Ancient World Seminar
The Ancient World Seminar is held at 1-2 pm usually on Monday during semester for presentations and discussions of papers from students and academic staff on all aspects of the ancient world.
Brent Davis: firstname.lastname@example.org
Old Arts 107 (William Macmahon Ball Theatre), unless noted otherwise.
Laura Pisanu, University of Cagliari, Sardinia
The Nuragic Landscape of the Montiferru Region (Western Sardinia): The Territory of Narbolia
Montiferru is a region of western Sardinian whose most ancient human presence dates back to the Neolithic. Mountains, valleys, wetlands, sea and desert created a unique landscape whose resources produced wealth during the Nuragic period (17th-6th c. BCE). Wood, stone, watersources and metals were the main resources that this territory offered. Access to these sources was strategically controlled through widespread Nuragic occupation of the territory and control over its main routes. During the Bronze age (17th-10th c. BCE), the Nuragic people demonstrated their possession and control of this region by building several Nuragic towers.
The modern municipal territory of Narbolia is situated in the lower part of this region. Today it is still possible to feel the imposing nature of the buildings that are present in its countryside: 15 complex nuraghe, 7 simple nuraghe, 15 villages and 8 ‘giants’ tombs’. Using methods of landscape analysis, my aim is to understand the cultural and economic relationships between these Nuragic communities and the territory in which they lived. In this seminar, I give particular attention to the relationship between these communities and the mineral deposits present in Montiferru, whose name means ‘Iron Mountain’.
5 March - Tuesday - Special Seminar
Arts West, North Wing, Room 353 (Interactive Cinema Space)
Associate Professor Pierre Destrée, Université catholique de Louvain
Aristotle on the Value of Comedy
When dealing with Aristotle’s Poetics, scholars usually take tragedy to be the most valuable of poetic genres; Aristotle’s analysis of comedy would either be marginal to his whole project, or a sort of foil to better assert the value of tragedy. I claim that such views are mistaken. In this seminar, I review the passages dedicated to comedy in the Poetics, as well as some jokes Aristotle reports from (now lost) comedies in his Rhetoric. I argue that (under certain conditions) comedy fulfils a typically human propensity to laugh, thus being part and parcel of human eudaemonia.
Ashleigh Green (PhD completion seminar)
Birds in Roman Life and Myth
Food. Companions. Quarry. Prophets. Satellites of the gods. These are just a few of the roles fulfilled by birds in the ancient world. Although there has been extensive research into the place of birds in Ancient Greece and Egypt, no similar comprehensive study exists for the impact of birds on Ancient Roman life and myth. This seminar will provide a window to the past, where chickens were ritual birds first and food-producers second, where time was measured according to the migration of cranes and swallows, and where bird-keeping was considered an essential part of a young child’s upbringing. Firstly, the seminar will explore birds in augury and auspices to show how they impacted the functioning of the state. It will then consider poultry-farming and fowling to reveal how birds were hunted, farmed and fattened intensively under the Empire to help feed their growing urban population. Finally, it will look at pet birds and how an exotic or talkative avian friend acted as a status marker, and how and why birds were especially beloved of children. By studying these key areas, we can then ask whether the Romans have any wisdom for us today, especially as our culturally-iconic birds are now under threat. Animal welfare concerns, the need to produce food for a growing population, and the need to adapt farming to a changing climate are all issues that the Romans faced, and developing a comprehensive understanding of ancient poultry-farming may well help us to devise solutions to our own dilemmas.
Professor Andy Gleadow, University of Melbourne Earth Sciences
Explorations in Time: The Kimberley Rock Art Dating Project
The Kimberley contains some of the greatest concentrations of indigenous rock art in the world, with innumerable sites showing figurative and engraved art of extraordinary richness and beauty. These sites are of great cultural importance to the Traditional Owners, and also of enormous scientific interest, the significance of which to a broader narrative has been constrained by a lack of quantitative dates. The Kimberley Rock Art Dating Project, which began in 2014, is a major research collaboration involving scientists from five different institutions supported by the Australian Research Council and the Kimberley Foundation Australia in partnership with Balanggarra Aboriginal Corporation. The project is uniquely focussed on developing a deep-time framework in which to better understand the art and the people who have lived in this vast region from the Pleistocene period to the present day.
