History of the Limes Congress

Dr Tatiana Ivleva, University of Newcastle, and Dr Rebecca Jones, Historic Environment Scotland, celebrate the 25th International Congress of Roman Frontiers Studies and highlight the important role women have played since the very beginning.

To celebrate the 25th International Congress of Roman Frontiers Studies (Limes Congress) to be held in Nijmegen in August 2022, the authors, together with Professor David Breeze and Dr Andreas Thiel, have put together a history of the Congress, from the early ideas of such a gathering in the interwar years through to the first Congress held in Newcastle in 1949 and on to the present day.

In many ways, the research for the book has been a labour of love by the authors – the Limes Congresses hold a particular affection by many of the attendees, as an opportunity for visiting the remains of Roman frontier sites around the empire, hearing about new research through lectures and posters, and networking with colleagues who may be doing similar research but in different countries.

Whilst it is unlikely that the organisers of the first congress of 1949 had a clue of the success to which their endeavours would ultimately lead (which now includes up to 400 participants from 25 countries from four continents; and three ‘Frontiers of the Roman Empire’ World Heritage properties); in many ways, the history of the 24 Congresses held thus far has held up a mirror to selected historical events of the last 73 years. Even the most recent three:

  • The 2022 Congress in Nijmegen was originally scheduled to take place in 2021 and has been delayed due to Covid. Very few scholars from the Ukraine and Russia are unable to attend following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the impossibilities for attendance at foreign conferences due to financial and travel restrictions.
  • The 2018 Congress in Serbia was a welcome return to that part of the Balkans following the cancellation of a proposed congress in the former Yugoslavia in 1992 due to the deteriorating situation there.
Participants in the 2018 Congress visiting the Roman fort of Diana in Serbia.
Copyright: Nemanja Mrđić
  • The 2015 Congress in Ingolstadt in southern Germany was at that point in time when there was a mass influx of Syrian refugees across Europe, resulting in the closure of land borders and delays in delegates reaching Bavaria.

One noticeable factor in the Congresses has been the increase in attendees and numbers of speakers. This includes a rise in the number of women speaking, although the gender disparity on the topics discussed is a notable aspect which we explore briefly in the book.

But perhaps one aspect of the research on the book that engaged us most was learning more about those scholars that we only knew as authors of esteemed volumes on the archaeology of Roman frontier regions, and then identifying them on group photographs from the Congresses. Following the description of each Congress in the book, we have a few short reminiscences by one or two participants for whom that Congress was their first immersion into the world of limes studies or otherwise noteworthy. Each Congress note is supplemented by a series of photographs, not of monuments visited during the Congress excursions (as these can be easily found online) but of people visiting particular sites, and social events such as receptions, dinners and informal lunches. We believe that this exercise not only gives an opportunity for the reader to put a face to a name, but also to learn more about limes past, present and future stalwarts’ characters, ambitions and interests.  

Specifically, it has been a particularly delightful quest to try to name every individual on a group photograph from the First Congress in 1949 in Newcastle.

That first Congress followed the centenary Pilgrimage of Hadrian’s Wall, and the publication of the Congress proceedings tells us that there were 11 speakers (10 males and one female). There was a reasonable spread of geography covered – in part due to international schools of archaeology and colonial occupations.

Copyright: Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery

Yet a photo of that Congress, featuring 38 people, tells perhaps a slightly different story than that told in the proceedings. And this led the authors onto a hunt to identify the participants on the photograph – particularly the nine women depicted. Two women known to have been at the Congress – Anne Robertson from Glasgow (the sole female speaker) and Brenda Swinbank (later Heyworth) – are not in the photograph. This thereby suggested that there were at least 11 women present at the Congress, potentially over 25% of the delegates. We didn’t feel that a simple dismissal of ‘wives and other family’ was sufficient and are pleased to say that our endeavours paid off.

In the front row of the photograph, seated on the ground, are two women: Elisabeth Ettlinger and Barbara Birley.

