Seminar on Ancient Art and Archaeology

The Seminar on Ancient Art and Archaeology invites scholars to share their current research with the research community at the Institute of Fine Arts and in the metropolitan area, and to meet and talk with IFA graduate students.

The study of Ancient Art and Archaeology is at a critical stage in its development. In recent years, this field has been characterized by an ever-increasing range of approaches, under the influence of various disciplines such as Sociology, Semiotics, Gender Theory, Anthropology, Reception Theory, and Hermeneutics. The scope of this Seminar is to explore key aspects of Ancient Art and Archaeology, and to assess the current state of the discipline by reviewing and subjecting its current larger theoretical implications, methodologies, and directions of research to critical scrutiny.

Please check the events calendar for upcoming seminars of Ancient Art and Archaeology.

Archive

April 29, 2021
Speaker: Maurizio Harari, Professor of Etruscan and Italic Archaeology and Director of the Archaeological Museum at the University of Pavia, Italy
Imagining the Etruscans: Modern European Perceptions of an Ancient Italian Civilization

Watch Maurizio Harrari's lectire online [opens in new window]

Please join us for the keynote talk of the New York Workshop of Etruscan Art given by Maurizio Harari.

The New York Workshop of Etruscan Art is an initiative promoted jointly by Columbia University and New York University. The ambition of the workshop is to advance our understanding of the artistic and visual dimensions of pre-Roman Italy by promoting discussion and sustained reflection on their role within the field of Etruscan studies, but it does not prescribe a specific intellectual agenda. This year, the workshop will: advance discussion of buildings, their roofs and decoration and the avenues they provide to investigate production processes, networks of interaction and creation, the sacred image and the porousness of Italic arts; reflect on the impact of 3D-modeling and reconstructions on our understanding of Etruscan aesthetics; present new findings from the Corpus Speculorum Etruscorum; present unpublished bronze figurines of subordinate characters; explore the relation with comedy of the imagery of Praenestine cistae. The keynote talk will investigate the ideological history of the discipline of Etruscology vis-à-vis modern European perceptions of the past. The full program and details are available online.

Since the late rise of Humanism and through a real crescendo in the 18th to 20th centuries, the Etruscans, an ancient people of pre-Roman Italy, became (and remain) a subject of lively discussions among scholars, as they saw a wide popularity in pseudo-scientific exploration and publication. This lecture aims to explore the ideological features of the foundation process of a highly specialized, but often self-referential discipline, so-called "Etruscology,” which only saw its real scholarly development in the first half of the 20th century. In that context, this major branch of scholarship was created with its roots in the rather complicated connections between the Italian territorial situation of Etruscan civilization and the European dimension of its reception and popularization.

Maurizio Harari is Professor of Etruscan and Italic Archaeology and Director of the Archaeological Museum at the University of Pavia, Italy. Author of over 200 publications, his reach focuses on Etruscan and Italic art and archaeology, especially issues of image making and meaning, wall painting, Etruscans of the Po-River region, and the sacred and political institutions of Etruscan cities. Co-Director of excavations at the Italian site of Verucchio since 2011, he is also a specialist in the historiography of Etruscology and its situation within the archaeological disciplines of Europe and the Mediterranean. He has collaborated widely across Europe, including with the European Research Council and on publication of the Enciclopedia dell’arte antica classica e orientale and the Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae, and he is fellow and member of multiple institutions, including the Istituto Nazionale di Studi Etruschi ed Italici.