Dating rock art in the ancient sandstones of the Kimberley is extremely challenging. and most pigments used are devoid of datable constituents. However, bracketing ages can be obtained by dating natural materials that have formed in association with the different rock-art styles, and four independent dating methods have now been successfully adapted to this purpose. These include cosmogenic radionuclide dating of rockfalls and other processes of landscape evolution; radiocarbon dating of organic constituents within mud-wasp nests and oxalate mineral layers; optically-stimulated luminescence dating of large mud wasp nests; and uranium-series disequilibrium dating of surface mineral accretions. In addition to dating, the project is also providing insights into natural changes to rock surfaces that lead to degradation of the rock art over long periods of time. In this way the project will also help inform future strategies aimed at conservation and preservation of this important part of our national indigenous heritage.
Professor Dr Stefan Pfeiffer, Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg
The Cultural Appropriation of Egypt in Hellenistic Alexandria: The Ptolemies and the Heritage of the Pharaohs
Alexandria of the Ptolemies is often interpreted as a purely Greek city, a foreign body that did not belong to Egypt, as witnessed by the fact that in later times the Romans spoke of Alexandria ad Aegyptum, i.e., Alexandria by Egypt. Concerning the self-presentation of the Ptolemaic dynasty in Alexandria, scholars have asserted that ‘to preserve and protect their Greekness, their Hellenic identity, the Ptolemies embarked on a policy of cultural “apartheid”, and the foundation of the Mouseion with its Library was an essential part of this... This cultural defensiveness explains a number of things, including, first of all, the exclusion of anything Egyptian that was not also a part of the Greek heritage’. In this seminar, I would like to question such apodictic assumptions and postulate that Egypt played a role in Alexandria. In my view there are two faces to the city: alongside Alexandria ad Aegyptum there also existed an official Alexandria in Aegypto. Given the limited time available, I focus on the Ptolemies themselves. I will interrogate the role the cultural heritage of the pharaohs played in the representation of the dynasty in Alexandria and by so doing not only investigate Alexandria in Aegypto, but also Egypt in Alexandria.
Dr Tamara Lewit, University of Melbourne
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and Resilience Theory: Bouncing Back from “Sword, Famine and Plague” in Late Antiquity
Late antiquity (3rd to 7th centuries CE) was a time of warfare, breakdown of the Roman state, threats to food supply, and natural disasters including widespread plague, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. In examining the effects of these shocks on society, some archaeologists have applied the currently popular concept of the Adaptive Cycle, derived from Resilience Theories used in Ecological Science. This paper argues that a more fruitful analysis can rather be derived from the social science approach of Community Resilience Theory, which investigates the mental, social, and economic capacities that allow a community to successfully bounce back from crisis. In particular, I ask whether this theory is useful in explaining the dramatic divergence between Western and Eastern Mediterranean communities in this period. Material remains which attest social capital, economic resources, and technological innovation can be used to explore the immaterial capacities of these communities, and thus how ordinary people might have acted as historical agents in determining their own fate.
2 April - Tuesday - Special Seminar
Arts West, North Wing, Room 353 (Interactive Cinema Space)
Dr Rocco Palermo, University of Groningen
Landscapes of Imperial Durability: Archaeology of Mesopotamia from the Iron Age to the Seleucid Period
Hellenistic Mesopotamia has been largely studied from the point of view of textual evidence (i.e. classical authors, cuneiform records, etc.), but its archaeological panorama - intended as a whole - has been cloaked in darkness for a long time. We know little of capital cities (ie Seleucia), and small settlements and landscapes have been only superficially examined. One one hand, this might be due to the troubling political scenario in modern Iraq, which has prevented extensive archaeological research; but on the other hand, Near Eastern Archaeology has not traditionally focused on the periods that followed the collapse of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (late 7th c. BCE). And yet the period between the late Iron Age and the Roman-Persian conquest saw the formation, development, and collapse of the world’s first empires, great experiments in centralised power, territorial expansion, and social control. Interestingly, however, past studies have not investigated the impact of such empires on the rural landscape of Mesopotamia, thus resulting in a disproportionate interest in imperial capitals and the propagandistic scenarios that these cities presented, in contrast to the imperial countryside and rural peripheries. Fortunately, things have radically changed in recent years.
