CIAMS faculty members Jeff Zorn (Near Eastern Studies) and Lauren Monroe (Near Eastern Studies) recently received funding from the Grants Program for Digital Collections in Arts and Sciences at Cornell University in order to digitize the architectural plans for the site of Tell en-Naṣbeh, located 12 km north of Jerusalem in the West Bank. Approximately two thirds of this three hectare, primarily Iron Age, site was excavated by a team from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA, between 1926–1935 under the direction of W. F. Badé. Tell en-Naṣbeh is one of the most broadly excavated sites in the southern Levant, making it of great importance for those interested in studying house construction, settlement planning and social organization. The full set of plans has, until now, only been available to those able to travel to Berkeley. This digitization project will at last make these important plans available to students and scholars at Cornell and around the world.
Professor Astrid Van Oyen, who joins the faculty of CIAMS in the 2016-2017 academic year, has been awarded a Cotsen Excavation Grant by the Archaeological Institute of America for her field project at the site of Podere Marzuolo in southern Tuscany (Italy).
The Marzuolo Archaeological Project (MAP) is an international and interdisciplinary fieldwork project investigating the rural craft site of Podere Marzuolo. Professor Van Oyen’s collaborators on the project include Gijs Tol (University of Melbourne) and Rhodora Vennarucci (University of Arkansas).
Preliminary excavations at the site were undertaken in 2012-2013 under the aegis of the Roman Peasant Project. Over the next five years (2016-2021), MAP will investigate how knowledge was shuffled, how a community of practice was formed around ceramic production, and how innovation happened. MAP seeks to challenge the stereotypical view of a Roman countryside occupied by conservative, isolated, and economically underdeveloped farmers, and instead focuses on the changing practices of a crafting community that is highly diversified, well connected, and actively innovating.
Congratulations to Professor Van Oyen on her award and what promises to be an innovative and illuminating research project!
Photographs provided by Astrid Van Oyen.
Congratulations to Bill Mastandrea for winning the 2015/2016 CIAMS MA Thesis Prize! Bill’s thesis is entitled Cupellation at Kea: Investigating Potential Applications of the Minoan Conical Cup. Two of his advisors–Sturt Manning and Lori Khatchadourian–comment that Bill wrote a well-researched, well-written, and provocatively original thesis.
Bill was announced as the CIAMS MA Thesis Prize winner at the CIAMS graduation reception in May. The prize comes with a $250 cash award.
Bill plans to apply to Ph.D. programs in the upcoming year, and he is currently working to have his thesis published. A synopsis of Bill’s prize-winning thesis may be found below:
“An understanding of the coarseware Minoan conical or handleless cup, has long eluded Aegean archaeologists, despite the longevity of their production, use, and prevalence. This small, undecorated, coarseware vessel appears in great numbers at nearly all Minoan and Minoanizing sites throughout the Aegean, first appearing early in the Early Minoan Period (EM; 3100-2100/2050 BCE) on the island of Crete. By the early Late Minoan Period (LM; 1700/1675-1075/1050 BCE) the handleless cup had spread across the Aegean to Kea, Kythera, Melos, Thera, Mainland Greece, and portions of Western Anatolia in staggering numbers (Gillis 1990b, 1). This paper addresses how patterns in the distribution of handleless cups – within House A at Ayia Irini, Kea – and their association with other finds therein can inform the intended uses of and the social practices for which these ceramics were reserved and the degree to which these daily routines conformed to, or deviated from, social practices known from contemporary sites elsewhere in the Aegean. In pursuing the answer(s) to these questions I propose that, in addition to other possible of uses, the handleless cup at Ayia Irini was a vessel well-suited to use in the process of silver cupellation. This claim is supported by artifact distribution and density maps of the Period VI structure that reveal the spatial relationships between objects and features.”
With her tenure as Hirsch postdoctoral associate coming to a close, we at CIAMS would like to thank Uthara Suvrathan for her service to the department and wish her best of luck in her future endeavors.
Uthara came to Cornell in 2014 from the University of Michigan where she earned her PhD in Anthropology. Her research draws on both archaeological and textual material to examine the organization of polities and places on the margins of large socio-political systems and empires in South Asia.
While at CIAMS, Uthara has been an active member of our community, attending talks, teaching, and presenting her work in a number of fora. Her courses at Cornell–which include “Beyond Kings, Palaces, and Temples: Introduction to the Archaeology of South Asia,” “Fantastic Frauds and Myths in Archaeology,” and “Archaeology and Text”–have emphasized participatory activities for her students. Recently, her class re-created the Nazca lines on the Arts Quad to investigate how ancient peoples constructed them using basic tools and geometry.
An engaged member of the local archaeological community, Uthara has presented her research at a CIAMS workshop as well as at at a meeting of the Finger Lakes Chapter of the New York State Archaeological Association (NYSAA).
