Ancient World Seminar

Erechtheion, Acropolis, Athens
(Photograph: Andrew Stephenson)

The Ancient World Seminar is held on Mondays from 1:00-2:00 during semester for presentations and discussions of papers from students and academic staff on all aspects of the ancient world.

In second semester 2021 we intend that some seminars will be held in person in the Forum Theatre, Arts West Building, and simulcast on Zoom.  However, some special events will be held only on Zoom, and the time for these may vary according to time zones.  Meeting details will be emailed to subscribers in the week before each seminar.

Convenor

For information on the seminar series please contact Dr Andrew Turner (ajturner@unimelb.edu.au).

Venue

Seminars are held via Zoom until further notice.  Meeting details will be emailed in the week before each seminar.  To receive the Zoom link please email Dr Andrew Turner (ajturner@unimelb.edu.au).

2021 Programme

15 March

Christopher Greenough, University of Melbourne

Bronze Age Aegean Lion Iconography and its Egyptian and Near-Eastern Connections

This paper will be a PhD commencement seminar.  In his dissertation Christopher will examine shared iconographic conventions of Bronze Age civilizations, and what these common cultural traits might tell us about the ancient Mediterranean.  Though iconography is just one facet of an ancient culture, it can communicate what a civilization/culture may have looked like, how it was structured, how its people lived, and — possibly — their beliefs in this life and the next.  Through an in-depth analysis of select objects — context (geographical/political), iconography, and use — it is his aim to ascertain whether or not the societal structure/belief systems of Bronze Age Aegean cultures can be reflected in lion iconography.

Christopher Greenough is a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, specializing in Bronze Age Aegean iconography.  Prior to this he completed a Master of International Relations and has participated at the Tell es-Safi archaeological dig in Israel.

22 March, 6-7 pm

Aren Maeir, Bar Ilan University

Philistines and Sea Peoples in Light of the Excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath

25 years of excavations at the site of Tell es-Safi/Gath, Israel, conducted by a multi-national team, including from Melbourne, have revealed important finds relating to many periods and cultures.  In this lecture, Professor Maeir will present and discuss finds from the site that contribute to our understanding of the fascinating Sea Peoples and Philistines, in light of the identification of Tell es-Safi/Gath as Philistine Gath, biblical home of Goliath

Aren Maeir is a professor of archaeology at Bar-Ilan University, director of the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project and head of the Institute of Archaeology.

29 March

James Tan, The University of Sydney

Regional Representation and the Reform of the Comitia Centuriata in the Third Century BCE

At some point between 241 and 219 BCE, the Romans changed the way that they ran their most prestigious elections. In the comitia centuriata, votes had always been weighted in favour of the wealthy, but now many votes were also organised by territorial tribe. This paper will argue that the reform was not intended to change to change the balance of voting by rich or poor. Instead, it was designed to recalibrate the political influence of old citizens near Rome and of new citizens (and colonists) in more recently conquered areas. While this may well have been a response to the shared sacrifice of the First Punic War and perhaps the Gallic War of the 220’s, I will argue that it also speaks to the development of a spatial perception of Rome that was no longer in sync with political institutions.

James Tan is Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Sydney. He receive his PhD from Columbia University and is the author of Power and Public Finance at Rome (264-49 BCE). He is currently working on a book on the Tribuni Aerarii and the role of taxation in ordering rural communities and creating a sociologically stable Republican elite.

12 April

Ashley Green, The University of Melbourne

Fowling in Imperial Rome: Methods, Tools and Consumption Patterns

This paper examines the practices of fowling and bird-catching in Imperial Rome to create a general profile of the methods, tools, and consumption patterns common across the Empire. It asks how birds were hunted, when they were hunted, and how consumption of wild birds was used to advertise class, status, and inequality. It examines such phenomena as the practice of eating birds 'out of season' and the boom in demand for exotic table birds at the beginning of the Imperial period. Finally, it makes comparison to hunting practices of the Middle Ages and looks at points of differentiation, including Roman lack of falconry and the absence of the concept of poaching in Roman law.

Dr Ash Green is a recent graduate of The University of Melbourne. Her research is concerned with birds in Roman life and myth, and what the study of human/animal relations can reveal about cultures and societies both past and present.