Elisabeth Ettlinger, then 34, was a German-born archaeologist, who had fled Germany for Switzerland in the 1930s. She joined the classical archaeology department at Basel University and received her PhD in 1942 on the subject of the pottery found in thermae of Augst (published in 1949). Her work Die römischen Fibeln in der Schweiz (1972) still acts as an essential reference book for the study of Roman brooches and she was one of the founders of the Fautores (the Rei cretariae Romanae fautores – Roman pottery studies: https://www.fautores.org/) which met for the first time after the Third Limes Congress in Switzerland in 1957. Elisabeth sits next to Dutch archaeologist Willem Glasbergen and, whom we think was the American-born Roman archaeologist and Latin philologist Howard Comfort. Both were life-long friends with Elisabeth, sharing their love for the Roman pottery, and it was with Howard that the idea for the Fautores was born (Howard is another co-founder).    

Barbara Birley, sister of Eric Birley, sat alongside her brother and was a teacher in South Africa. She and Eric remained close, and she was interested in Roman archaeology so would regularly return to visit family at the same time as a major Roman event such as the Pilgrimage.

In the very back row, between Antonio Frova (from Italy, who spoke about Bulgaria) and Mortimer Wheeler (from Britain and spoke on Mesopotamia) is the tall blonde figure of Dutch anthropologist Guda van Giffen-Duyvis. Although her husband Albert Egges van Giffen spoke at the Congress, Guda attended the Hadrian’s Wall Pilgrimage and was a scholar of Aztecs and pre-Columbian art of Mexico and Peru.

In front of Guda is a line of six women, of whom we have been able to identify three. The lady in the hat on the left is unknown but to the right of her in the spotted dress is Margerie Venables Taylor, who was the Secretary of the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies for a great many years and editor of the Journal of Roman Studies. She would have graduated from Oxford University, but they didn’t award degrees to women when she studied there! She was later Vice President and President of the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies and later became the first woman to hold office as Vice President of the Society of Antiquaries of London.

We don’t know the name of the woman to the right of M V Taylor, nor the lady with the dark hair in the dark suit to the right again. Although Dorothy Evelyn ‘Eve’ Dray (later Simpson) has been suggested for the latter, this lady wears what appears to be a wedding ring and Eve didn’t marry until 1952. But we have been able to identify the two ladies on the right hand side of this line up. In the cardigan with spectacles is Jocelyn Toynbee, the leading British scholar in Roman artistic studies and a lecturer at Cambridge University. Two years later, in 1951, she became the first (and, so far, only) female Lawrence Professor of Classical Archaeology at Cambridge. To the right of Jocelyn is (Mary) Grace Simpson, who trained as an archaeologist after the war (graduating from the UCL Institute of Archaeology in 1948) and subsequently became a research assistant to Eric Birley at Durham. Her father was the archaeologist F G Simpson who played a key role in Hadrian’s Wall studies, particularly as director of excavations at Birdoswald in 1929. Grace developed significant expertise in Roman pottery, co-authoring an essential reference volume on Samian ware (Central Gaulish Potters) in 1958, and was Honorary curator of the Clayton collection at Chesters on Hadrian’s Wall. Like Elisabeth Ettlinger, she later played a key role in the Fautores Congresses.

It is notable that many of the women we have been able to identify were already, or became, significant figures in their various fields of research on Roman provinces and frontiers. It is possible that several already knew each other due to their work on Roman Britain and we can assume that they were potentially personally invited, with the younger generation there by the invitation of their supervisors. For example, we know that 26 year old Dutchman Willem Glasbergen, seated second from left, went at the invitation of his supervisor, Albert van Giffen (not pictured, and known to have had his leg in plaster at the time).

When we started our quest, we had an assumption that people featured were prominent figures in Roman provincial and frontier studies and we were correct there as well. Other people that we have been able to identify in the photograph are familiar names in Roman and Classical archaeology and material culture studies:

Front row, seated: Howard Comfort (?), Willem Glasbergen, Elisabeth Ettlinger, Barbara Birley, Eric Birley, Ian Richmond, Andreas Alföldi, unknown, Franz Oelmann.