This renewed interest in the archaeology of Mesopotamia in its late periods stems from the sudden outburst of projects that have been relatively recently initiated in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Large-scale and intensive surveys as well as targeted excavations are helping to enrich Near Eastern Archaeology through studies of periods that have too often been overlooked, thus creating an unprecedented bridge between the Mesopotamian World and Classical Archaeology, while simultaneously contributing to the re-evaluation of past legacy data.
In this seminar, I will focus on the archaeological evidence that I have collected in the past years while carrying out fieldwork in Northern Iraq with the Erbil Plain Archaeological Survey (Harvard) and the Land of Nineveh Archaeological Project (Udine, Italy). I will discuss settlement patterns, land use and demography of the transitional phase between the fall of Assyria and the rise of the Parthians, with particular attention to the Hellenistic period and to processes of imperial durability in the region.
Associate Professor Rachel Mairs, University of Reading
Greek Gods in Central Asia
The Greek-ruled kingdoms of Central Asia in the Hellenistic period used to be one of the most obscure sub-fields of Classical studies. Dramatic archaeological and documentary finds from the mid-twentieth to the early twenty-first centuries have changed this picture completely. This is particularly true of our view of the religious landscape of the region. We now have the remains of a number of important Hellenistic temples (from places such as Ai Khanoum in Afghanistan, and Takht-i Sangin and Torbulok in Tajikistan); numerous depictions of deities and religious symbols on coins; and even mention of Greek gods in inscriptions. Scholarly debate over the cultural and ethnic affinities of ‘Greek’ gods in Central Asia, however, continues. This paper will survey religious practice in Hellenistic Central Asia with an emphasis on the versatility of apparently ‘Greek’ religious imagery and cult practices. Behind a ‘Greek’ veneer, we find a culturally diverse set of religious practices.
9 April - Tuesday - Special Seminar
Arts West, North Wing, Room 353 (Interactive Cinema Space)
Professor Costas Panayotakis, University of Glasgow
Slavery and Beauty in Petronius
The purpose of this paper is to consider the ambivalent relationship of master and slave in the Satyrica, and to focus on the portrayal of physical beauty, sexual attraction, and power with regard to free men and slaves, especially male slaves, or characters who pretend to be slaves in the novel of Petronius. In the first part of the seminar, I support the view that the protagonists Encolpius and Giton are neither slaves nor freedmen but free men, and I show that their free status brings them mostly disempowerment, danger, and trouble, whereas their disguise as (Eumolpus’) ‘slaves’ provides them (albeit temporarily) with safety, opportunities for erotic pleasure, and material goods. In the second part of the seminar, I argue that the vocabulary of male slavery and physical beauty in Encolpius’ sophisticated narrative is socially and intertextually nuanced, and reveals Petronius’ linguistic originality, the narrator’s haughty personality, Trimalchio’s influence on him, and the destabilisation of societal norms and authority figures in the text.
Emeritus Professor Ronald Ridley, University of Melbourne
Talking Sense about Herodotos
This is the sixth and last chapter of the book I have just finished: The Birth of History, which traces the way historical records were made in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Assyria, by the Hittites and Persians, the Hebrews, and finally Herodotos, proving (to my utter satisfaction) that he is, indeed, the 'Father of History'. His History is the only one of the six great histories of the Graeco-Roman world to survive intact, and the bibliography constitutes a small library in itself. Yet, in the last generation or so, his amazing achievement has been subjected to the most fantastic attacks by those who make the most unhistorical demands on him and find their own obsessions much more important. I will try to explain exactly what constitutes his epoch-making achievement.
Dr Gijs Tol, Classics and Archaeology
A First Century AD Crafting Community in Inland Tuscany: Excavations at Podere Marzuolo 2016-2018
This paper presents the results of three years of excavation (2016-2018) at the site of Podere Marzuolo by the Marzuolo Archaeological Project, a collaboration between the University of Melbourne, Cornell University and The University of Arkansas. Work conducted over the last three seasons highlights the potential of the site to function as a paragon of the varied nature of Roman rural settlement. Situated ca. 40km away from the coast and from the nearest urban settlement of Roselle, the site finds itself in a landscape populated by small-scale peasant activity sites. The site itself is of a type undocumented to date for the Roman world: excavations reveal a purpose-built artisanal community that centres around a large complex (to date ca. 1500m2 of it has been excavated) that existed for only a few generations before it burnt down and was abandoned. It consists of a central courtyard flanked by a sequence of large cells dedicated to artisanal production. Excavated features include a blacksmith workshop (with a complete set of tools and instruments) and a room containing collapsed piles of ca. 400 vessels in terra sigillata, the iconic red-slipped tableware of the Early Imperial period.