19 April

Stephanie Zindilis, The University of Melbourne

Distaff Displacement: Narratives of Female Exile in Ovidian Poetry

Displacement, the removal from one’s home or country of origin with the possibility of return being difficult or impossible, is a torment experienced by numerous women in Ovid’s Heroides and Fasti. These episodes reveal how exile is experienced by women and its impact on their psychology, agency, and identity, exploring the myriad of factors that can influence a woman’s success or failure in finding refuge, and how gender and exile intersect to create an oppressive cycle of dual-marginalization. The increased vulnerability of exiled women provides a powerful model for Ovid to voice his own experience of displacement in the Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto, written after his exile to Tomis in 8 CE. Thematic and linguistic echoes link his pre-exilic and post-exilic work to bridge poetic fact and fiction, identifying the poet with his characters through the shared experience of social exclusion and persecution by a more dominant masculine force.

Stephanie has completed an honours level thesis at the University of Melbourne on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, for which she was awarded the D.H. Rankin Essay prize and the Alexander Leeper Prize. She is currently undertaking a Master of Arts, focusing on the intersectionality of exile and gender throughout Ovid’s textual corpus. With 9 years of Latin and 3 years of Ancient Greek language study, Stephanie has developed a keen interest in early Roman Empire poetry and Greek Lyric poetry. Her research interests include gender, marginalisation, and intertextuality, concepts which are crucial to her current study of Ovidian literature.

26 April

Edward Jeremiah, The University of Melbourne

Divine Envy and Generosity in Cosmological Arguments between Neoplatonists and Christians

Christianity and Neoplatonism both assume that God created the world because he lacks envy and wanted to share his goodness with creation. This principle becomes a bone of contention in arguments between Christians and Neoplatonists as they battle over whose account of creation is most consistent with the idea of a good and generous god. At stake are questions like the following: How much involvement does the creator God have in creation? Does he delegate the job of creation to a class of intermediary gods; and Do human races have different human natures, which might constrain their freedom and prevent them from fully accessing the good life? Dr Jeremiah will explore the general character and logic of such debates as they appear in the literature, with special attention to Cyril of Alexandria’s Against Julian, a work which defends Christianity against the emperor Julian’s attacks on it in his Against the Galileans.

Edward Jeremiah teaches Greek and Latin at Melbourne University and is currently helping to translate Cyril’s Against Julian into English for the first time. He has worked on the Aëtiana Project, which aims to lay new foundations for the study of the history of philosophy, as a post-doctoral researcherHe is the author of The Emergence of Reflexivity in Greek Language and Thought (Brill, 2012).

3 May

Monique Webber, The University of Melbourne

An Exploration of Rome's Horrea piperataria

The Horrea Piperataria – or ‘Pepper Warehouse’ – is a shadowy presence in our understanding of Rome’s imperial forum.  Built by Domitian in the late first century CE, it had been reduced to ashes by the end of the second century.  In the early fourth century, what little remained of the horrea vanished as the Basilica of Maxentius occupied its site.  Rome’s emporium of herbs and spices from across the Empire has, perhaps unsurprisingly, received little attention in scholarship.  However, this presentation will demonstrate that interrogating what little we do know about the Horrea Piperataria reveals not only the nature of this site but also its role in shaping social identity.  Adopting a post-colonial lens, ‘An Exploration of Rome's Horrea Piperataria’ reconstructs the socio-cultural encounters of this site and how these shaped external experiences of the city’s imperial power landscape.

Monique Webber is a Teaching Specialist in Ancient World Studies at The University of Melbourne, Australia.  Her research centres on the impact of urban environments upon cultural expression.  Embracing international urban cultures from the ancient to the contemporary eras, this focus encompasses Monique’s broader interests in fine art, design and society.  Monique’s teaching practice embraces technology, object-based learning and inquisitive models to create engaging virtual and physical learning environments.  She is also active in academic community engagement and contemporary art and architectural criticism.