Standing in the middle row: third from the left, not looking into the camera is Rudolf Laur-Belert, Georg “Gyuri” Kunwald (?); centre behind the seated Eric Birley is Canon Thomas Romans; three to the right of him, Margerie V Taylor, three again, Jocelyn Toynbee and then Grace Simpson.

Standing in the back row: centre back behind the lady with the hat is Jean Baradez, to his right is Hans Norling-Christensen; to his left is Antonio Frova, then Guda van Giffen-Duyvis, Mortimer Wheeler and Victor Erle Nash-Williams.

Many Congress participants are wearing the round 1949 Hadrian’s Wall Pilgrimage badge showing how many had been on the Pilgrimage prior to the Congress. We believe that Shimon Applebaum and Ulrich Kahrstadt should be in the photo but have been unable to identify them.

We would welcome any assistance in identifying the people on this photograph!

This book about the Congress history is more than a trip down memory lane: we believe it shows how a discipline of Roman frontier studies was born and developed facing various challenges along the way. If it were not for the existence of the Limes Congresses, the iconic Roman frontiers sites might not have received the visibility they deserve nor would they have enjoyed their inscription on World Heritage list. The discipline is thriving, despite the alarming disappearance of faculty positions at Universities across Europe with a focus on Roman provinces and frontiers. We hope that our readers will appreciate the significance of the Roman frontier studies and our discipline’s contribution to the understanding of life in Roman world outside the Mediterranean core.

Dr Tatiana Ivleva, University of Newcastle, and Dr Rebecca Jones, Historic Environment Scotland


Sincerest thanks to Dr Ivleva and Dr Jones for contributing this article to the Archaeopress Blog.

A complimentary copy of the A History of the Congress of Roman Frontier Studies 1949-2022 will be presented to all those attending the 25th International Congress of Roman Frontiers Studies (Limes Congress), Nijmegen later this month. For those not attending the conference, the book will be available to purchase in paperback (priced £38), or downloaded free of charge in Open Access from 25th August 2022. Pre-order the book on the Archaeopress website here.

Save 25% on our whole collection of books and eBooks at www.archaeopress.com by applying the following voucher code to your basket before checkout: LIMESXXV

Browse our website or download our dedicated flier for the LIMES congress, highlighting the specialist series and titles within our Roman collection.

Lost Worlds of Ancient and Modern Greece

Dr D.J. Ian Begg (Trent University) introduces us to the life and adventures of Italo-Canadian archaeologist, Gilbert Bagnani

The names of Gilbert and Stewart Bagnani were well-known around Trent University and Peterborough, Ontario. It wasn’t just that they had taught part-time in the Classics Department after retiring from the University of Toronto, but their hospitality at Vogrie, their country house in the rolling hills near Port Hope, was legendary. An oasis of knowledge, the home was filled with stories of antiquity and excavations and art manifest in their enormous art gallery/library added to the house.

Vogrie Photo ©Art Gallery of Ontario

Gilbert died in 1985, leaving most of his property to Trent. Before her death in 1996, his wife Stewart donated many cartons of letters and photographs to the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Although unfortunately I never met the Bagnanis, when I heard that their papers had arrived in the archives at Trent in January 1998, I contacted the archivist who told me that among much else there were hieroglyphic texts! That was the beginning of a multi-faceted project lasting decades.

The most critical link in the project was Prof. Thomas Symons. After having been a student of Gilbert’s at the University of Toronto, by happenstance he became his neighbour in Toronto and, later as the Founding President of Trent University, also Gilbert’s employer at Trent. With so many social and professional links to both Gilbert and Stewart, Prof. Symons was always keen to support any research and public awareness of them.

It eventually became evident that their early lives in Europe could be neatly subdivided both chronologically and geographically: Gilbert’s student years in Greece in the early 1920s, their travels separately around Europe and North America and Egypt in the late 1920s, and their excavations in Egypt in the 1930s before emigrating from Rome to Port Hope, Ontario, Canada. 

In particular Gilbert’s adventures around Greece were a narrative gift: the Odyssey meets Gone with the Wind. The life of a young archaeologist with a secret identity and on spy missions seems like fiction but was actually documented in Gilbert’s letters to his mother in Rome. Through the archaeological sites he visited he was transported to earlier Greek worlds, underwent an ordeal of sweltering heat, and eventually emerged a more mature hero.

