Center for Ancient Studies and Archaeology

Events and Calendars

Fall 2014 - Spring 2015

To see an archive of past events go here.

October 9, 2014
7:30 p.m.Fur-Lined Fantasies: Amazon and Herakles Costumes in Greek Vase Painting
Ford Hall, Room 122

Dr. Daniella Widdows

Director of Global Education and Study Abroad

Hampden-Sydney College, Virginia

Many figures on ancient Greek vases are depicted wearing the skins of animals.  For the most part, these wearers Greek Vase Paintingcome from the mythological realm and include satyrs, maenads, and the hero Herakles.  It is very unusual for these skins to retain the head of the animal, and the appearance of the skin head, in addition to providing compositional diversity and extra detail, helps to signify the status of the wearer, frequently in terms of gender and relative power.  Indeed the particular placement of the skin head highlights the interplay of power and gender within the scene.  One particular placement of a skin's head (over the wearer's groin), is more marked than the other two positions in which skin heads appear (over the wearer's own head, or draped over the wearer's arm or back).  After outlining the norms of skin head placement and meaning, Dr. Widdows will focus upon the groin placement, suggesting that its rarity and marked nature is due to the animal heads' resemblance to masks, gorgoneions, or frontally-faced figures.

October 23, 2014
7:30 p.m.Reconstructing and Testing Ancient Linen Body Armor: The Linothorax Project (AIA Joukowsky Lecture)
Paulus Lecture Hall, Room 201

Dr. Gregory S. Aldrete

Frankenthal Professor of History & Humanistic Studies

University of Wisconsin - Green Bay

For nearly 1000 years, one of the common forms of protection used by ancient MediterraneanLinothorax Project warriors, including the armies of the Greeks and Alexander the Great, was the linothorax, a type of body armor apparently made out of linen.  Due to the perishable nature of its components, however, no examples have survived.  Today it is poorly understood and is known only through fragmentary descriptions in literature and images on pottery and in sculpture.  Employing materials and techniques that would have been available to the ancient Greeks, the members of the UWGB Linothorax Project have investigated this mysterious armor by reconstructing and wearing full-scale examples, as well as subjecting test samples to attack with ancient weapons, in order to determine their characteristics and protective qualities.  This presentation will not only describe the project's findings, but will also display a reconstructed linothorax and test samples for the audience's examination.

Project website on lecture topic (for the lay reader).

November 13, 2014
7:30 p.m.The Role of Inter-regional Trade in the Uruk Expansion: Putting the Pieces Together
College of Law, Paulus Lecture Hall, Rm 201

Dr. Leah Minc

Associate Professor of Anthropology

Oregon State UniversityCeramic Analysis

During the mid-4th millennium BCE, the material culture of Mesopotamia spread rapidly from the southern heartland into the surrounding uplands.  Distinctive ceramic vessel forms (droop spouts, nose lug jars, and jars with incised cross-hatch bands), as will as administrative technology (seals, tokens, numerical tablets), and architectural patterns began to appear in settlements throughout SW Iran, NE Syria, and southern Turkey, suggesting a major and sustained presence of people from S. Mesopotamia.  Since the path-breaking work of Guillermo Algaze, this "Uruk Expansion" has been largely understood as an attempt by cities of the alluvial plain to gain control of upland raw materials and resources, first, by the colonization of the near-by Susiana Plain of Iran, and secondly, by the establishment of trading enclaves along key river valleys leading to the interior.  Yet little is securely known of the types of goods traded, nor of the specific routes of communication throughout the Uruk world.  This lecture presents the results of chemical analyses of ceramic pastes using Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis (INAA) with the goal of monitoring potential ceramic trade between the Mesopotamian heartland and outlying Uruk settlements.  In a major international, collaborative research effort, we have now completed trace-element analyses of nearly 1900 Uruk-era vessels from key sites stretching across Mesopotamia, N. Iraq, Syria, and Iran.  These analyzes provide physical evidence allowing researchers to monitor whether ceramic vessels and containers were moving between the lowlands of Mesopotamia and the surrounding highlands, and to reexamine the significance of the shared ceramic styles marking the "Uruk Expansion".