10 May, 6-7 pm

Jana Mokrišová, University of Cambridge

Forged Connections: Bronze and Iron in Pre-Archaic Southwestern Anatolia

Our understanding of the adoption of ironworking in the Aegean has long been based on the flow of finished objects between Cyprus and Early Iron Age centres such as Athens, Lefkandi, and Knossos. The investigations have thus exclusively relied on the evidence from western Aegean shores. This talk will suggest that the region of Ionia, located in western Anatolia, should be added to the list of early innovators and that this process took place here during early stages of the Early Iron Age, as new evidence increasingly points to several indications of an early use of iron. The new datasets therefore call for at least a fine-tuning, if not a reconsideration, of the established models. Additionally, they further challenge the narrative of the Ionian migration, as local developments seem to pay central role to the processes of adoption and adaptation. In particular, these early contexts seem to attest incorporation of Late Bronze Age local crafting (bronze working) knowledge; they draw on connectivity between the different western Anatolian regions; and they emerge not only in Ionia, but in Lydia and Caria as well. This talk will therefore present a quick overview of bronze working in Anatolia, explain the possible interplay between bronze and iron working traditions in the region, and highlight aspects of cultural and technological continuity and change in the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age.

Jana Mokrišová is an archaeologist specialising in western Anatolia and the eastern Aegean from the Late Bronze Age to the Archaic period and theoretical approaches to mobility. Her current research develops specific aspects of ancient mobilities, such as the application of landscape approaches and issues of technological transfer with a particular focus on the role of iron. She holds a PhD in Classical Art and Archaeology (University of Michigan), and is Research Associate at the University of Cambridge for ‘MIGMAG: Migration and the Making of the Ancient Greek World’ (ERC Consolidator Grant; University of Vienna) and for the 'Being an Islander: Art and Identity of the Large Mediterranean Islands' (Fitzwilliam Museum) research projects.

17 May

National Archaeology Week

For National Archaeology Week the University of Melbourne will be presenting the work of six of our postgraduates, showing the depth and innovation of our researchers at a time when opportunities for field work are severely limited. The six speakers will be giving short presentations on the following topics:

The Hellenic Museum Digitization Project (Thomas Keep)

The Bronze and Early Iron age occupation of South Montiferru and North Campidano Valley (Laura Pisanu)

Fara South - Re-Examining a Century-Old Excavation (Paula Phillips)

A spatial analysis of griffins in the Late Bronze Age east-Mediterranean (Emily Simons)

The Road to Ritual: Philistine Architecture and Material Culture (Madaline Harris-Schober)

Interdisciplinary Engagement with Bab adh-Dhra’ Artefacts through Object-Based Learning (Gemma Lee)

24 May

Giulia Torello-Hill, The University of New England and Andrew Turner, The University of Melbourne

The Lyon Terence: Illustrator and Editor

The Lyon Terence, edited by the Fleming Jodocus Badius Ascensius in 1493, was the first printed edition of the plays of Terence to include a full cycle of woodcut illustrations. Illustrated manuscripts of Terence from the Middle Ages are well known and have been studied extensively, but the Lyon Terence has been unjustly overlooked.  This paper builds on the recently published The Lyon Terence: Its Tradition and Legacy (Brill 2020) to look closely at the interplay between woodcut illustrations and commentary. Although the identity of the artist who oversaw the design of the Lyon Terence’s iconographic plan is unknown, close correspondences between the commentary and the illustrations suggest a symbiotic dialogue between artist and editor.

Badius was already an authority on Terence—in 1491 he published an innovative edition of Terence and his late-antique commentator Donatus. Donatus’ brief notes on delivery of specific lines are usually taken as pedagogical advice on diction. Instead, this paper contends that, under the supervision of Badius, the artist of the Lyon Terence visually interpreted Donatus’ prescriptions as encompassing gestures, gaze orientation and bodily movement, following the consolidated tradition of Quintilian. Arguably, the Lyon Terence could elicit in the Renaissance reader a different level of engagement, providing a detailed linguistic and cultural explanation of Terence’s text to the learned audience, while in turn offering a pictorial narrative to the leisured reader, who could see the plot unfolding before his very eyes.

Giulia Torello-Hill is a Lecturer in Italian at the University of New England. She specialises in the reception of classical drama in the Renaissance. Her research explores the interplay between exegesis of ancient texts, iconographic tradition and performance practice in Renaissance Italy. She has held fellowships from Villa I Tatti the Harvard University Centre for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence (2015-16) and the Renaissance Society of America and Kress Foundation (2018). She has recently co-authored with Andrew Turner The Lyon Terence: Its Tradition and Legacy (Brill, 2020) and has embarked on a new collaborative project on drama, music and orality in Renaissance Ferrara.