The research for a second volume will require more time and travels in the Bagnanis’ footsteps around Italy, Hungary and Germany, postponed by COVID restrictions.

Due to the history of other related archives, the research for a third and final volume to complete the trilogy is well underway. Prof. Carlo Anti asked Gilbert to assist him in his Italian excavations at Tebtunis in the Fayyum basin south-west of Cairo in 1931 but was promoted in 1932 to become the Rector of the University of Padua, leaving Gilbert to act as Field Director until 1936. As a result, the relevant excavation archives are scattered not only in Toronto and Peterborough in Canada but also in Padua and Venice in Italy. A decade ago my Italian colleagues initiated an international collaborative project to research and publish these old previously unpublished excavations. Many academic papers have been presented at international conferences and subsequently published in Italy.

Carlo Anti standing between Stewart and Gilbert Bagnani at Tebtunis 1932.
Photo ©Art Gallery of Ontario

Sincerest thanks to Dr Begg for this contribution to the Archaeopress Blog.

Read full details of Gilbert Bagnani’s Greek adventures in Lost Worlds of Ancient and Modern Greece (2020), published in the Archaeopress Archaeological Lives series (Hardback: £25, eBook: from £16).

For more information, or to contact the author, please visit: https://www.lostworlds.ca/

Watch Dr Begg’s recent presentation at the Canadian Institute in Greece: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFJEoGzs3NPPdo-2qa1vNKA

Book reviews for Lost Worlds of Ancient and Modern Greece:

This is a lively account of a formidable personality, scholar and archaeologist in the making. – Sir Michael Llewellyn Smith (2020), British Ambassodor to Greece 1996 – 1999

This first of three volumes based on {Bagnani’s] personal letters and news’ reports covers the momentous years from 1921-1924… We are treated to highly-entertaining sketches of leading archaeologists in Greece, and the way fieldwork was conducted, as well as the social life of the political class and wealthy elite of Athens. Informative, excellently-edited and a delight to read. – Professor John Bintliff (2020), Edinburgh University

This book stands as a major contribution—and an accessible one—to our understanding of the history of Greece in the years 1921-1924. In bringing Gilbert Bagnani back to life through his subject’s letters and through his own careful delving into primary sources, Ian Begg joins a group of scholars (among them Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan, Jack L. Davis, Susan Heuck Allen, Kostis Kourelis, Artemis Leontis, Despina Lalaki) who have examined the personal lives, attitudes and idiosyncrasies of archaeologists, artists and performers, anthropologists, and historians as entryways into the discoveries they made, using their personalities as lenses for their scholarly or artistic methods. Such approaches by later generations of scholars shed fresh light on the work of their predecessors and enlarge our understanding of the histories they wrote or performances they created. – Robert Pounder (2021): Bryn Mawr Classical Review

The titles of some books act like magnets. They pull you towards them and command attention… It is not about the lost worlds of Ancient Greece alone but also about the lost worlds of Modern Greece… Who is Gilbert Bagnani and what adventures is he having in Greece before and after the Asia Minor Catastrophe? Any hesitation you may have had vanishes into thin air when you start reading this absorbing, literate, informative and simply wonderful book. – James Karas (2022): Greek Press, Toronto, March 4, 2022

In 2022 Greece will be commemorating the one-hundredth anniversary of the Asia Minor Catastrophe. There are only a few books in English accessible to a broad audience that consider the events of 1922. These include, for example, Michael Llewellyn Smith’s Ionian Vision (1973), Lou Ureneck’s The Great Fire (2015), and Philip Mansel’s Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean (2010). To these we should now add Begg’s Lost WorldsLost Worlds of Ancient and Modern Greece is also the first part of a projected trilogy that will follow Bagnani and his future wife Stewart (Mary Augusta Stewart Huston) throughout the 1920s and 1930s before they finally left Europe for a new life in Canada. We should all very much look forward to learning about the next stops in this journey… – Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan (2022): Journal of Modern Greek Studies

A Note on Sex and Sexism in Archaeology

Over-simplified black-and-white classifications can sometimes be detrimental to the understanding of past populations; Jessica Ryan-Despraz considers the roles sexism and preconceived notions of sex and gender play in archaeological research and data interpretation.

