, at so many other points in its history, an area of intense, fruitful and peaceful cultural interaction. Building off of her professional and academic experiences, Megan's research thus seeks to understand how people from vastly different backgrounds and identities find a common ground with one another in order in order to build stable societies.

Between degrees, Megan worked as an archaeologist for the National Parks and Native Sites Program at Parks Canada (2005/2006). She also taught English in China (Beijing and Shenzhen) and volunteered as an English teacher at an orphanage in Vietnam (2006/2007). She is also an avid supporter of public speaking and intercultural dialogue, having been a student member and later coordinator of UBC's Global Student Speakers' Bureau (2007-2009). She holds an Honours B.A. (2005) from Wilfrid Laurier University, where she graduated with high distinction, earning the Alumni Gold Medal for the Faculty of Arts. She also holds a M.A. (2009) in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology from the University of British Columbia. Over the course of her academic career, Megan has participated on archaeological excavations in Canada, Bermuda, Greece, Italy and Macedonia, and currently works on projects in Turkey and Tunisia. She currently holds a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship at Stanford and previously held a SSHRC Canada Graduate Scholarship.