Andrew Turner is a researcher at the University of Melbourne, where he lectures on Latin literature. His research focuses on the transmission of Latin texts in the Middle Ages, and in 2011-12 he was a visiting fellow at the Flemish Academic Centre in Brussels, where he undertook a study of classical literary scholarship in mediaeval Flanders. His most recent research has focused the commentary traditions on the classical dramatists Terence and Seneca; besides his extensive work with Giulia Torello-Hill, he currently is part of a major research project on the first mediaeval commentary on Seneca’s dramas by Nicholas Trevet.

26 July

Tamara Lewit, University of Melbourne

History from Below Adult Height: Researching Roman Children and Engaging Children with Romans

While there is a large and rapidly growing body of scholarship on Roman children, there are still few studies of children in rural contexts, mainly because our textual sources mainly relate to urban life. Yet, since the great majority of the Roman population would have lived in the countryside, it is important to consider how we can investigate the lives of the many rural children. Further, scholarly work on children is overwhelmingly written for adults, and in the second half of this talk I will discuss a project to engage modern children with the Classical past through the children’s novel The Boy Who Stepped Through Time. In collaboration with author Anna Ciddor, I have acted as a researcher for this novel, seeking ways to accurately present history from a child’s perspective.  The project aims to generate relationships between young modern readers and Roman children – represented by the fictional characters of a slave boy and young elite girl living in a Roman rural villa - and to form a bridge of empathy between the children of the past and present.

Dr Tamara Lewit is an Honorary Fellow in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at The University of Melbourne, and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, London. She specialises in the study of the late antique economy, particularly production of wine and oil. Her upcoming publications include ‘Young children in the Roman farming economy (western Mediterranean): Evidence, problems and possibilities’ in Divergent Economies in the Roman World edited by D. Van Limbergen, D. Taelman & A. Hoffelinck (Ghent, 2021) and the historical website for children ‘Tamara’s Secrets’ to accompany the novel The Boy Who Stepped Through Time. She recently published “What was it like to be a child in the Roman Empire?” for the online University of Melbourne magazine Pursuit.

2 August

Elizabeth Pemberton, LaTrobe University

A Cache of Terracotta Figurines in Corinth: Problems of Style, Iconography and Function

In 1971, a drain in the centre of Ancient Corinth was excavated, yielding over 500 kilos of pottery and other objects. All this material was published in 2012 by Ian McPhee and me, with the exception of the figurines, for they had been assigned to someone else. Unfortunately, he was not able to study them, so in 2018 I began to work on them. The drain was filled in ca 310 B.C.E. thus giving a fixed terminus ante quem. The figurines show a range of style and quality – from simple handmade votives to very complex and beautiful three-dimensional works. In Corinth, terracotta figurines were made to be votives. Some of the types in the drain are found in virtually every sanctuary in the city, but many of them are not, and these include some very unexpected figures.

I will discuss a few of the stylistic and iconographic problems, but I think the most important and difficult study revolves around the function of these pieces. The drain was not located in a sanctuary, but between two buildings, one of which seems to have held city offices. Where were these figurines originally? Many of them may have been brought for discard from nearby sanctuaries. But some may not have been made specifically for votive dedication. If so, they signify the beginning of an important change in the nature of artistic work: from public and religious to private and secular.

Speaker bio: I taught for 15 years at the University of Maryland, in Art History and Archaeology. In 1981 I (very sensibly) married Ian McPhee and emigrated to Australia. From 1983 to 2002 I taught here at Melbourne, first in Fine Arts, then in the Classics Department. I am currently an Honorary Research Fellow at the A.D. Trendall Centre for Ancient Mediterranean Studies, at La Trobe.

Most of my working life, in fact since 1965, has revolved around Ancient Corinth. I’ve been particularly involved with the study and publication of material from the Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore. My chief interest is in pottery, especially recently in cooking pots, but have also dabbled in iconographic problems. I’ve written or co-authored three books, all in the Corinth Excavations Series and have some 40 articles published. My current work is on these figurines. And I am desperate to return to Corinth to finish the study!