Throughout my PhD work in biological anthropology and prehistoric archaeology, I began to see the ubiquity of sexism, subtle though it may sometimes seem, in theoretical research. Sexism in archaeology, in particular field archaeology, has been at the forefront of many recent conversations, with several institutions attempting to make strides at improving inclusivity and mutual respect. However, sexism and preconceived notions of sex and gender in research and data interpretation requires continued discussion.

My particular research examined archery during the Bell Beaker period and the application of osteological analyses to identify specialized activity. This therefore involved investigating the possible links between an individiual’s physical biomechanical developement and his or her burial context. One primary object of interest was stone wristguards, which are interpreted as the protective equipement worn by archers, and first appear in the archaeological record during the Bell Beaker period. The appearance of these items in a funerary context immediately raised questions of their links to social prestige and a possible “archery” culture as well as drove parallel interpretations examining the appearance of copper daggers, which sometimes appeared in the same graves. My research problematic therefore revolved around using osteological analyses in order to determine whether or not the individuals in these burials were specialized archers and then using that data to better understand the possible link between archery and Bell Beaker social organization. One of my results was that not all “archer” burials contained likely specialized archers. However, a common theme to such analyses of course looks at sex and gender differentiation, especially in terms of labor practices, meaning this work also needed to address one large theoretical hurdle driven by a history of sexist interpretations in archaeology; mainly, the tendency in some past research to classify an individual’s sex based on interpretations of burial goods.

The problem went like this. Archery-related items are linked to warfare and hunting, and warriors and hunters are men; therefore “archer” burials are masculine and prestigious. However, osteological analyses determinging probable biological sex found that some “archer” burials contained females! These burials were immediately assumed to be either great exceptions of “Amazon” warrior women, or as a sign of familial links because a woman couldn’t possibly have been an archer, therefore it must have been the wristguard of a male family member, making the burial symbolic on a familial or societal level. From my perspective as a new researcher, one problem seemed to be a penchant in archaeology and anthropology to over-generalize and attempt to classify people (and cultures) into black-and-white categories that make academic definitions simpler, but perhaps at the expense of the individual.

One of the reasons why identifying specialized archery in Bell Beaker burials is so significant to Neolithic archaeology is because archaeological interpretations often require additional analyses from outside fields. Many areas of research, archaeology and anthropology included, often like to create classifications for each culture and society that can sometimes leave little room for exceptions and outside interpretations. In terms of my study, that was a problem when considering questions of warfare, occupation, and sex. Bell Beaker sites are classified according to pottery – if a site does not have this pottery, then it is not Bell Beaker. Likewise, warriors must have a particular grave context, otherwise he or she was not a warrior. Much work from archaeology, anthropology, and ethnology has argued that 1) women would not have been warriors, and 2) “archer” burials were warriors; but then this all becomes problematic when excavations uncover female “archer” burials. So which is it? Are females not warriors or are “archer” burials something else? And why does it have to be one or the other, with no room for nuance? This is problematic because trends are not rules, and each site and individual needs to be analyzed according to its own attributes in order to avoid sweeping generalizations, particularly those that fail to distinguish between sex and gender. One of my study’s findings was that an archery context does not always imply “archer”, just as “masculine” objects do not always imply male. In fact, in her PhD dissertation, Belard (2014) concluded that people were more often interred based on their social standing  rather than on their sex or gender.