March 25, 2021
Speaker: Rubina Raja, Professor of Classical Archaeology at Aarhus University, Denmark and director of the Danish National Research Foundation’s centre of excellence Centre for Urban Network Evolutions
The most beautiful female portrait I have ever seen"
Palmyrene Funerary Portraiture and Its Significance for the Study of Ancient Portrait Representations

Watch Rubina Raja's talk online [opens in new window]

Description: In the 1920s and ‘30s the Danish archaeologist Harald Ingholt undertook archaeological work in Palmyra and investigated more than 100 graves. Ingholt’s interest in Palmyra was originally spurred by his knowledge of the collection of Palmyrene funerary portraits in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, an institution where he also worked for five years as a curator. In 1928, he published his higher doctoral dissertation Studier over Palmyrensk Skulptur, where he presented a typological and chronological study of more than 500 funerary portraits. This work – published in Danish – has remained a standard work since then. Taking its point of departure in Ingholt’s work and the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek’s collection, the Palmyra Portrait Project team has since 2012 been collecting all known funerary portraiture from the city in order to create a comprehensive corpus. The corpus holds more than 4,000 portraits at present, making it the largest group of funerary portraits from the Roman world stemming from one place. This lecture takes the corpus as its point of departure and focusses on giving an insight into this unique material and its significance for our understanding of trends and traditions in local portrait representations in Roman Palmyra. Furthermore, the lecture draws in new research done on Ingholt’s excavation diaries and connects this to objects in the corpus, showing the importance of considering archival material and fieldwork notes when reevaluating earlier studies.

Rubina Raja is a Professor of Classical Archaeology at Aarhus University, Denmark and director of the Danish National Research Foundation’s centre of excellence Centre for Urban Network Evolutions. She heads the Palmyra Portrait Project, Archive Archaeology and Circular Economy and Urban Sustainability projects – all collective research projects focusing on the archaeology, history and cultural heritage of Palmyra in Syria. She directs fieldwork projects in Rome and the Middle East. Raja’s research focusses on societal and urban developments and networks from the Hellenistic to the medieval periods, iconography, religion and religious life in Antiquity. While being a classical archaeologist, she also works in the fields intersecting archaeology and natural sciences bringing high definition studies of the past to the forefront. Her most recent books include a translation and edited version of Ingholt’s Studier over Palmyrensk Skulptur from 1928 (Brepols, 2021) and the new collection catalogue of the Palmyra collection in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen (Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, 2019).

February 25, 2021
Roland Betancourt (UC-Irvine), Kathryn Howley (IFA), Stuart Tyson Smith (UC-Santa Barbara), Thelma K. Thomas (IFA)
Approaches to Diversity in Antiquity

Description: In the wake of recent events in which alt-right and neo-Nazi groups have mobilized the ancient past as justification for white supremacy, it is more important than ever to critically examine the popular idea that the ancient world was a homogeneous place. Prof. Roland Betancourt (UC Irvine) and Prof. Stuart Tyson Smith (UCSB) will join the Institute’s Profs. Thelma K. Thomas and Kathryn Howley for a panel discussion on new scholarly approaches to diversity in antiquity, exploring how we might research different types of diversity in the ancient world and the ethical and methodological challenges that accompany such an endeavor.

Roland Betancourt is Professor of Art History and Chancellor's Fellow at the University of California, Irvine. He is also the Director of the Visual Studies Program. In the 2016-2017 academic year, he was the Elizabeth and J. Richardson Dilworth Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He is also the author of Byzantine Intersectionality: Sexuality, Gender, and Race in the Middle Ages (Princeton University Press, 2020), as well as Sight, Touch, and Imagination in Byzantium (Cambridge University Press, 2018) and Performing the Gospels in Byzantium: Sight, Sound, and Space in the Divine Liturgy (Cambridge University Press, 2021).

Stuart Tyson Smith is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the Director of the UCSB Institute for Social, Behavioral and Economic Research. Since 2000 he has been co-director of the UCSB-Purdue Tombos Excavations in Sudan, which investigate an Egyptian colonial site of the late second-early first millennium BCE at the third cataract of the Nile. He is author of Wretched Kush (Routledge, 2003) and numerous articles on ethnicity, imperialism, and cultural entanglement in the ancient world.