9 August

Dawn LaValle Norman, Australian Catholic University

The Emergence of the Female Voice in Ancient Philosophical Dialogues — from Plato to Augustine

Women’s voices were used throughout the history of the philosophical dialogue, from Plato to Augustine, but the style of their use changed. While Plato initiated a trend to avoid reporting their words directly “on-stage”, writers of dialogues in the third and fourth century CE were happy to bring their women onto the stage to speak ‘in their own voices.’ In today’s paper, I will look at two main moments in this story, Plato and Plutarch, and analyse how these author’s purposes changed, and, with it, their literary positioning of the female voice. Neither allow their women to speak “on-stage”, but while Plato’s women are only present through the memory and mouth of Socrates, Plutarch invites his women onto the stage to stand there silently while others speak for them. Plato used women’s voices to make arguments about the relative value of philosophy over rhetoric while Plutarch used women’s voices to figure Greece’s joined yet subordinated relationship with Rome. These two moments set the terms for the revolution that would occur in the third century CE.

Speaker bio: Dawn LaValle Norman has been a Research Fellow at Australian Catholic University’s Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry in Melbourne since 2017. Before then she was a Junior Research Fellow at Magdalen College, Oxford and received her Ph.D. from Princeton in 2015. Her work centres on the literature of the Imperial period, and she is currently writing a book on the same topic as this lecture, The Female Voice in Ancient Philosophical Dialogues. She also has a research interest in the literary and philosophical use of medical texts. Her first book, The Aesthetics of Hope in Late Greek Imperial Literature: Methodius of Olympus’ Symposium and the Crisis of the Third Century, came out with Cambridge at the very end of 2019.

16 August

David Rafferty, University of Adelaidee

Consular Policy and the Coming of Civil War

Conventional narratives of the Roman Republic’s slide to civil war in 51-49 BCE centre on the principal actors, Pompeius and Caesar. But Caesar was far away and Pompeius, as so often in his career, was largely passive and reactive to the machinations of others. A change in perspective, to take in other political actors, opens up new possibilities of explanation. In this paper I focus on the cousins Marcellus, consuls in 51 and 50, who ran a policy of trying to replace Caesar as governor of Gaul, a policy which resulted in him crossing the Rubicon in January 49.

How did this happen, when most senators saw the danger of civil war and were determined to avoid it? I consider Rome’s new constellation of political institutions in the aftermath of Pompeius’s laws in 52, and what capacity these institutions had to preserve peace between two overmighty subjects. Scholars normally consider the lex Pompeia de provinciis an enlightened reform (e.g. Morrell 2017) but, by depriving consuls of their provinces, it removed a key element in their structural dependence on the Senate and so freed them to pursue an independent policy. The two Marcelli are excellent case studies in the possibilities for and limits to consular action under the new order.

Speaker bio: Dr David Rafferty received his PhD at the University of Melbourne in 2016 and has since taught at Massey University in New Zealand. His monograph, Provincial Allocations in Rome, appeared in 2019. He is currently a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Adelaide and Schools Program Manager at the Virtual War Memorial Australia.

23 August

Tim Murray, The University of Melbourne

Archaeological Theory and the History of Australian Archaeology

In this presentation Professor Murray will  briefly and quite superficially explore some of the many  intersections between an inquiry into the history of archaeology in Australia, and a more general exploration of the nature of archaeological theory. His ultimate purpose is to discuss the role played by archaeological theory in the evolving practice of archaeology in Australia, and elsewhere, over the past 200 years. However,  given the limitations of his brief much of this discussion will remain as an aspiration, which can possibly be developed a little bit further  during discussion.  An even less achievable  aspiration in the present context  is to sketch the broad outlines of a philosophy of archaeology and the nature of its contributions to society.

Speaker bio: Tim Murray FSA FAHA is Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at La Trobe University and an Honorary Professorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne. As a practicing archaeologist with an interest in history and epistemology, his research and publication have focused on the history and philosophy of archaeology, the archaeology of the modern world, and heritage archaeology.

His most recent books include The Commonwealth Block, Melbourne: A Historical Archaeology (co-authored with Kristal Buckley, Sarah Hayes, Geoff Hewitt, Justin McCarthy, Richard Mackay, Barbara Minchinton, Charlotte Smith, Jeremy Smith and Bronwyn Woff (Sydney University Press 2019), Tim Murray and Penny Crook Exploring the Archaeology of Immigration and the Modern City in Nineteenth century Australia. (Springer: New York 2019), From Antiquarian to Archaeologist: The History and Philosophy of Archaeology (Pen and Sword Press, 2014) and World Antiquarianism Comparative Perspectives (co-edited with Alain Schnapp, Lothar von Falkenhausen and Peter Miller, Getty Research Institute, 2013). His current project are based around the general theme of transnational archaeologies in the long 19th century, with particular focus on ‘contact’ archaeology, urban archaeology and technology transfer, and demonstrating the importance of the history of archaeology for building more robust archaeological theory.