For these reasons, collaboration between fields, specifically anthropology and archaeology, remains vital to interpreting these contexts. Just as differentiating between sex and gender has entered modern conversation, it should also be at the forefront of modern research interpretations of past populations. For research archaeology projects dealing with human remains, osteological analyses are necessary for determining biological sex, rather than relying solely on archaeological context and preconceived notions of male and female burial identity. As anthropological research continues to develop, it can also help provide assessments of occupation and specialization, and such analyses can contribute to archaeological interpretations of social position and community identity. The essence of this argument is that the research needs to continue moving beyond the paradigms — dagger presence does not equal man just like archery equipment does not equal archer. This also acts as another example for the value of individual analyses in addition to population analyses because they allow for specific identifications rather than sexist generalizations based on what women “would likely” have been doing. Some ethnoarchaeological findings, comparisons with societies throughout history and the modern era, and even several examples cited in “Practice and Prestige” suggest that a majority of warriors and leaders are men. However, just like everything else, this is not a black-and-white rule and treating it as such does a disservice to the women, past and present, who have helped shape the modern world. Here are a few examples from this work alone proving that the situation is not so simple:

  • Ethnoarchaeological findings from the Americas showing that women were not only warriors, but also sometimes war chiefs (Holliman, 2001; Koehler, 1997; Thorpe, 2003)
  • 18% of female Bell Beaker burials had a copper dagger and 10% had a stone wristguard (Müller, 2001)
  • The LBK site from Halberstadt (Germany) with the likely burial of a small band of warriors, one of whom was female (Meyer et al., 2018)
  • Sites of likely massacres, such as at Schöneck-Kilianstädten (Germany) and El Trocs (Spain), have young children and adults over the age of 30 but no teens or younger adults. This includes males and females. One theory[1] for this is because they were warriors away from the settlement
  • A cave painting of El Cingle de la Mola Remigia, which clearly depicts a battle scene, and possibly a female warrior[2]
  • With regard to conceptions of leadership, the presence of prestigious female burials (e.g. Hulín 1 grave 86 and Tišice 77/99) demonstrates that even this was not exclusive to men
  • A female burial from Durankulak, the Bulgarian Copper Age, contained a flint “super-blade” (sword?) likely measuring more than 30 cm, which was also the largest in the cemetery (Gurova, 2013; Stratton, 2016)

The point of all of this is not to say that women were just as likely as men to be warriors, because that is obviously not true. Much more evidence exists for mostly male warriors as well as for a patriarchy. The point is to say that modern research would do well to make habitual distinctions between sex and gender a regular part of each interpretation. Specifically, over-simplified black-and-white classifications can sometimes be detrimental to the understanding of past populations. While there is a need to define societies and cultures at the population level, thus necessitating some level of generalization, this should not be done at the expense of the individual. Individuals as well as cultures deserve thorough examinations based on their own unique attributes, and this is perhaps one of the most consequential takeaways from my own research – that analyses at the individual level are just as crucial as those at the population level.


Our sincerest thanks to Dr Ryan-Despraz for providing this article for the Archaeopress Blog, extrapolated from her new book Practice and Prestige: An Exploration of Neolithic Warfare, Bell Beaker Archery, and Social Stratification from an Anthropological Perspective, available in paperback (£34) and free to download in Open Access.

Print ISBN 9781803270524
Online ISBN 9781803270531
Available here.


Bibliography

Belard, C., 2014. Les femmes en Champagne pendant l’Age du fer et la notion de genre en archéologie funéraire : (derniers tiers du Vie – IIIe siècle av. J.-C.) (PhD thesis). Paris, EPHE.

Gurova, M., 2013. Towards the Meaning of Flint Grave Goods: A Case Study from Bulgaria, in: Comşa, A., Bonsall, C., Nikolova, L. (Eds.), Facets of the Past: The Challenge of the Balkan Neo-Eneolithic. Presented at the International Symposium Celebrating the 85th Birth Anniversary of Eugen Comşa 6-12 October 2008, Bucharest, Romania, The Publishing House of the Romanian Academy, Bucharest, pp. 375–393.

Holliman, S., 2001. Warfare and gender in the northern plains: osteological evidence of trauma reconsidered, in: Arnold, B., Wicker, N. (Eds.), Gender and the Archaeology of Death. Altamira Press, Walnut Creek, CA, pp. 179–193.

Koehler, L., 1997. Earth mothers, warriors, horticulturalists, artists, and chiefs: women among the Mississippian and Mississippian-Oneota peoples, A.D. 1000 to 1750, in: Claasen, C., Joyce, R.A. (Eds.), Women in Prehistory: North America and Mesoamerica. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, pp. 211–226.

