Ancient World Seminar 2017

Via Appia Antica
Via Appia Antica - Quo Vadis?
(Photograph: Andrew Stephenson)

2017 Programme

6 March

Michael Schmitz, University of Melbourne

The Evolution of Roman Armour During the Dacian Wars AD101-107

The Roman military are renowned for their ability to adapt to the enemies they faced. This presentation will focus on the Roman adaptation of defensive equipment to mitigate the threat posed by the Dacians during Trajan’s wars against the Dacian king Decebalus between AD 101 and 106.

13 March

K.O. Chong-Gossard, University of Melbourne

The Pope's Shoes: Cultural Glosses by Guy Jouenneaux in Badius’ 1493 Edition of Terence's Comedies

The invention of the printing press with movable type in the mid-15th century revolutionised the study of the classics, and it is no surprise that one of the most popular printed authors was Terence, whose six Latin comedies had been indispensable in the education of schoolboys for centuries. Terence's comedies contain many references to ancient customs and to figures from classical mythology, some quite direct, others oblique. For late-15th century readers unfamiliar with all aspects of antiquity, the significance of an invocation to Juno Lucina or the mention of a psaltria in a character's speech could be lost. This paper examines how the commentary of Guy Jouenneaux (aka. Guido Juvenalis), which was printed in Badius’ 1493 edition of Terence, explains the background of ancient cultural references in the plays. Examples in the Eunuchus alone include military terms like centurio and cornu, the etymology of peniculon (a long sponge), and the myth of Hercules and Omphale. Most notably, Jouenneaux describes Omphale's sandals as similar to the pope's shoes worn at the celebration of mass, which is itself a reminder to us that late 15th Europeans no longer wore sandals. By examining such cultural glosses, and in particular his erudite quoting of ancient writers (Cicero, Ovid, Sallust, Varro, and Festus being frequent), we can understand more precisely what Jouenneaux means in his first epistle (printed in Badius' edition) when he proclaims his intention to explain every small detail (minima quaeque) f the Latin for students whose desire for learning (discendi cupiditatem) is hampered for lack of a teacher or lack of money.

20 March

Antonio Gonzalez, Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation

Cultural Cleansing and Iconoclasm under the ‘Islamic State’: Human/Heritage Attacks on Yezidis and Christians

When the ‘Islamic State’ (IS) seized large swathes of territory across Iraq and Syria and declared their new caliphate, they unleashed a cataclysmic wave of both devastating human suffering and unprecedented heritage destruction. In terms of the human suffering, the IS has executed many who questioned their nefarious ideology or committed petty crimes. At the same time, the rapid expansion of the IS has also proved fatal for many of the world’s most sensitive and important cultural heritage sites. Targeted sites range from ancient Mesopotamian city-states through to Greek, Roman and Byzantine sites, as well as museums, art galleries and libraries. However, little attention has been paid to the intersection between the human suffering and the heritage destruction undertaken by the Islami State (IS). Here, human/heritage destruction are intertwined: the suffering inflicted on people is projected onto their sites of ritual and worship; just as the destruction of these sites are deliberately orchestrated to inflict symbolic suffering on specific communities and to shatter the ethnic and religious diversity of the region. This talk will explore and document an/heritage ‘cultural cleansing’ undertaken by the IS against two fragile minorities: the Yezidi and Christian populations of northern Iraq and Syria.

27 March

Chris Gosden, University of Oxford

English Landscapes and Identities

The English Landscapes and Identities project (funded by the European Research Council) attempted to bring together all the major digital sources of archaeological information on the English landscape for the period from 1500 BC to AD 1086. We were interested in the possibilities of large-scale digital data for revealing patterns of life and landscape organisation across England as a whole, but also regional differences. This seminar will present some of the major results of the project, looking at the influences generating archaeological evidence, but also variations in artefact use, landscape clearance, fields and settlement across England from the prehistoric period, through the Roman occupation and into the early medieval world. Continuity and change have been rethought around scales of change and the notion of identity was also addressed.