Uthara was named a Bard Graduate Center visiting fellow for the 2016-2017 academic year. At the Bard Graduate Center, Uthara will be completing her book manuscript Persistent Peripheries: Archaeological and historical landscapes of an early city in South India, 3rd c. BCE–18th c. CE. Congratulations, Uthara, and best wishes for your bright future!
CIAMS professor Ananda Cohen Suarez (History of Art) recently published a new monograph, Heaven, Hell, and Everything in Between: Murals of the Colonial Andes. The book is part of the Recovering Languages and Literacies of the Americas series published by University of Texas Press.
Examining the vivid, often apocalyptic church murals of Peru from the early colonial period through the nineteenth century, Heaven, Hell, and Everything in Between explores the sociopolitical situation represented by the artists who generated these murals for rural parishes. Arguing that the murals were embedded in complex networks of trade, commerce, and the exchange of ideas between the Andes and Europe, Ananda Cohen Suarez also considers the ways in which artists and viewers worked through difficult questions of envisioning sacredness.
This study brings to light the fact that, unlike the murals of New Spain, the murals of the Andes possess few direct visual connections to a pre-Columbian painting tradition; the Incas’ preference for abstracted motifs created a problem for visually translating Catholic doctrine to indigenous congregations, as the Spaniards were unable to read Inca visual culture. Nevertheless, as Cohen Suarez demonstrates, colonial murals of the Andes can be seen as a reformulation of a long-standing artistic practice of adorning architectural spaces with images that command power and contemplation. Drawing on extensive secondary and archival sources, including account books from the churches, as well as on colonial Spanish texts, Cohen Suarez urges us to see the murals not merely as decoration or as tools of missionaries but as visual archives of the complex negotiations among empire, communities, and individuals.
Heaven, Hell, and Everything in Between is now available for purchase on Amazon, though as of the time of writing, only one copy was left in stock! Congratulations to Prof. Cohen Suarez on her achievement!
CIAMS PhD student Eilis Monahan (Near Eastern Studies) was recently featured in a Student Spotlight by the Cornell University Graduate School, which lauded her recent NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant and Fulbright Fellowship awards.
When asked what has influenced her thinking as a researcher and scholar, Eilis cited the positive role that CIAMS faculty have played in supporting her studies:
I’ve always been really struck by the way architecture and landscape affects people, and lately I’ve been influenced by the work of social theorists like Michel Foucault and Henri Lefebvre, inspiring me to think critically about how space was created in the past and how these spaces actively shape political trajectories in human society. I also have to credit my committee: Prof. Adam T. Smith in anthropology for introducing me to the literature on political theory and materiality; Prof. Sturt Manning in classics for his knowledge of all things related to Cyprus and scientific methods; and most of all, my advisor Prof. Lori Khatchadourian in Near Eastern studies. She has been tireless in her support of my work, and her knowledge and insight concerning ancient political and social organization and the relationship between materials and power is both an amazing resource and a constant source of inspiration. She really won’t accept anything less than my best, and I always come out of meetings with her full of new ideas and excited to get back to work.
Congratulations to Eilis on her accomplishments! The full interview may be found here.
The Cornell Tree-Ring Laboratory recently hosted a workshop on dendrochronology for the Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) conference held at Cornell on April 30th. EYH is a one-day, student-led conference for 7th-9th grade girls that is designed to stimulate participants’ interest in math and science through hands-on workshops, provide them with female scientist role models, and to foster awareness of opportunities in science-related careers. Over 200 girls from around New York State came to the EYH conference this year to participate in several workshops around campus, including the “Tree-Ring Time Detectives” workshop, which was led by Cornell Tree-Ring Lab researchers Brita Lorentzen, Carol Griggs, and Cindy Kocik, and undergraduates Amanda Gaggioli (Classics, ’16) and Meg Parker (Natural Resources, ’16).
The main, overarching goals of the workshop were for students to explore how scientific methods can be applied not only in traditional STEM fields, but also to enrich research in the humanities and social sciences, and to investigate records of human impact on the environment. As part of the dendrochronology workshop, participants learned how to use tree-rings to date wooden paintings and musical instruments, reconstruct climate and environment, and how dendrochronologists collect, record, and examine wood charcoal in the field by excavating their own mini archaeological site (nicknamed “Tel Tupperware”). The workshop leaders enjoyed sharing their research with an enthusiastic group of participants and introducing them to the wonderful world of tree-rings!
Congratulations to Cornell doctoral candidate Eilis Monahan (Near Eastern Studies) for receiving an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Grant for her dissertation research on Cyprus! Her project abstract may be read below.