Carissa Kelly, University of Melbourne (MA completion seminar)
Cruelty in Roman Civil War
Through a diachronically organised analysis of case-studies from the civil wars of the late Roman Republic period, I aim to define how cruelty was perceived by the ancient Romans during this period of civil strife. Since studies into the Roman view of cruelty are scarce, and modern scholars tend to focus on their own contemporary perceptions of cruelty instead, this seminar will offer a fresh look at the topic.
Professor Robyn Sloggett, Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation
Truth and Authenticity
What happens to truth when people cannot access their cultural, historic and scientific record?
The verification of histories, the development of identity and the iteration of the culture all require the existence of, and access to, the authentic cultural record. The right to know is enshrined in the basic principles of democracy but the ability to access information is framed, supported and in many instances privileged by race, region and socio-economic status.
In this seminar, Professor Sloggett explores the ways in which risk to the preservation of cultural, historical and scientific records is situated within broader issues of climate change, regionalism and post-colonialism.
National Archaeology Week: Dr Gijs Tol, Jacob Heywood, Dr Christopher Davey, Dr Claudia Sagona, Dr Heather Jackson, Professor Louise Hitchcock, Dr Brent Davis, Associate Professor Andrew Jamieson
From Rome to Georgia to Philistia II: Snapshots of Recent Fieldwork by University of Melbourne Archaeologists
This seminar will feature six short presentations by University of Melbourne academics and students on current archaeological fieldwork projects, including the Pontine Plain Project (Italy: investigation of a Mid-Republican land division scheme), the Sissi Archaeological Project (Crete: excavation of a Minoan settlement), the Kourion Urban Space Project (Cyprus: excavation of part of a major Classical-era city), the Georgian-Australian Investigations in Archaeology Project (Georgia: excavation of a multi-period fortified settlement), the Australian Mission at Jebel Khalid (Syria: excavation of a Hellenistic settlement), and the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project (Israel: excavation of a Philistine city). The seminar will end with a brief presentation on a new Winter Intensive subject that will be run in Georgia in July: ANCW30025 Field Archaeology, designed to provide fieldwork and training opportunities for the next generation of archaeology students.
Brent Davis, University of Melbourne
The Phaistos Disk: A New Way of Investigating the Language Behind the Script
In this seminar, I outline a new, linguistics-based method of analysing the behaviour of signs in the Aegean family of pre-alphabetic scripts (Linear A, Linear B, Cypro-Minoan, the Cypriot Syllabary, and the script on the Phaistos Disk). Using this method on two scripts at once results in metrics expressing the likelihood that both scripts encode the same language is based solely on the behaviour of the signs (not their phonetic values), it can be applied to the undeciphered scripts as well as the deciphered ones.
When this method is applied to the two deciphered scripts (Linear B and the Cypriot Syllabary, which both encode Greek), the results indicate a 97% probability that the two scripts encode the same language, without the analyst needing to know the phonetic values of any of the signs. When the Cypriot Syllabary and Linear A are analysed together, this probability falls to 55%, indicating that Linear A does not encode Greek. A similarly low result (45%) is obtained when Linear B and the Phaistos Disk are analysed together.
When Linear A and the Disk are analysed together, however, the probability that both encode the same language rises to over 98%. This is new. Though it has long been recognized that both scripts are Minoan inventions, no one has yet been able to demonstrate in a convincing way whether or not they encode the same language. This is an important step forward in the study of both scripts, with implications for eventual decipherment.
This is the research that led to the 2019 Michael Ventris Award for Mycenaean Studies.
Brent Davis received his undergraduate degree in Linguistics from Stanford University, and his doctorate in Archaeology from the University of Melbourne; his doctoral thesis on Minoan ritual vessels and Linear A, the undeciphered script of the Minoans, was published as a book in 2014. With a background in both archaeology and linguistics, his interests include not only the cultures of the eastern Mediterranean, but their scripts and languages as well. He has published numerous articles and chapters on ancient cultures and scripts, as well as on archaeological theory, and he has undertaken several years of archaeological fieldwork in Israel at Tell-es Safi/Gath, the site of a major Philistine city. He teaches archaeology, ancient history, and Egyptian hieroglyphs at the University of Melbourne.
