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.
Uthara Suvrathan and her students re-create Nazca lines on the Arts Quad.
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!
The Nazca Lines are ancient, gigantic (several are over 300m long) geoglyphs drawn on a desert in Peru. In Fantastic Frauds and Myths in Archaeology–an undergraduate archaeology course taught by Uthara Suvrathan–students have been talking about the archaeological debates about the nature and construction of the Nazca lines.
Cornell undergraduate students re-create Nazca lines on the Arts Quad.
There are two main opposing views. First are those who argue that these designs could not have been constructed by prehistoric peoples due to their use of simple technologies, and therefore the designs were the work of alien visitors to Earth who brought sophisticated technologies with them. Moreover, since the figures are so large, they were meant to be seen from the air, and in a time before airplanes, alien spacecraft were required to truly appreciate the designs.
In the second view, archaeologists argue that these designs draw upon local cultural traditions and could easily be made using simple tools and human knowledge of geography, astronomy, and mathematics.
In class, the students have been discussing these opposing views. As an experimental archaeology project, they reconstructed two of the Nazca designs, albeit at a smaller scale than the original figures. Using simple tools (ropes, the position of the sun/ buildings, sticks/rulers, an understanding of basic geometry and scale) they laid out multicolored flagging tape on the Arts Quad lawns, anchoring them in position with small gardening flags. The students worked in two groups and recreated two of the Nazca designs–the frog and the monkey–using a grid system and measuring off an x/y axis respectively.
The purpose of this activity was to prove that these and similar ancient designs do not require the intervention of alien technologies but merely the ingenuity of human brains. Moreover, the class was able to climb to the fourth floors of McGraw and Morrill Halls and see the designs in their entirety, thereby proving that one can appreciate the designs without being on spacecraft but could, as in the case of the Peruvian creators of the Nazca lines, climb up on neighboring hill-sides to view the designs.
Image courtesy of Fotini Kondyli.
On April 22, 2016 Fotini Kondyli (University of Virginia) met a panel of CIAMS students (Sam Barber, Kathleen Garland, Jessica Plant, and Jess Ro. Pfundstein) and faculty (Ben Anderson) to discuss community in the rural landscapes of Byzantine Greece.
The full discussion of about 55 minutes opens below.
On March 25, 2016 UMass Boston archaeologist Stephen Silliman joined a panel of CIAMS students (Jennifer Carrington, Anastasia Kotsoglou, Peregrine Gerard-Little, and Samantha Sanft) and faculty (Kurt Jordan) to discuss entanglement and hybridity in archaeology.
The discussion of about an hour opens below.
Eilis Monahan, doctoral candidate (Cornell University, Near Eastern Studies)
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.
Lori Khatchadourian and Adam Smith in the field in Armenia.
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.
CIAMS is currently accepting applications for the 2016-2017 academic year for our Masters Program in Archaeology.
The deadline for applications is: JANUARY 15, 2016
To apply for the Masters Program in Archaeology, submit your online application to the Cornell Graduate School Admissions Website. A description of the field of Archaeology may be found at the Graduate School, and more in-depth information about the requirements and expected course of study for the MA degree is located on the CIAMS website.
Questions about the MA Program in Archaeology should be sent to the CIAMS Director of Graduate Studies.
Students considering to applying to graduate school in the field of Archaeology are encouraged to read this informative blog post by Cornell professor Adam T. Smith.
Gods and Scholars
Studying Religion at a Secular University
October 22, 2015 – March 7, 2016
Hirshland Exhibition Gallery
Carl A. Kroch Library
CIAMS M.A. student Fredrika Loew has curated a new exhibit entitled “Gods and Scholars: Studying Religion at a Secular University,” currently on display at Kroch Library.
On November 17, 2015, Fredrika will present an introductory lecture on the exhibit (4:30 p.m., Olin library 106) followed by an exhibition visit and reception (5:00-6:30 p.m., Hirshland Exhibition Gallery, Kroch library).
From its founding in 1865, Cornell University has been firmly nonsectarian, welcoming students and faculty of any religion, or no religion at all. This approach was controversial in the mid to late 19th century, when the majority of American universities were religiously affiliated; Cornell was called the “Godless” university by many. However, religion was in no way absent from campus life. On the contrary, with the rapid growth of its library collections, the new university began seeking out religious works of all types and eras. By the time the first incoming class arrived in 1868, instructors and students could interact with a vast array of sacred works. These materials supported courses on topics such as architecture, art history, philology, social reform and injustice, and literature. They were also used to complement sermons in the University chapel. This exhibition highlights the collecting of religious texts at Cornell and introduces many of the figures who have built the collection over the past 150 years.
This exhibition contains materials from the Rare and Manuscript Collections, as well as several artifacts from the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art.
On Saturday, September 19th, 2015 at 2:00 PM, The History Center in Tompkins County hosted Professor Kurt Jordan for his presentation “Destroyed, Forgotten, Never Noted: Ithaca’s Hidden Indigenous History.” Kurt A. Jordan is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and American Indian Studies at Cornell University. His research centers on the archaeology and history of Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) peoples, emphasizing the settlement patterns, housing, and economies of 17th and 18th century Senecas.
Kurt Jordan speaks at the History Center. Photo credit: Amanda Bosworth, The Cornell Chronicle.
Many observers have noted that little is understood about the history of indigenous peoples in the Ithaca area. This presentation both describes why this is the case, and summarizes what is known. Starting with the earliest American settlers, past Ithacans took a cavalier attitude toward the indigenous archaeological record. Mingling curiosity with disrespect for indigenous heritage, Ithacans documented almost nothing as the archaeological record was destroyed. Despite this sordid history, quite a bit can be gleaned about how the Cayugas and their allies and ancestors dwelled on these lands.
Jordan has conducted archaeological fieldwork in collaboration with members of the Seneca Nation of Indians since 1999. His first book, The Seneca Restoration, 1715-1754: An Iroquois Local Political Economy, was published by the University Press of Florida in 2008.
Professor Jordan’s lecture was reported in the Cornell Chronicle on September 21, 2015.
The History Center in Tompkins County
401 E. State St. #100
Ithaca, NY 14850