30 August

Dan Rankin, The University of Melbourne

Mice Against Elephants: Sacred Inviolability and the Negotiation of Royal Power in the Early Hellenistic Period

A number of major athletic competitions were established during the early Hellenistic period of ancient Greece, and a wealth of epigraphical evidence demonstrates that much diplomatic negotiation was necessary for this to occur. Similarly, the practice of claiming asylia, ‘sacred inviolability,’ began at the same time, and it is very often granted in the same inscriptions that established these athletic competitions. Despite this, no study has ever investigated their connection, and the consensus in scholarship is that there was no political context to the diplomatic negotiations that were necessary in establishing them. Dan’s master’s research will reject this consensus and argue that new athletic festivals and asylia claims were made with overtly political motives. Theoretical approaches such as New Institutionalism will be used in place of traditional Neo-Realist thinking to demonstrate that Greek poleis used these new forms of diplomatic interaction to assert their individual identities and compete for political status at a time when Hellenistic monarchies made this increasingly difficult.

Speaker bio: Dan Rankin is a Master of Arts (Thesis Only) student at the University of Melbourne. His primary research interest is Hellenistic interstate politics, particularly the expression of identity by ancient Greek city-states. He also dabbles in the history of ancient athletics and its literary representations. In 2019 Dan was awarded the D.H. Rankin Prize (which he promises is named purely as a coincidence) for the best Honours’ Thesis in Classics at the University of Melbourne, and the Alexander Leeper prize for the best overall marks of any student in Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology in Victoria. For his Masters Dan is honoured and grateful to receive a scholarship from the University of Melbourne; without this generosity in these troubled times it would not have been possible for him to complete this degree. In his spare time, Dan is an avid photographer, amateur Latin dancer, and occasional boxer; he aspires to become as proficient in this as the famous Greek athlete Milo of Croton.

6 September

Robert Turnbull, The University of Melbourne

Arabic Translations of ‘Caesarean’ Texts of the Gospels in the Sinai: New Finds

New Testament Gospel manuscripts have traditionally been placed into three broad text-types: ‘Alexandrian’, ‘Western’ and ‘Byzantine.’ A century ago, B.H. Streeter, K. Lake and others proposed that several Greek manuscripts and a handful of eastern versions should be regarded as a fourth type of text which they designated ‘Caesarean.’ In the early 1970s, L. Hurtado produced a quantitative analysis which called into question the coherence of this cluster of witnesses. E. Epp took Hurtado’s result as evidence of ‘a disintegrating Caesarean text, with its presumed com­ponents falling back into place among the other established text-groupings.’ Epp regarded ‘the Caesarean text affair’ as ‘striking evidence that the 20th century has been an interlude in NT textual criticism.’ New evidence and methods can help revisit this debate. The Sinai New Finds of 1975 has brought to light an unknown translation of the Gospels from Greek into Arabic, preserved in three manuscripts. Several additional manuscripts with this translation can be found in the previously unstudied Arabic lectionary tradition. Using phylogenetics, a method for inferring the evolutionary history of biological organisms, this Arabic translation appears related to other witnesses of the ‘Caesarean text.’ In contrast to Hurtado’s study, the ‘Caesarean’ manuscripts now form a coherent branch of the tradition under this phylogenetic analysis. This talk discusses this Arabic translation and its place in untangling the history of the text of the Gospels.

Speaker bio: Robert Turnbull studied Mathematics and Astrophysics at Monash University and then worked for Monash Cluster Computing writing software for modelling the Earth’s crust and mantle. He spent several years working as a technical support officer for a club for deaf adults in Amman, Jordan. Robert recently completed a PhD on a family of Arabic Gospel manuscripts. He currently works as a Research Data Specialist at the Melbourne Data Analytics Platform where he collaborates with researchers around the University of Melbourne to apply data science techniques to many different research domains.

