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Taylor Hermes finds career in archaeology

Travelling in Central Asia, Oak Park Alumni Taylor Hermes, researches ancient artifacts

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Taylor Hermes finds career in archaeology

Taylor Hermes poses in southeasterm Kazakhstan at the Koksu River. Taylor's archeological efforts have brought him around the globe

Taylor Hermes poses in southeasterm Kazakhstan at the Koksu River. Taylor's archeological efforts have brought him around the globe

Photo courtesy of Taylor Hermes

Taylor Hermes poses in southeasterm Kazakhstan at the Koksu River. Taylor's archeological efforts have brought him around the globe

Photo courtesy of Taylor Hermes

Photo courtesy of Taylor Hermes

Taylor Hermes poses in southeasterm Kazakhstan at the Koksu River. Taylor's archeological efforts have brought him around the globe

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Uncovering artifacts from thousands of years ago and traveling around the globe are a part of what Oak Park High School alumni, Taylor Hermes, does for a living.

Hermes graduated from Oak Park in 2002 and today he is an archaeologist who conducts research in Central Asia. He has traveled to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Siberia to study ancient civilizations dating back over 5000 years. Though Hermes has been out of school for years, he recalls the plights of being a student.

“I remember the horror of having to memorize the locations of the counties of California that freshman year, while also taking geometry with sophomores and juniors,” Hermes wrote to the Talon. “I remember the greatness of friends and adventure that strongly contrasted with the seemingly petty social climate of eagerly attempting to be popular that often amounts to nothing but despair.”

After high school, Hermes attended Washington University in St. Louis before completing his master’s degree at the University of Arizona. Hermes went on to complete his Ph.D. in archaeology at Kiel University in Germany.

“In college, I vigorously pursued the sciences,” Hermes wrote. “I quickly realized that there were dimensions to science that were unknown to me. Given my interest in languages and science, I became enthralled with anthropology — the study of people and cultures. I switched my major from chemistry to anthropology, and I fell in love with archaeology.”

Central Asia is the location of a vast trading network known as the Silk Road, this makes the location especially important to archaeologists.

“The first major trade networks emerged in the Bronze Age about 5000 years ago that later developed into the Silk Roads, facilitating the exchange of people and ideas for millennia. The grassland environments of Central Asia, known as the steppes, have long supported nomadic populations, who primarily subsist on herding domesticated livestock in seasonal migrations, rather than forming large farming societies,” Hermes wrote.

Having completed higher education programs, Hermes reflected on his journey as a whole.

“I remember the joyful struggle of academic life. It was not easy, but it pays off in the end,” Hermes wrote. “Through each year, you become stronger, smarter, and more confident.”

Science Department Chair, Winnie Litten, taught Hermes AP Biology in 10th grade. Hermes explained that Litten was one of his most influential teachers.

“He [Hermes] was very outgoing and fun-loving. I remember him as being one of those kids who balanced his academic load with friends and athletics,” Litten said. “I hear back from many students, but I find it encouraging to see those students who are very successful in post-high school life who were more balanced in their approach and Taylor was one of those kids.”

Hermes moved from Van Nuys, California to Oak Park in 1987, when he was only three years old.

“There is no doubt that growing up in Oak Park (and surrounding areas) affords us special opportunities that do not exist for the vast majority of the population in the US and, especially, of the world,” Hermes wrote. “We won the lottery of birth. Push yourself to move beyond this privilege. Give back to other communities and fight for the disenfranchised.”

Mikayla Kresco/Talon

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