28 May -Tuesday - Special Seminar
Arts West, North Wing, Room 353 (Interactive Cinema Space)
Associate Professor Steven Green, Yale-NUS College, Singapore
Animal Love after Virgil: Teaching Marital Propriety in the Age of Augustus
This paper looks at instructions given by Virgil in the Georgics on how to manage animal mating, before examining how this teaching is received and repurposed in later Roman didactic texts from the Augustan age. It is argued that post-Virgilian didactic poets employ discussions of animal (or animalised) sexual relationships as a means of negotiating Augustan moral legislation on (human) marriage and adultery. In this way, the familiar narrative that pits Ovid against Augustus on matters of marriage and adultery obscures a debate among a wider set of contemporary teacher-figures.
Christopher Bendle, University of Melbourne (MA completion seminar)
The Prosopography of the Magister Militum in the Fourth Century
This completion seminar will showcase the highlights of my Masters degree research into the magistri militum of the fourth century CE Roman army. As the highest ranked generals in the army, these men played important roles in all parts of the Roman world, including the religious, political, and of course, martial spheres. Yet a comprehensive study on these men has never been conducted. As such, I have made use of the prosopographical method to better understand and delineate who these men were, and will be presenting the results from my inquiries into their ethnic and cultural backgrounds and their religion.
Image: An ivory diptych of Stilicho (right), the most famous of the magistri militum, and his family
Dr Simon Young, Lithodomos VR
Virtual Reality: A Powerful Technology That Enables Us to Step into Lost Environments of the Ancient World
Lithodomos VR is an innovative start-up based in Melbourne that secured substantial seed funding in 2016 to develop Virtual Reality (VR) content based on archaeologically accurate material. In this lecture, the company's founder Dr. Simon J. Young talks about the potential of VR as an educational and research tool for education. Those of us who have studied the ancient world have wondered at times what it would have felt like to stand in the streets of some of the incredible places that have succumbed to the ravages of time. At the same time, archaeology, as a discipline, carefully collects and records traces of the past for publication and the presentation of research to the wider public. Now, VR provides us with a powerful tool to present and visualise the results of these investigations in a 360 stereoscopic immersive digital environment. This talk will explore some particular implications of these possibilities, and will feature spectacular digital reconstructions of the ancient world. At the end of the talk, all attendees will be given the chance to step into the ancient world themselves via Virtual Reality.
Image: VR reconstruction of the gladiator barracks in Pompeii.
6 August - Tuesday - Special Seminar
1:15–2:15, Arts West, North Wing, Room 553 (Discursive Space)
Chris Murray, Monash University
A China Built from Classics: Reception in Nineteenth-Century Sinology
Starting with Earl George Macartney’s memoir of the 1793 Embassy from Britain to China, this seminar will consider the role of classical reception in Sinology of the 19th century. It will examine several exemplary texts. Charles Lamb’s essay ‘A Dissertation upon Roast Pig’ is a humorous account of the origins of cookery, as allegedly discovered by bumbling Chinese farmers, but the tale is actually sourced in the Neoplatonist Porphyry of Tyre’s treatise On the Abstinence from Animal Food. Thomas de Quincey’s journalism in favour of the Opium Wars refers repeatedly to Greek tragedy to make a case for the benefits of sacrifice. Narratives that arose about the figures on the most popular piece of chinoiserie, Willow crockery, appear to be derived from Ovid’s Metamorphoses and have nothing to do with Chinese legend. These works and others demonstrate that classical reception exerts a significant influence on the China created in the Anglophone imagination. The seminar will conclude with a discussion of how this influence might accurately be characterised: if classical learning offered a lens through which British thinkers viewed China, should classical reception be considered a harmful presence, likely to distort perceptions of unfamiliar cultures?