3 April

Philipp Stockhammer, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universit√§t M√ľnchen

New Thoughts on the End of the Mycenaean Palaces

For a long time, the 13th century in the Aegean has been considered as a peaceful period marked by rather stable, local communities and the large-scale exchange of commodities most emblematically materialised by the Mycenaean palaces of the Argolid. In contrast to that, the 12th century seemed to be characterised not only by the end of the palaces and all connected societal institutions but also by human mobility together with a rather neglectable scale of the exchange of commodities. The year 1200 BC was considered as the peak of the crisis which has been taken as an explanation for the assumed groundbreaking shifts between the two centuries.

In my paper, I want to go beyond simplifying narratives and take a more differentiated view on what transformations took place at the end of the 13th century or already during its course. I want to show that major changes already seem to have taken place in the second half of the 13th century and continued into the 12th century and thereby relativise the year 1200 BC as a hallmark of the developments. I will demonstrate the shifts of the Mediterranean network of mobility of humans and objects during the 13th century and in the early 12th century with a strong focus on the archaeological evidence from Tiryns. This will lead to a revaluation of the historical developments in the 13th century.

In the final part of my paper, I will then present our newly founded Max Planck Harvard Research Center for the Archaeoscience of the Ancient Mediterranean (MHAAM) and present a vision for future research which will help us to shed a completely new light on the issues discussed in the first part of my lecture.

10 April

Louise Hitchcock, University of Melbourne

Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirate's Life for Me: The Maritime Culture of the Sea People

An anthropological approach to culture extrapolates social structures, traditions and general organising principles of that culture from the careful observation of patterns of behaviour as described in case studies. In the absence of a living culture to record, archaeologists extrapolate this information from behaviour reconstructed from spatially determined patterns in the deposition of material remains and from patterns found in the general organising principles of historically documented cultures, using arguments based on analogy. This talk builds on my previous research with Aren Maeir on the "Sea Peoples" as a piratical culture in order to investigate and to apply an anthropological approach to understanding the cultural identities of the various tribal groups involved in maritime activities at the end of the Bronze Age who are popularly known as the "Sea People" and place this within the broader context of the current discussions on the transition between the Late Bronze and Iron Age in the Mediterranean.

24 April

Trudie Fraser, University of Melbourne

The Dilemma of Vibia Sabina's Roman Coins

The coins of Vibia Sabina, wife of the emperor Hadrian, are beautiful and their number suggests that she was honoured with more coins than any previous emperor's wife. The chronology of these coins, however, has puzzled many scholars for nearly a century with no satisfactory conclusion having yet been reached. The variety of the iconography, both the obverse images of Sabina and the selection of reverse images, several different legends and the use of most coin denominations, all contribute to an enormous chronological dilemma. This paper discusses these problems with many illustrations of Sabina's coins. It attempts to provide reasons for the different combinations of image and legend and to suggest a possible chronology for Sabina's coins, which in turn could shed some light on Sabina's relationship with her husband.

1 May (Old Arts 239 - North Theatre)

Andrew Turner, University of Melbourne

Jodocus Badius and the Lyon Terence: The Earliest Illustrated incunabulum of the Six Comedies

The 1490s saw the first early printed editions (incunabula) of Terence's plays incorporating an illustrative cycle found in manuscripts which had its origins in late antiquity; the earliest and most complete of these was published in Lyon, where it was edited by the Flemish classical scholar Jodocus Badius Ascensius. Although the pictures appear to be a late addition to another edition and commentary on Terence, written by Guy Jouenneaux, behind them lies a large amount of careful scholarship by Badius. Only two years earlier he published a major edition of the ancient commentary by Donatus on Terence, rediscovered in the 1440s, and had studied the classics extensively in Renaissance Ferrara at the precise time that the first dramatic revivals of Roman comedy were taking place on stage there. This paper looks in more detail at the relationship of text, image and performance in one of the key works for the reception of Terence in the later Renaissance.


Stuart Ibrahim, University of Melbourne

Third Intermediate Period/Iron Age I-II Raphia and Egypt's Response to the Changed Political Spectrum in the Levant: Early Results

Archaeological analysis has established that, following the Bronze Age Collapse (around 1200–1177 BC), all of the great Bronze Age kingdoms and empires, except for Egypt, crumbled into dust. Other cultures and peoples took this opportunity to seize these lands and form their own kingdoms. In the meantime, Egypt had declined into a period of Chaos (the Third Intermediate Period), with separate dynasties ruling over Upper and Lower Egypt. It was only in Dynasty 22, under the Libyan King, Shoshenq I, that Egypt was reunified and able to influence the Levantine region.