November 17, 2020
Christina Riggs, Professor of the History of Visual Culture in the Department of History at Durham University
The eyes of the Sheikh el-Beled: Towards a critical historiography of Egyptian art

Description: Discovered in the desert cemeteries west of Cairo around 1860, an ancient Egyptian statue known as the ‘Sheikh el-Beled’ was a sensation at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1867 and merited more photographs than any other object in the landmark 1872 Album du Musée de Boulaq. By the end of the 19th century, reproductions of it were circulating globally in the form of plaster casts, postcards, stereographs, and book illustrations. The ‘Sheikh’ owed its name, and fame, to the legend of its discovery. According to this poorly documented tale, when workmen digging on behalf of Auguste Mariette first uncovered the 112cm-high statue, they cried out with immediate recognition. There was their village chief – their sheikh el-beled – carved in wood around the time the pyramids were built. Mixing the bewitching lifelikeness of the statue with the trope of credulous ‘Orientals’, the legend has featured in histories of Egyptian art ever since.

This lecture takes the Sheikh as an entry point for a historiographic re-evaluation of ancient Egyptian art. How did the translation of ancient objects into other media shape methods, priorities, and disciplinary praxis in the field of Egyptology – and why do colonial inscriptions (such as the gullible ‘Oriental’) still speak?

Christina Riggs is Professor of the History of Visual Culture in the Department of History at Durham University. She is a historian of photography and archaeology with a particular interest in North Africa and the Middle East, and has written extensively on the reception of the culture we know as “ancient Egypt”. Archives and museum collections form a primary source for much of her work, which interrogates how the fields of archaeology, art history, and Egyptology developed in tandem with colonial and imperial expansion. Her most recent books include Photographing Tutankhamun (Bloomsbury, 2019) and Unwrapping Ancient Egypt (Bloomsbury, 2014).

March 12, 2020
Janet DeLaine, Emeritus Fellow, Wolfson College, Oxford
The Patron’s Dilemma: Exploring the Economics of Roman Imperial Architecture

While architecture was fundamental to Roman culture - a culture which was essentially urban in nature and which found expression in the built environment - the act of building was almost entirely the privilege of the political and economic elite. By the height of empire in the second to early third centuries CE, however, many cities in Italy and around the empire already had the standard complement of public buildings. The main choices left to ambitious benefactors were to build more bath buildings, to embellish the existing theatre with a new, elaborate scaenae frons, or to adorn the city with new display monuments such as nymphaea, which often used the same architectural language of the columnar façade as the scaenae frons. This paper aims to throw some light on the economics of such choices in a comparative sense across the empire.

Janet DeLaine is an Emeritus Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, and Director of its Ancient World Research Cluster, having previously been Associate Professor in Roman Archaeology at Oxford. Her research covers the built environment of the Roman world, particularly in the Mediterranean, with a focus on the Roman building industry, Roman baths, and the urban development of Ostia. Her major study on the Baths of Caracalla in Rome (1997), won the Archaeological Institute of America’s James R. Wiseman Award, and has been fundamental in establishing the archaeology of construction as a new discipline within the field of classical archaeology. She is the author of many articles and edited volumes, and has just completed a short book on Roman architecture for OUP. Dr DeLaine is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, and a Corresponding Member of the Archaeological Institute of America.

November 14, 2019
Paul Stephenson, University of London
Late Roman Lead Caskets from Lincoln

Lead was ubiquitous in the Roman world, employed in quantities unknown before, and it remained in heavy use through the late Roman period. The environmental record is clear that by around CE 400 an age of mining and smelting, of industry and pollution, of long-distance shipping and large-scale building of infrastructure, had ended. This age, the Roman age, has left signals across northern Europe and the northern Atlantic world, including in Ireland, Sweden, Iceland, and Greenland, as well as in peat bogs and lake beds, salt marshes and glaciers closer to centres of Roman metal production, notably Spain, the Balkans, and Britain. As the production and exportation of lead declined in fourth-century Britain, where lead sulphide ores and mines were peculiarly abundant, lead and put to many uses, in the manufacture of brine pans and sieves, more decorated lead coffins even than those known from the Levant, in circular tanks often interpreted as fonts, and in a group of rectangular caskets discovered across the East Midlands of England, focussed on the Roman city of Lincoln.