Enclosure and Exclusion: Fortifications and the Disciplinary Landscape in the Transition to the Late Bronze Age on Cyprus
The proposed archaeological research will investigate the construction of fortifications and shifting settlement patterns in Cyprus during the Middle Bronze Age to Late Bronze Age transition. These fortifications are the first monumental architecture on the island, but are only in use during a brief but critical period, during the transformation of Cyprus from a relatively egalitarian and insular village-based society, to an urban-focused complex society, engaged in trade and diplomatic relations with the major polities of the eastern Mediterranean. Funding will support systematic pedestrian survey of the Yalias River Valley, continued excavation at the fortresses of Barsak and Nikolidhes, and the analysis of material from previous surveys and excavations of the cluster of fortified sites and contemporaneous settlements in the Ayios Sozomenos region in central Cyprus housed in the Cyprus Museum, Nicosia and the Medelhavsmuseet, Stockholm. This research will investigate the form, function, and construction methods of the fortifications and the location and chronology of other sites in the region, in order to explicate how fortifications produce a disciplinary landscape that alters the experience and perception of space, and the impact these effects have on social relations and the construction of authority.
This project investigates how the material world, including the natural and built environment, does not merely set the conditions of social practice, but is an efficacious actor within the political domain. Significantly, this research will focus on how fortifications, by dividing, organizing, and surveilling space and social practice, create a disciplinary landscape through which authority is represented and social inequality is apprehended. In this manner, this investigation into the role of Cypriot fortresses in shaping the imagination and experience of political life will contribute to the wider discussion of militarization and how political regimes are established through place-making and structuring human experience of the landscape, ongoing processes in regions of conflict and development throughout the world. Additionally this study is the first to systematically investigate fortifications in the central region of Cyprus and to situate their study within the context of the landscape and contemporaneous settlement patterns, which will provide information critical to understanding the history of Cyprus’ settlement shifts and social transformations, and articulating these developments with broader regional trajectories in the Mediterranean and the Near East.
CIAMS professor Lori Khatchadourian’s new book, Imperial Matter: Ancient Persia and the Archaeology of Empires, has just been published and is available for purchase. Congratulations, Prof. Khatchadourian, on an outstanding achievement!
A free e-book version of this title is available through Luminos, University of California Press’s open access publishing program.
Book description from the UC Press website:
What is the role of the material world in shaping the tensions and paradoxes of imperial sovereignty? Scholars have long shed light on the complex processes of conquest, extraction, and colonialism under imperial rule. But imperialism has usually been cast as an exclusively human drama, one in which the world of matter does not play an active role. Lori Khatchadourian argues instead that things—from everyday objects to monumental buildings—profoundly shape social and political life under empire. Out of the archaeology of ancient Persia and the South Caucasus, Imperial Matter advances powerful new analytical approaches to the study of imperialism writ large and should be read by scholars working on empire across the humanities and social sciences.
Congratulations to CIAMS professors Lori Khatchadourian (Near Eastern Studies) and Adam Smith (Anthropology) for winning an NSF grant for their field research in the South Caucasus! Their collaborators include Ian Lindsay (Purdue), Alan Greene (Stanford), and Maureen Marshal (Illinois). Their project abstract may be read below.
Collaborative Research: Fortifications and Long-Term Political Process in Bronze and Iron Age Southern Caucasia
The proposed research investigates long-term shifts in fortress settlement systems, ancient warfare, and political transformation in the South Caucasus spanning ca.1500-200 BC, from
the initial construction of hilltop forts during the Late Bronze Age, to their elaboration under Urartian imperial dominion, to their repudiation in the Achaemenid Iron III period.
Funding from NSF will support two seasons of systematic survey, test excavations, bioarchaeological research, materials analysis, and environmental reconstruction in the upper Kasakh River valley of northwestern Armenia, which hosts sites from the full range of Bronze and Iron Age periods. This research will investigate how shifting patterns of fortress construction and use, residential mobility, and site destruction and abandonment were factors in shaping political association. The research will examine ancient fortified landscapes and warfare as social and material conditions through which political processes unfold. Its significance rests on three primary issues. First, this study will energize existing discussions of warfare in archaeology and anthropology by juxtaposing material indications of conflict with long-term patterns of settlement, political association, goods circulation and consumption, ritual practice, and social identity. In so doing, it will recast fortresses as more than just practical instruments in a material apparatus of force, but as vital in shaping political subjects and authority, as projects of communal labor, and as historically contingent objects of contestation and commemoration. Second, the proposed study will contribute essential time depth to dialogues seeking to lend social and historical context to contemporary regional conflicts, their impacts on the politics and identities of social groups, and the ties to place and polity among mobile communities. As persistent ethnic clashes continue to impact contemporary life, understanding the impact of war in the past can help frame the causes and implications of modern conflicts while shaping responses to them. Finally, this study marks the first attempt in the Caucasus to articulate the long-term history of conflict, settlement shifts, and social transformation in the region with both the broader regional trajectories of the Near East and more localized natural and anthropogenic environmental changes.