This presentation comprises the preliminary results for my PhD analysis on the site of Raphia/Tell Rafa and the surrounding region and will attempt to expand on what we know already. While the primary analysis will be on Raphia itself, the focus of this paper is on the surrounding regions and the most likely occupants of Raphia (these being the Philistines, the Israelites, surviving Canaanites (?) or even the Edomites). These results will then be used to address the question of whether Egypt reclaimed Rafa under Shoshenq I or not.

15 May

Brent Davis, University of Melbourne

The Phaistos Disk: A New Way of Looking at the Language Behind the Script

In this seminar, I introduce a new, linguistics-based method of analysing the behaviour of signs in the Aegean family of 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. As the method 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. low result (45%) is obtained when Linear B and the Phaistos Disk are analysed together.

When Linear A and the Phaistos 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 recognised 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.

22 May

Frederik Vervaet University of Melbourne

Last of the Naval Triumphs: Revisiting Some Key Actian Honours

On 2 September 31 BCE, Caesar Octavianus, or Imperator Caesar Divi filius, as he then wanted to be known, won a decisive naval victory over his rival Marcus Antonius and his ally Cleopatra at Actium in Greece. While some scholars even argue that there was no such thing as a separate triumph for this victory, others consider it to be not very different from the curule triumphs that preceded and followed it on 13 and 15 Quintilis, namely those over a number of European tribes and Egypt successively. More often than not, they also tend to downplay the significance of the so-called Actian triumph. Endeavours to cast a very different light on Octavianus’s second curule triumph by virtue of a careful reappraisal of the extant literary, numismatic and epigraphic evidence.

31 July

Stavroula Nikoloudis, University of Melbourne

Excavations at Ancient Eleon, Boeotia, Greece

The excavation of the site of ancient Eleon by the Eastern Boeotia Archaeological Project (EBAP) is a collaborative venture between the Canadian Institute in Greece and the Ephorate of Antiquities of Boeotia. Following an intensive surface survey (2007-2009), excavation of the site identified as ancient Eleon commenced in 2011.

To date, the site has yielded impressive remains of the late Bronze Age (LH IIIB - LH IIIC) and late Archaic and Classical periods. The substantial Mycenaean architecture, high quality pottery, figurines and artifacts made of metal, bone and stone, including textile tools, jewellery and weapons, support the Linear B textual evidence indicating that the site was incorporated in the economic and political network of the nearby Mycenaean Palace of Thebes. The remains also demonstrate links with the island of Euboia to the East and beyond. The massive polygonal wall and monumental ramped entrance at the site reflect its continuing importance in later years.

This talk presents preliminary findings from the excavation, highlighting the significance of this site for our understanding of the Mycenaean world, especially in the palatial and post-palatial periods.

7 August

Louise Hitchcock, University of Melbourne

The Survey of the Mycenaean Sites of Vapheio-Palaiopyrgi

In 2016-2017, the Vapheio-Palaiopyrgi Survey Project, under the auspices of the Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens and in collaboration with the Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities of Lakonia, the University of Melbourne, Brevard College and the University of the Peloponnese, initiated a scientific survey of the sites of Vapheio-Palaiopyrgi. These sites include the Vapheio Tholos, one of the earliest and richest tholos tombs and Palaiopyrgi, one of the largest unexcavated Mycenaean sites in the Peloponnese and a recently discovered conglomerate quarry, which is situated between them. Moreover, Palaiopyrgi belongs to a network of intervisible sites in the Eurotas River Valley including the "Menalaion," Amyklai, Ayios Vassileios and Vouno Panayias. Over the course of two seasons, the team engaged in a broad complement of both traditional and modern analytical techniques for the study of the landscape and its surface finds and features. The initial results are promising with implications for the study of regional network in the Eurotas River Valley in the prehistoric and later eras. This paper presents the preliminary results of our research in its spatial and chronological contexts, prior to our study season to be held in 2018. Of particular significance are the diagnostic sherds and finds from the EH through LH III and the Byzantine periods and the ninety-six surface features that were recorded.

