Knapp Chair Lecture by Ralph K. Pedersen, PhD

Knapp Chair Lecture by Ralph K. Pedersen, PhD

Knapp Chair Lecture by Ralph K. Pedersen, PhD

This event occurred in the past

Date and Time

  • Tuesday, April 27, 2010 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.


Mother Rosalie Hill Hall, Warren Auditorium

5998 Alcala Park San Diego, CA 92110




The College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Anthropology invite you to the annual Knapp Chair lecture: “By Command of the Gods:  A Boat to Save All Life, the Ark in the Gilgamesh Epic” by Ralph K. Pedersen, PhD, distinguished visiting professor in Anthropology and the 2010 Knapp Chair in Liberal Arts. Reception  in the Bishop Buddy Sala follows the lecture.

“The Epic of Gilgamesh,” the world’s oldest epic poem, relates the story of the Great Flood as paralleled in the book of Genesis of the Bible.  The epic, however, contains greater detail of the event, particularly where the design and building of the ark are concerned.  Yet, since its first translation into modern language over 130 years ago, the construction of the ark has intrigued and puzzled many.  This lecture challenges past assumptions and provides a new interpretation of the Gilgamesh text by combining ethnography, history, anthropology, and nautical archaeology to reveal a boat type common to the Indian Ocean that exists to this day.

The Knapp Chair of Liberal Arts was established in 1995 by a generous endowment from the estate of Mary and Churchill Knapp of La Jolla, California, long-time supporters of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of San Diego.  The earnings support the expenses of a distinguished visiting scholar, who is appointed annually by the dean on a rotating basis from the divisional areas of the Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Mathematics-Computer Sciences.  Contributing to the vitality and centrality of liberal arts in the college, the holder of the Knapp Chair teaches and interacts with students, collaborates with faculty, and presents a public lecture.  This semester, Pedersen is teaching a lower-division “Introduction to Archaeology” class, and an upper-division “Seafaring of the Indian Ocean” class.

Ralph K. Pedersen, PhD, has served as the Whittlesey Chair Visiting Assistant Professor in the department of History and Archaeology at the American University of Beirut in 2007 and 2008. He is currently engaged in maritime archaeological projects in Lebanon, and in Turkey, where he is surveying ancient harbors at Bybassos of the Rhodian Peraea.

Pedersen has been involved in the excavation of the Bronze Age shipwreck at Uluburun, Turkey. He served as daily field director for the 1991 excavation of a 17th-century wreck at Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic, under USD Anthropology Associate Professor Jerome Lynn Hall. Pedersen has surveyed underwater in Bahrain and excavated a 1500-year-old shipwreck at Black Assarca Island, Eritrea. He has surveyed shipwrecks off New York's Long Island and served as an associate director of India's Kadakkarapally Boat Project, which involves a thousand-year-old ship found under a coconut grove.  In 2004 he conducted an underwater survey at Tell el-Burak in Lebanon and, in 2007, in the waters off the early Bronze Age tell at Fadous-Kfarabida for the American University of Beirut. He has been a research associate with the Institute of Nautical Archaeology since 1992.

Pedersen holds a doctorate in Anthropology from the Nautical Archaeology Program at Texas A&M University.  His dissertation,  "The Boatbuilding Sequence in the Gilgamesh Epic and the Sewn Boat Relation," examines and reinterprets the construction of the Ark of the Deluge in light of archaeological and ethnographic evidence in Arabia, Africa and India.  He also holds a BA in Anthropology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and an MA in Anthropology/Nautical Archaeology from Texas A&M University.

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