Image: Frontispiece to Sir George Staunton's An Historical Account of the Embassy to the Emperor of China (1797)
Donna Storey, University of Melbourne
‘Here at the Border of the Fatherland’: Ettore Tolomei and the Italian Fascist Appropriation of Drusus in South Tyrol
Ardent Italian nationalist and Fascist Ettore Tolomei strongly advocated the Italianisation of the primarily German speaking region of South Tyrol. The region was annexed to Italy following World War One, although imagined in Fascist circles as always having been genuinely and rightfully Italian. A crucial element in Tolomei’s Italianisation propaganda for the region was the Augustan conquest of the alpine region; in particular, the central character on which the claims were based was Drusus, the stepson of Augustus. In the absence of actual ancient Roman sites in the area, the Fascist regime sought to ‘brand’ the area with new monuments and myths in order to establish a direct link between ancient Rome and Fascist Italy. This seminar will explore Tolomei’s use of Drusus to create a foundation myth for South Tyrol in order to justify the Italian Fascist policies of forced Italianisation, and investigate whether the policies can be considered as amounting to early signs of Fascist racism.
Image: il Monumento alla Vittoria, Bolzano, Italy
Enrique Aragon, Flinders University
Re-connecting the Sea: Rochelongue Shipwreck. Maritime Network and Cultural Interaction in West Languedoc, France, During the 7th–6thc. BCE
My research topic is based on 'maritime connectivity' during 7th to 6th century B.C. in Western Mediterranean by using as a case of study the so-called 'Rochelongue Shipwreck' dated in this period and located at Cap d'Agde (South of France) composed by an important metal assemblage (1700 artefacts and more than 900 kg of copper ingots).
My project aims to review previous research and interpretations of the site in the context of Phoenician, Greek and Etruscan interaction by introducing a more systematic methodological approach to the investigation.
The goal of this research, then is to move beyond simply dating, characterising and assigning cultural ascription, but examine the site’s broader implications as an early 'contact zone' by combining results from GIS analysis, metal provenance studies and social network analysis.
Image: Rochelongue Shipwreck: Representative artefacts and Network analysis
Sharon Wong, Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation
Plastics in Archaeology (PIA): Survey, Identification and Analysis of the Composition and Condition of Polymeric Materials in the Field to Assist in the Management of Malignant Plastics in Archaeological Collections
Plastics in Archaeology (PIA) aims to investigate what measures are required to manage malignant plastics in archaeological collections. PIA seeks to understand what plastics are in the archaeological record and the extent of deterioration of plastic storage materials containing archaeological artefacts. Surveying museum collections and conducting interviews/questionnaires should identify the variety of polymers and conservation methods applied. Instrumental techniques including but not limited to Fourier-Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy and Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) should identify types of polymers and plasticisers. Accelerated ageing studies of plastic storage materials should determine which methods are most appropriate for the management of archaeological plastics.
Image: Comb, dark brown Bakelite, 1907 – ca. mid-20th c. (Royal Exhibition Building Western Forecourt site)
Professor Clemente Marconi, New York University - AAIA Visiting Professor
Mirror and Memory: Images of Ritual Actions in Greek Temple Decoration
Part of a larger project concerning the decoration of Archaic and Classical Greek sacred architecture, this presentation argues against a long-held view in the field of Greek art history that - except for the Parthenon frieze - the representation of rituals did not have a part in the figural decoration of Greek temples, which would have largely been dedicated to gods, heroes, and monsters. The immediate goal of this presentation is to reassess the evidence for this thus far unrecognised category of images. There are, in fact, several images of ritual actions depicted in Greek temple decoration, including processions, choroi, ritual dining, votive offering, sacrifices, and libations. The main goal of this presentation, however, is to address the significance of these representations from a larger, hermeneutic perspective, analysing their role within the context of the interactive relationship between human ritual participants and built ritual contexts. Greek festivals were, first and foremost, experiences of visual splendor. They were spectacles made of people, with their costumes, ornaments, and performances, but also of images, from votive offerings to architectural sculptures. Images of ritual actions on Greek sacred architecture were clearly meant to be part of such spectacles, operating as active agents in constructing and shaping the identity of the religious community.
Image: Professor Clemente Marconi
Heather Jackson, University of Melbourne
Romans at Jebel Khalid? Where and When?
In 1987, the first sondages on the Seleucid site of Jebel Khalid, revealed, well above the Hellenistic levels, two later walls. These were originally dubbed ‘Byzantine’ because of the proximity on the jebel of caves containing evidence of the habitation of Early Christian hermits, but it is now certain that they are the walls of a Roman camp or fort, built over the remains of the Hellenistic temple.
There are major issues concerning the date of this camp, which is a playing card shape, and this paper reviews the archaeological evidence for the presence of Romans on the jebel.
