Karsyn Johnson follows future dreams by digging up the past
By Christian Toews
September 1, 2021
Karsyn Johnson’s love of history has taken her around the world. She recently returned from an archeological field school in Israel, where she was able to experience a variety of learning opportunities. Johnson was one of only four archeology students allowed at the field school due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the unrest in the area.
Johnson grew up in Ada, Oklahoma, and is now a senior at the University of Oklahoma, where she is completing her bachelor’s degree in archeology. She is a proud Choctaw tribal member and says she is very thankful for all the Choctaw Nation’s assistance throughout her education.
“Money can stop people from doing what they want to do, which is really sad. The fact that I can get an education and they have helped me pay for it is something I definitely don’t take lightly,” said Johnson.
Johnson said the lead-up to the field school was very intense because she graduates in December, and this was her last chance to complete these prerequisites to graduate.
According to Johnson, she had to be a squeaky wheel to get into the field school in Israel.
“You have to fight for what you want. You have to have the drive,” she said. Johnson’s original plan was to attend a field school last summer. However, the COVID-19 pandemic canceled that plan. With the ongoing pandemic and conflict in the area this year, the field school was canceled again.
However, Johnson was persistent and determined not to let the pandemic stop her from achieving her dreams. According to Johnson, a professor from Hebrew University made arrangements for Johnson, two other students from OU, and one student from Canada to attend a field school.
While in Israel, she went to Tel Hazor on the north side of the Sea of Galilee, where she helped with preservation, organization and storage. According to Johnson, she helped preserve ancient artifacts from previous dig seasons, and the professor from Hebrew University would educate them on the artifacts.
“We learned a lot of terminology, we learned about the different kinds of artifacts and where they were found. As we were organizing, she was also teaching us, which was really cool,” said Johnson.
Johnson spent six weeks in Israel, where she and the other students were able to travel to many ancient sites and see famous archeological sites that are thousands of years old. Johnson went on to explain how this trip was much more than just an academic experience.
“This trip was academic but also a soul-searching trip for me. I was able to figure out more about what I want to do and where I’m headed because I graduate this year,” she said. While in the northern part of Israel, she met with an underwater archeologist and saw many artifacts removed from underwater. She said she figured out her next step of returning to Israel to attending a master’s program in underwater archeology.
Johnson said that she encourages anyone interested in archeology to try it out.
“Take a course and try it out. Also, for anyone in Oklahoma who is interested in volunteering in a field school there are many opportunities. You can even come out to the field school that I was on in Israel. It doesn’t matter your age; you can go out and help at a field school. You don’t have to have a degree. You just have to be interested in it,” she said.
She said she has relied on her faith throughout these challenges that she has faced.
“If there is anything I have learned throughout this entire ordeal, with the COVID pandemic and cancellations, it’s patience and let go and let God. It’s been a lot of learning.”