14 August

Andrea Argiridis, University of Melbourne

The Protection of Cultural Heritage and Archaeological Sites in Conflict Zones: The Case for Iraq

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has operated in many theatres of operation, especially in the Middle East. al and archaeological wealth of tribal nations, such as Iraq, cannot be disputed and it is extremely distressing to have witnessed the horrible impacts of war upon these ancient lands, with not only the loss of human life, but also the destruction of cultural and archaeological heritage. This presentation will explore a number of key issues pertaining to the protection of cultural heritage and archaeological sites in conflict zones and how best the ADF can protect such heritage during armed conflict. This is a topic that is particularly relevant for current and future operational practices for deployed forces. This presentation will be presented not just from the perspective of an archaeology major completing a PhD, but it is also from a military officer who has had three tours of duty to the Middle East.

21 August

Marguerite Johnson, University of Newcastle

Black Out: Classicising First Nation Peoples in Australia and New Zealand

The colonisation of both New Zealand and Australia in the 1800s was recorded in numerous publications based on the original journals of explorers, naval captains and crew members. Written details of the voyages, the explorations of the lands of New Zealand and Australia, and the processes of colonisation were accompanied by illustrations of flora, fauna and maps, as well as descriptions of Aboriginal and Maori peoples recorded in the fieldnotes of scientists and natural history artists who were also members of the crew. These volumes were immensely popular and catered to the British and European fascination with so-called recently 'discovered' lands and peoples.

This presentation examines the illustrations in one major publication and two artists' field illustrations with a methodological eye to Classical Reception Studies; namely, the representations of First Nations people with recourse to ancient Mediterranean sculpture. This use of Classicism is evident in two engravings from the monograph of John Hunter (1737-1821) published in 1793; the watercolour, 'A Native Wounded while asleep' (c. 1788-1797) by the 'Port Jackson Painter', which occupies the main discussion; and a pen and wash, 'New Zealand War Canoe bidding defiance to the Ship' (1770) by Sydney Parkinson (c. 1745-1771).

This trend for Classicism that marked much of the literature, philosophy and art of the Enlightenment produced what I term the 'Black Out' of indigeneity and cultural authenticity in the formal accounts of colonisation. Elsewhere(Johnson 2014), I have discussed the employment of Neo-Classicism in colonial accounts of Australian Aboriginals, including the motivations behind its function as a narrative device, as well responses to it, and the implications for both contemporary and post-colonial audiences. In this presentation, I wish to emphasise an absence of indigeneity and cultural authenticity – a ‘black out’ – which resulted from colonial mimesis in the form of Classicism that rendered Maori and Aboriginal bodies as antiquities in the established Mediterranean style. This Classicising of indigenous bodies show First Nations people of the Pacific as imagined, anonymous bodies – hybrids – related to but ultimately different from the body as a site of racial difference, and ultimately part of the confused and competing nascent theories of race during the Eighteenth Century.

Reference: Johnson, M. (2014), 'Indigeneity and Classical Reception in The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay', Classical Receptions Journal 6 (3): 402–25.

28 August

Peter Mountford, University of Melbourne

Alesia: The Climax of Julius Caesar's Campaigns in Gaul

A pilgrimage to the site of Alesia in June 2016 gave me a much better understanding of the topography of the site of the famous siege and battle fought in 52 BC which were to bring an end to Gallic resistance. The visit brought even greater admiration for Caesar's achievements. The excellent museum, opened in 2012, also helped my understanding of the phases of the siege and battle. This lecture, illustrated with pictures of the museum, of Alesia itself and the surrounding area, accounts for Caesar's success and the Gallic failure.

4 September

Virginia Campbell, Oxford University

Primigenia of Nuceria: Prostitute or Patroness?

Echoing the verse of Ovid, a graffito found on a wall in Pompeii greets Primigenia of Nuceria, wishing to bestow kisses on her via the seal of a ring. This, and other texts scattered about the city, have led to speculation amongst historians about who Primigenia was, and what kind of woman. Both sides - those who think her a whore and those who think her a lady - are guilty of mis-interpreting and overestimating the evidence. This paper is an attempt to set the record straight, taking a more holistic approach to the graffiti, the difficulties that lie therein with attributions, and the issues of urban topography that have turned a street address into a brothel.