Paul Stephenson is currently Andrew W. Mellon fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he is exploring early Byzantine culture through human responses to and interactions with things fashioned from natural materials, elements and alloys: lead and silver, copper and bronze, wood, soil, sand and clay, stone, water and air, flesh and bone. He is author or editor of nine books, most recently The Serpent Column: a cultural biography (Oxford University Press, 2016), and Fountains and Water Culture in Byzantium (Cambridge University Press, 2016), edited with Brooke Shilling. He has held chairs at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, Durham University (UK), and Radboud Univerity Nijmegen (Netherlands). His research has been supported by the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, the Onassis Foundation, The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the British Academy, Dumbarton Oaks, and the Met.

October 24, 2019
Ellen Morris, Professor, Barnard College, Columbia University
Exploring the reverberations of social revolution in times of famine in Egypt’s material worlds and cultural memory

The Admonitions of Ipuwer, an ancient Egyptian text penned in the late New Kingdom (c. 1300-1200 BCE), is often maligned for its seemingly histrionic tone and strident insistence that in the period of chaos it depicted, the poor became rich and the rich poor. Drawing upon archaeological, art historical, liturgical, and ethnohistoric evidence, it will be argued in this talk that this papyrus sheds valuable light both on social history during and in the aftermath of famine and plague and also on the surprisingly ludic process of encoding memories of potentially recurrent trauma into societal practice.

Ellen Morris is an assistant professor in the Classics and Ancient Studies Department at Barnard College, Columbia University. She has excavated in Dakhleh Oasis, Abydos, and Mendes and is currently involved in a collaborative multidisciplinary effort aimed at exploring the transition from the Late Bronze to the Early Iron Age in the Southern Levant. Her work focuses on ancient Egyptian imperialism, sacred sexuality and performance, retainer sacrifice, divine kingship, landscape theory, and life in “interesting” times.

October 2, 2019
Verity Platt, Professor, Cornell University
Bodies, Bases and Borders: Framing the Divine in Greco-Roman Antiquity

Description: Traditionally, to visualize the Greco-Roman gods has been to focus primarily upon their bodies: their degree of anthropomorphism, the beguiling power of naturalism, and the subtle means of iconographic differentiation by which individual deities might be defined and recognized. But to ‘imagine the divine’ in antiquity was to engage with a far broader and more complex set of visual strategies.

Focusing on representations of Athena on the Athenian Acropolis, this paper focuses on those elements of divine depiction that might be considered ‘parergonal’ – the panoply of ‘columns, drapery and frames’ that post-Kantian art history deemed superfluous to the work (that is, the deity itself). Together, Greco-Roman bodies and frames worked to construct a notion of interiority that served to make the gods present for their worshippers – to give their images agency. Yet this concentric system of frames also extended to the surfaces of cult statues themselves – to the colors, materials, attributes and clothing that defined the gods’ external appearances. To view sacred images in this way not only decenters the role of the body in the Greco-Roman religious imagination, but also recognizes the inherent flexibility and improvisatory nature of a visual system that would have abiding influence over the great religions that superseded it.