Image: Satellite photograph showing rectangular outline of camp circumvallation above excavated Hellenistic temple
10 September - Tuesday - Special Seminar
1:00–2:00, Arts West, North Wing, Room 353 (Interactive Cinema Space)
Bengi Basak Selvi, University of Melbourne (PhD completion seminar)
Kura-Araxes Obsidian Tools: A Case Study from Sos Höyük
The Kura-Araxes complex has a distinctive material assemblage that stretched across a wide geographical area from the Transcaucasus, through Lake Urmia basin in Northern Iran to Eastern Turkey and Upper Euphrates over at least 1000 years (3500-2400 BC); in certain locations it lasted even longer. Similar assemblages became apparent in the Amuq Plain, and further south in Levant in the Early Bronze Age III period.This phenomenon is characterized by small village-type settlements, an agro-pastoralist lifestyle and handmade red-black burnished pottery. However, in most of the studies on this culture, the lithics have been overlooked.
The main objectives of this presentation are to identify the quarries exploited by Sos Höyük occupants, the tools found in the excavations at and to have an overview on the production techniques. A comparison of both the tool kit and raw material preferences of the Kura-Araxes will be discussed from the neighbouring sites. Considering that the studies on the stone tool production studies are mostly concentrated in the Palaeolithic and Neolithic periods, the Sos Höyük lithcis are of a special importance in the Early Bronze Age to shed light on the tools used in daily activities.
Image: Lithics from Sos Höyük, and a Kura-Araxes (EB II) house at Sos Höyük
Josephine Verduci, University of Melbourne
The Final Cut: Symbolic Acts of Destruction in the Ancient Near East
In this paper, I examine the presence of incised markings on metal items of personal adornment and weapons in the EIA in light of the increasing scholarly focus on ritual killing and symbolic destruction. Such acts are rare in the southern Levant, and the markings on these objects are viewed by some authors as the result of an Aegean or Anatolian influence, although the ceremonial killing of objects was also practiced by the Egyptians of the Old and Middle Kingdoms. This paper acknowledges previous scholarship and the lenses through which ritualised destruction are viewed, particularly in regards to embodiment and agency. Five explanations are presented: (1) the channeling of aggression to maintain harmony in the community - in a military sense, incised markings might reflect a cosmological “kill” of the enemy; (2) the transferal or substitution of impurity on behalf of the individual or the community; (3) the creation of a symbolic link between the object and its owner; (4) a symbol of suffering and an attempt at redemption; and (5) as an act with legal implications. Based on these discussions, an attempt is made to address whether local or foreign conventions governed these practices, and whether such markings can be viewed as ritual acts.
Image: Decoratively incised bangle from Tomb C1, ‘Eitun (drawing by J. Verduci)
Dean Hallett, University of Melbourne
How to Train Your Chariot Horses
Horses suitable for chariotry could be difficult to acquire and were costly to keep groomed, housed, trained and maintained. Yet despite all of this, such was the demand for the chariot and chariot horses, that the costs seem to have been worth the rewards for ancient rulers to ensure chariot horses were meticulously cared for. The method outlined in surviving fragments of the horse training text of Kikkuli ‘the master horseman of Mitanni’ only further highlight the dedication, time and effort that went into physically and mentally training chariot horses, and building strong bonds between the horse team and chariot driver. Insights such as these into the world of chariot horses allow us to enrich our understanding of the dynamic relationship between mankind, the horse and the wheel. Drawing on a range of evidence, this paper brings together analysis of horse behaviour, physiology, shifts in vehicle technology, texts and imagery from across the ancient Near East.
Image: Horses groomed and watered. Stone panel from the North-West Palace of Ashurnasirpal (northern Iraq), 883-859 BC
Caroline Chong, University of Melbourne
Rape in the Latin Declamationes
This talk will analyse the rape narratives in the Latin declamations. In particular, it will examine how rape victims, both male and female, are depicted, and the similarities and differences these depictions have with modern representations of rape survivors, contemporary rape myths, and acts of victim blaming. It will also investigate how the underlying discourses contained within the rape declamations tend to focus on the future socio-cultural and gender roles that the (male) student-declaimer will undertake, that of pater and paterfamilias.