11 September (4:00, Old Arts 239 - North Theatre)

Wayne Horowitz, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

“The Gwich’in Boy in The Moon”: The Arctic, Anthropology, Babylon and Australia

18 September

Ron Ridley, University of Melbourne

The Fate of the Column of Antoninus Pius

This is a story of total incompetence which resulted in a tragedy. The column of this famous emperor was fully uncovered in 1703 - but it was then destroyed, so that only the pedestal remains, in the Vatican Museum, where it is hard to see! This is the best documented 'excavation' in centuries, but the standard references cannot get a single thing right.

2 October

Tamara Lewit, University of Melbourne

Separating the Sheep from the Goats: Animals in Human Communities from the Roman Empire to the Early Middle Ages

Animals have received little attention in the mainstream historiography of the Roman Empire and the Early Middle Ages. Yet animals were fundamental to these (as to other) human societies, forming an essential part of the complex human interactions with the environment through farming, exploitation of uncultivated areas, industries and trade, allocation of resources, symbolism and material culture. This paper will focus on some recent findings of archaeozoology which can inform our understanding of the vital roles which animals played in the Roman Empire and the Early Middle Ages. Particular attention will be paid to the processes of change and transition between these two periods.

9 October

Nicholas Al-Jeloo, University of Melbourne

Persistence and Existence: The Survival of Assyria and Assyrian Identity Beyond 612 BC

Whereas traditional scholarly consensus has come to rule out the persistence of Assyrian identity beyond the fall of their empire in 609 BC, evidence suggesting the contrary has been surfacing in the last two decades, gaining popularity among researchers. Depictions in reliefs of people identified as Assyrians, as well as textual mentions of a satrapy of Assyria, are found throughout the Achaemenid period in both Persian and Greek sources. This continues through the Hellenistic period and, by the Parthian period, we begin to observe the emergence of client kingdoms where the ancient Mesopotamian gods including Ashur, the head of the Assyrian pantheon, are still worshipped. With the ascendance of Christianity in Mesopotamia during Sassanian rule, there are a number of shifts which occur in regards to the Assyrian identity. This paper will briefly discuss the evidence for a survival of Assyrian identity in the textual and archaeological record leading to the late antique period, as well as the shifting of this identity to Syriac Christianity, as also illustrated in contemporaneous Syriac texts. It will also deal with the survival of an Assyrian territorial identity, both within the context of a Syriac Christian archdiocese, as well as that of the provincial administration of the Sassanian Empire. Significantly, the paper will draw upon evidence from a variety of late antique and early Islamic sources that support a continued sense of Assyrian cultural and territorial identity among inhabitants of northern Mesopotamia, thereby contributing to scholarship supportive of notions of Assyrian survival and continuity.

16 October

Connor Trouw, University of Melbourne

The Interpretation and Excavation of Iron Age Israel: A Brief Discussion of the Impacts and Effects of the Biblical Narrative on Modern Archaeological Practice

For several decades the issue of interpretation has been at the forefront of archaeological discourse, with many academics now accepting that material evidence cannot be seen as passively awaiting classification, but rather having an agency and voice all its own. From this perspective, the 19th-century notion of grand campaigns undertaken to uncover proof of mythical kings and conquests has been replaced by a need to view these legends within the context of a past reality, with modern excavations helping scholars better understand contemporary written sources rather than the other way around. Unfortunately, this is not a view that is universally applied, particularly when the written sources are religious in nature. The focus of this lecture will be a discussion of one such instance, that being Iron Age archaeology in Israel, an area of research that continues to cause debate amongst academics worldwide. Essentially, by examining two opposing methodological approaches, one secular, the other non-secular, it is the aim of this talk to highlight the need for archaeologists to approach material evidence with an open mind and accept that they inevitably apply prejudices to any conclusions they may reach. In addition, this lecture will also discuss why Biblical Archaeology as a field of research has regained momentum in recent years, the effects such an approach has upon public perceptions of Israeli archaeology and the impact such an approach has had upon research within the wider Levantine region.