April 25, 2019
Sheramy Bundrick, University of South Florida, Saint Petersburg
Athens, Etruria, and the Entanglements of Ancient Greek Vases

April 16, 2019
Alan Shapiro, Johns Hopkins University
Communicating with the Divine in Classical Athenian Art

February 28, 2019
Alessandro Naso, University of Naples Federico II
Etruscan and Italic Finds in the Aegean

September 27, 2018
Francesca Spatafora, Archaeological Museum of Palermo
“Colonial Encounters” in Archaic Western Sicily

April 5, 2018
Milette Gaifman, Yale University
The Two-dimensional and Three-dimensional in Greek Painted Pots

March 1, 2018
Alessandro Pierattini, University of Notre Dame)
The Temple Before the Order: The Origins of Greek Temple Architecture

November 16, 2017
Rachel Kousser, CUNY
The Red and the Black: Materiality in Hellenistic Sculpture

October 18, 2017
Vinzenz Brinkmann, Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Frankfurt am Main
The Enigma of the Riace Bronzes: A New Approach

November 30, 2016
Nathan Arrington, Princeton University
Style and Status in Early Athens

October 21, 2016
Ann Kuttner, University of Pennsylvania
In Stony Mirrors: Spectatorship, Performance, and Roman 'Historical Relief'

May 3, 2016
Luca Giuliani, Humboldt University and Wissenschaftskolleg, Berlin
The Emergence and Function of Narrative Images in Ancient Greece

March 31, 2016
Gregory Nagy, Harvard University
Dora Vassilikou, Athens Archaeological Society
Nanno Marinatos, University of Illinois-Chicago
Angelos Chaniotis, Princeton University
Ioannis Mylonopoulos, Columbia University
Michael Cosmopoulos, University of Missouri-St. Louis
Archaeological Discoveries that Changed Greek History: The Athens Archaeological Society

February 25, 2016
Zeev Weiss, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Houses of the Wealthy in Roman and Late Antique Sepphoris

April 29, 2015
Michael Squire, King's College, London
Homer and the Ekphrasists: Text and Image in the Elder Philostratus’s Scamander (Imagines I.1)

April 2, 2015
Verena Gassner, University of Vienna
The Hellenistic Sanctuaries of Velia

March 12, 2015
Stefano Vassallo, Superintendency of Palermo
The New Excavations in the Necropolis of Himera

February 26, 2015
Jenifer Neils, Case Western Reserve University
The Shield of the Athena Parthenos: A New Reconstruction

September 23, 2014
Jeffrey Hurwit, University of Oregon
Who Signed What? Artists and Signatures in Ancient Greece

April 16, 2014
Mark Wilson Jones, University of Bath
Temples, Orders and Gifts to the Gods in Ancient Greece

February 27, 2014
Ken Lapatin, J. Paul Getty Museum
What’s in a Name: Signatures on Classical Gems, Ancient and Modern

January 30, 2014
Francesco de Angelis, Columbia University
Gods, Temples, and Visibility: Representing Ritual in Roman State Art

December 12, 2013
Roland R. R. Smith, University of Oxford
The Greek East under Rome: City Monuments and Political Ideology

November 21, 2013
Tasos Tanoulas, Greek Ministry of Culture
The Propylaia to the Athenian Akropolis: New Evidence about the Classical Building

October 30, 2013
Felix Pirson, Deutsches Archaeologisches Institut, Istanbul
Conservation and Restoration Activities in Pergamon and Turkey

October 3, 2013
Jas Elsner, University of Oxford and University of Chicago
Art and Rhetoric in the Arch of Titus

May 9, 2013
Elizabeth Bartman, Archaeological Institute of America
Henry Blundell and His Classical Marbles

April 4, 2013
François Lissarrague, École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris
Attic Vase-inscriptions: The Verbal and the Visual

March 26, 2013
Tonio Hölscher, University of Heidelberg
The Trojan War in Archaic Greek Art: A Chapter on Greek Pessimism

December 6, 2012
Ioannis Mylonopoulos, Columbia University
Poseidon and His Youths on Cape Sounion: The Archaic Sanctuary, the Colossal Kouroi, and Political Dedications in Early-Sixth-Century Attica

November 20, 2012
Olga Palagia, University of Athens
The Boscoreale Frescoes as Reflections of Macedonian Funerary Paintings