13 September

6:00-7:00, NB Zoom event

Alexandra Morris, Teesside University

Let That Be Your Last Battlefield: Tutankhamun and Disability

Tutankhamun, an 18th dynasty Egyptian pharaoh and the most iconic figure in ancient Egypt recognized for the extreme beauty of his funerary goods and tomb by nearly everyone worldwide, remains embroidered and hyperbolized. He is now known to have been disabled with a clubbed foot, Kohler’s disease, and cleft palate; several potentially severely painful disabling conditions. There has been little to no recognition in the Egyptology and archaeology communities of how his disability factored into his personal, political, religious, and social roles within Egyptian society. Additionally, almost no recognition of his disability is mentioned in contemporary materials made for the general public. He remains the perfect face of a pharaoh, despite his very real disabilities. There has been little consideration or research into whether his tomb was adapted to fit his needs as a disabled man. This presentation will explore how Tutankhamun ̓s tomb was perhaps modified to fit his needs as a disabled person, through an examination of the tomb layout, certain artefacts, botanical materials, artwork, and other grave goods. This presentation will also show how his tomb is perhaps the pinnacle of disability acceptance that existed within the various facets of ancient Egyptian society. Finally, it posits that disability need not be hyperbolized into an all or nothing proposition, and his injuries and death may have been caused by a confluence of events.

Speaker bio: Alexandra F. Morris is a PhD student in history at Teesside University. Her PhD research focuses on disability during the Hellenistic/Ptolemaic Period, and prior research has focused on disability during pharaonic Egypt. Her most recent publication was "A Brief Guide to Disability Terminology and Theory in Ancient World Studies" co-authored with Dr. Debby Sneed (CSU Long Beach) published on the Society for Classical Studies's blog.  Other research interests include creating more accessible and inclusive museums for the disabled community. She also is interested in Ptolemaic Egypt, Alexander the Great, and ancient Egyptian and Greek art, medicine, politics, and religious practices. She has an MA in Museum Studies from New York University, and an MA in Near Eastern Languages & Civilisations (Egyptology) from the University of Pennsylvania. Her BA is in Archaeological Studies, Anthropology, and Art History with minors in Classics and history from SUNY Potsdam. She has cerebral palsy and dyspraxia.

27 September

Josephine Verduci, The University of Melbourne

Near Eastern Crescent Pendants and the Encoding of Social Memory

The crescent pendant is a distinctive element of Canaanite adornment with a long history in the Levant from ca. 2000 BCE. The symbol had amuletic or apotropaic qualities that were associated with either bovine symbolism or lunar mythologies, while in the biblical texts the crescent is also associated with rank and status.

In this paper, Dr Verduci contributes to the analysis of ancient jewellery through a view of culture and identity indebted to phenomenological theories of embodiment. This phenomenological alternative to lived experience argues that the full range of personal and public relations structures a person’s sense of self. Using this methodological approach, she sees the crescent pendant as acting on the body, which in turn affects the perception of self, and thus is closely intertwined with the embodied or social imaginary. Her methodology presupposes that shared bodily perceptions and understandings define one’s sense of belonging to a group and are key in maintaining deeply rooted cultural affiliations across time and space. These memories are associated with fixed points in the past whose significance is recalled through bearers of tradition – that is, cultural memory is encoded in material culture and on this basis create individual or collective identities.

Josephine A. Verduci holds a PhD in archaeology from the School of Historical & Philosophical Studies. Josephine has worked for several years on archaeological excavations in Israel and Jordan, and published studies on Bronze and Iron Age adornment practices from across the eastern Mediterranean. She is the author of Metal Jewellery of the Southern Levant and its Western Neighbours: Cross-Cultural Influences in the Early Iron Age Eastern Mediterranean. Currently, she is an (Honorary) Fellow with SHAPS and Research Fellow of the Australian Institute of Archaeology and is also Senior Associate Heritage Advisor and Archaeologist at Jacobs Australia.

This seminar will take place via Zoom; all welcome. To request the Zoom link, email the convenor, Dr Andrew Turner: ajturner@unimelb.edu.au.

4 October

Hyun Jin Kim, The University of Melbourne

Were the Greeks Racist?