February 19, 2015
7:30 p.m.Dining with the Dead: New Discoveries in early Byzantine Sicily
Hatfield Room, Mark O. Hatfield Library

Dr. R. J. A. Wilson

Director, Centre for the Study of Ancient Sicily

Professor Emeritus of the Archaeology of the Roman EmpireUBC Excavations

The University of British Columbia (Canada)

This talk will describe the results of the University of British Columbia's archaeological excavations in Sicily between 2008 and 2010.  The site was at Punta Secca (RG), known to millions of Italians as the home of TV cop, Salvo Montalbano; it lies right on the south coast of Sicily, is a late Roman and Early Byzantine village.  It was partly excavated in the 1960s and 1970s by Paola Pelagatti, Honorary Fellow of the BSR, and identified by her as the Kaukana of the ancient sources, where Belisarius set sail for the conquest of Africa in 533 AD.  The aim of the new excavation was to focus on one building, a house, and examine in detail its building phases, its function, and the commercial contacts that its inhabitants enjoyed with other parts of Sicily - and indeed the wider Mediterranean world.  While substantial progress was made on all these questions, the biggest surprise was the discovery of a tomb placed in what was probably the yard of the house in the second quarter of the seventh century AD, and of evidence for associated feasting in honour of the deceased.  Who was inside the tomb, and why did that person deserve this level of respect?  What evidence was there for feasts, and what did they eat?  Was it pagan or a Christian burial?  And what was the tomb doing here, in a domestic setting, rather than in the village cemetery, or indeed, if the deceased was Christian, in or near the settlement's church?  These and other intriguing questions will be addressed in the lecture, and the discovery set in the context of what else is knownabout such practices in late Roman and early Byzantine funerary culture.

March 5, 2015
7:30 p.m.Ancient Greek Gynecology for Beginners: Wine, Women, and Wandering Wombs (8th Annual Lane C. McGaughy CASA Lecture)
Room TBD

Dr. Helen King

Professor of Classical Studies and Chair

The Open University, London (United Kingdom)Helen King

How did ancient medicine answer the fundamental questions about the sexed body: how far are women different from men, and how should medicine take this into account?  In this lecture Professor King will introduce the strange world of ancient women's medicine and the remedies for women's diseases, including scent therapy.  She will demonstrate why diagnoses and remedies which no longer make sense to us - such as the 'wandering womb' and the beetle pessary - made perfect sense to the ancient Greeks, and investigate how men and women interacted in accounting for disease and in proposing cures.

April 9, 2015
7:30 p.m.How Chocolate Came to Be
Room TBD

Dr. Kathryn E. Sampeck

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Illinois State UniversityKathryn Sampeck.jpg

These days, chocolate is a fairly unremarkable part of our daily lives.  We have many ideas that we associate with it--what color it is, how it should taste, what kinds of foods it should be part of.  All of these qualities seem natural, unremarkable.  Little would you suspect that chocolate has a colonial past that involved some of the greatest horrors of colonialism in Spanish America, all because of very different ideas and uses in the past.  The fascinating journey from these early colonial encounters with chocolate to the more modern experience of it had much to do with who produced chocolate, where, and when and for whom--in other words, labor relations in Latin America, local politics, and Atlantic World trade.  It is a story of struggles against abuse and marginalization, covert and overt resistance, victories both small and large despite changes in the political economy designed to thwart those very efforts.  The social history of chocolate is truly bittersweet.

To tell this less delectable side of the story of chocolate, Dr. Sampeck will follow two lines of evidence: various kinds of documents including accounts, descriptions, and so on, and information from archaeology--the kinds of places laborers lived, where, what sorts of things they used in their daily life, which gives us a window into the conditions of their lives, while the implements for preparing and serving chocolate and where and how they are a part of material culture show how consumers made chocolate a part of their lives.  The two lines of evidence often complement each other, but in some cases not.

By comparing the archaeology and ethnohistory of producers and consumers, we see that every time we use the word chocolate, we invoke its Mesoamerican past; when we taste the bitter and the sweet, we taste the political and economic choices of the colonial past.  It is no accident that we think of chocolate as sinful, as healthy, as dark, as rich.  These are all experiences that were shaped by and had profound effects on the daily lives of both chocolate consumers and the people who lived and worked in the birthplace of chocolate.

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