Image: “Cicero Denounces Cataline” by Cesare Maccari
Belle Shapardon, University of Melbourne (PhD completion seminar)
The Chalcolithic Period of the Transcaucasus: The Sioni Cultural Complex and Its Ceramics Assemblage
Over the course of the last few years, the Caucasus region has become the subject of intensive collaborative and international archaeological research. Recent research into the Chalcolithic period of the Transcaucasus (c. 5000-3500 BCE), the ‘interlude’ between the Late Neolithic and the Early Bronze Age, suggests that this period was characterised by changes in settlement patterns, subsistence strategies, and new socio-economic dynamics within the context of increased interregional interaction. The Chalcolithic period also saw the rise of two major cultural horizons - the Sioni cultural complex, largely concentrated at sites in eastern Georgia, and the Chaff-Faced/Leilatepe horizon which has been found at sites throughout Azerbaijan and eastern Anatolia.
This seminar seeks to introduce the Chalcolithic period of the Transcaucasus, and its broadly defining features, with specific reference to the Sioni cultural complex. Although it may represent one of the most widely dispersed material assemblages within the region, the Sioni cultural complex is poorly understood and inadequately defined. This seminar will discuss the type site of Sioni, its ceramic assemblage, and how this material may relate to other contemporary sites throughout the Transcaucasus. In particular, it will look at how the different contemporary horizons may have interacted and what role the Sioni cultural complex may have played during the Chalcolithic period in the Transcaucasus.
Image: Original plan of the excavations at the site of Sioni, Georgia
Larissa Tittl, University of Melbourne (PhD completion seminar)
Elemental Transformations and Magical Thinking: The Cosmological Significance of Metal and Rocky Terrain in Bronze Age Crete
Depositional practices in the caves of Minoan Crete have traditionally been connected to the worship and propitiation of deities associated with particular caves or with fertility and seasonal cycles in general. The idea that depositional practices centre on rituals concerned with initiation or the marking of life-cycle changes, or with ancestor worship is also increasingly accepted.
This paper will explore the notion that the deliberately deposited objects in Minoan caves acted as agents of transformation, with what might be considered magical properties. Focusing on the metal blades, double axes and weapons found in the Psychro and Arkalochori caves, this paper considers that these objects embody specific properties, properties based on their elemental substance. Within a wider landscape context in which rocky terrain held cosmological significance, the deposited objects provide direct links between a numinous landscape and its human inhabitants. This is a kind of elemental magic worked through ritually significant objects within the transformative and liminal sacred space of the cave. The deposited objects, the cavescape, and the emotionally charged ritual activity combine to provide a heightened sense of power, and a space within which people could negotiate their place in a realm shared with non-human beings.
Image: (left) Interior of Psychro Cave, with limestone concretions and ‘sacred’ pool; (right) miniature gold double axe from Psychro
28 October - Special Seminar
1.00-2.00, Arts West, North Wing, Room 353 (Interactive Cinema Space)
Marcello Tozza, Universities of Naples and Malaga
Bird Epiphany of Gods in Pre-Homeric Greece
Using the Homeric poems as a source of information about the passage from the Aegean Bronze Age to the Greek culture, we can consider the verses of the Iliad and the Odyssey in which bird epiphanies of gods are described. Comparing Homeric data with Aegean iconography and Mycenaean texts, we try to understand if birds and deities had the same relation in pre-Homeric Greece.
16 December - Special Seminar
Irving Finkel, British Museum
Ghostbusting in Mesopotamia
Ancient Mesopotamia was a world in which no one questioned the existence of ghosts, but regarded them with sympathy, and often tried to help. These extraordinary voices echo through the cuneiform tablets that occupy Irving’s days in the British Museum, in which ghosts appear as a fully formed concept. The whole panoply of ghost belief, that is theory, explanation, manifestations, ritual and procedure was already in place by at least 2000 BC. The system of belief in spirits spills into existence at this time, so much so that virtually every feature of contemporary belief about ghosts was anticipated at that point. This was a complex literary society that in many crucial ways was like our own today, populated by people who are very like us.
Philologist and Assyriologist Irving Finkel is Assistant Keeper of the department of the Middle East at the British Museum in London, and has been a cuneiform tablet curator since 1979. He holds his degrees from the University of Birmingham, England, and is especially interested in ancient magic and medicine, all aspects of ancient cuneiform literature, and the history of the world's board games. His recent publications include The Ark Before Noah: Decoding the Story of the Flood (2014) and The Writing in the Stone (2017). His new book The First Ghosts is nearly finished for publication in 2020.