Were the Greeks racist? Did they invent racism? Popular and even scholarly literature have of late made these startling claims. Complicating matters still further is the tendency in these discussions to shift or alter the definition of what constitutes racism, usually in a fashion that is advantageous/expedient to whatever claim is being made at the time.  This talk will present the argument that it is unhelpful and even dangerous to apply anachronistic modern definitions to very complicated ancient phenomena without taking into full consideration the contemporary contexts. The immensely complex and convoluted Classical Greek practice of representing non-Greeks or 'barbarians' in their literature, has arguably been misinterpreted by some groups, deliberately or otherwise, to cater for/pander to modern political agendas. Who was a Greek and who was a barbarian? And was ancient Greek prejudice/xenophobia the same as modern racism? This paper will attempt to address these questions hopefully within 45 minutes.

Hyun Jin Kim was born in Seoul, South Korea and grew up in Auckland, New Zealand. He took his D Phil. from the University of Oxford and he joined the teaching staff of Classics & Archaeology program in the School of Historical & Philosophical Studies in 2013. He is widely published and the author or editor of eight books. Many of his books, including his first monograph Ethnicity and Foreigners in Ancient Greece and China (2009; Duckworth), are comparative studies of Ancient Greece, Rome and China. His other monographs, most notably The Huns, Rome and the Birth of Europe (2013; Cambridge University Press), and some of his edited books are studies of the Inner Asian Huns, Geopolitics and Eurasian Empires in Late Antiquity.

This seminar will take place via Zoom; all welcome. To request the Zoom link, email the convenor, Dr Andrew Turner: ajturner@unimelb.edu.au.

11 October

John Henry, University of Melbourne

Atheism in Aristophanes

In the comedies of Aristophanes, respected traditions are constantly undermined by clever but impious characters loosely drawn from the real-life Athenian intelligentsia - especially Socrates and Euripides. In this seminar, we will look at a contested reading in Aristophanes' Frogs (405 BCE), where another such character might make a small appearance as an allusion: Diagoras of Melos, a lyric poet who supposedly profaned the Eleusinian Mysteries. Along with some textual discussion on the Frogs, the question of Diagoras' atheism will also be explored. Was he really an 'atheist' in the modern, or indeed ancient, sense of the word?

John Henry is an MA student in the School of Historical & Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne. He is interested in Hellenistic poetry and Greek tragedy.

18 October

Rachel Popelka-Filcoff, The University of Melbourne

Peering into the Past: Viewing Archaeology Using Analytical Science Approaches

Samples from natural and human-made processes in archaeological contexts offer a diversity of complex scenarios and questions. Archaeological, literary, ethnographic and cultural information tell the story of a landscape or object, however there are examples where characterisation by multiple novel analytical methods complement archaeological methods for a fuller picture.

The use of dating, spectroscopic and characterisation methods provide additional data not only for the site at hand but can place the site in local, regional and global contexts. In addition, many of these techniques require very small (milligram amount) of samples and can also be non-destructive or non-invasive to the sample.

These characteristics make these methods appealing for cultural heritage questions and objects; however, it is essential that the experimental design matches the archaeological question.
This presentation will address the question: “What can archaeological science and analytical methods do for you?”

The context for the samples can be diverse; however similar questions about composition (including multiple layers), intertwined material/chemical/physical properties and material characterisation underlie the research objectives. The presentation will use case studies to provide an overview of recent research in Archaeological Science at the University of Melbourne, highlighting key areas of expertise and instrumentation for characterisation, dating and analysis of cultural heritage materials.

Professor Rachel Popelka-Filcoff is the Rock Art Australia Minderoo Chair in Archaeological Science in the School of Geography, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Melbourne. Her laboratory integrates advanced characterisation, spectroscopic and statistical-driven approaches, in the areas of archaeological science and cultural heritage chemistry. Her research is to the first comprehensive integrative characterisation of Australian natural mineral pigments on cultural heritage materials by several analytical methods to answer questions about provenance and composition.

Rachel holds a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Missouri (USA) as a National Science Foundation Research Fellow and completed a National Research Council postdoc at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST, USA). From 2009-2020, she was at Flinders University in Adelaide, including 2010-2016 where she was an AINSE Senior Research Fellow. Rachel is on the editorial board of Journal of Archaeological Science and is a Fellow of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute. She has had her research profiled in several scientific and general media outlets such as Cosmos Magazine, and radio and television interviews.