Meyer, C., Knipper, C., Nicklisch, N., Münster, A., Kürbis, O., Dresely, V., Meller, H., Alt, K.W., 2018. Early Neolithic executions indicated by clustered cranial trauma in the mass grave of Halberstadt. Nature Communications 9, 2472.

Müller, A., 2001. Gender Differentiation in burial rites and grave-goods in the Eastern or Bohemian-Moravian Group of the Bell Beaker Culture, in: Nicolis, F. (Ed.), Bell Beakers Today: Pottery, People, Culture, Symbols in Prehistoric Europe, Proceedings of the International Colloquium Riva Del Garda 11-16 May 1998. Provincia Autonoma di Trento Servizio Beni Culturali Ufficio Beni Archeologici, Trento, pp. 589–599.

Stratton, S., 2016. “Seek and you Shall Find.” How the Analysis of Gendered Patterns in Archaeology can Create False Binaries: a Case Study from Durankulak. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 23, 854–869.

Thorpe, I.J.N., 2003. Anthropology, Archaeology, and the Origin of Warfare. World Archaeology 35, 145–165.


[1]     Part 1 of “Practice and Prestige” discusses other theories.

[2]     The vast majority of cave paintings appear to depict men only, however this does not make it permissible to dismiss those of women.

Georgian Archaeological Monographs

Dr Paul Everill, University of Winchester, introduces a new monograph series from Archaeopress

Cover image: Aerial view of excavations at Nokalakevi © National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia

What’s your connection to Georgia?

I have been co-directing archaeological work at Nokalakevi, as part of a wonderful collaborative team, for almost 20 years. My work in Georgia began, completely by chance, when I worked with Nick Armour at the Cambridge Archaeological Unit in autumn 2001. He had just returned from Nokalakevi with Ian Colvin and a handful of Cambridge students after the inaugural season of the Anglo-Georgian Expedition, and could talk about little else. It sounded amazing and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to get involved. I travelled to Georgia in 2002 expecting it to be a fun and exciting busman’s holiday, supervising students in a new trench at Nokalakevi before starting my PhD at Southampton. I was simply unprepared for the impact that Georgia was to have on me. Evidence of its deep, proud, but not always easy, history seems to be in every corner of its stunning landscape, written across the Colchian plain, along the towering Caucasus mountains, and in the DNA of its people. Back then Georgia was only just recovering from the first difficult years of independence. The dig house bore the scars of automatic weapon fire, and we would occasionally hear gunfire and explosions. The local governor provided armed security to ensure our safety. But actually those aren’t the aspects that made the greatest impact, it was the immersion in Georgian culture. Its food, while of course demonstrating some external influence, is uniquely and undeniably Georgian; and its wine, the grapes and the vines that bear them, seem to have an unbreakable, sacred bond with every Georgian. There is something magical about a country that wears its heritage so openly, and in which intangible cultural heritage is so vibrant and alive, but the warmth and hospitality of the Georgian people also had a profound impact on me.

Supervising students working in Trench A, Nokalakevi © Paul Everill

How has the ‘Anglo-Georgian Expedition to Nokalakevi’ lasted so long?

There are certain magic ingredients that give some field projects longevity. One is undoubtedly that we operate a funding model that gives us independence from the whims of funding bodies, so the project lifespan is not determined by the usual three year grant cycles. Our longevity is determined by the quality and scale of the archaeology at the site, not by the subjectivity of committee decisions. The other factor is that our expedition is genuinely underpinned by friendships. It’s not something that you can plan for, but from the point at which Ian Colvin and Davit Lomitashvili first discussed the idea of an Anglo-Georgian Expedition to Nokalakevi, it has gone from strength to strength because of mutual respect, shared ideals, and friendship. Today, as well as Ian and Davit, I am fortunate to work alongside Nikoloz Murgulia, Besik Lortkipanidze, Nino Kebuladze and many others who are friends as much as they are colleagues.

Trench A, Nokalakevi, taken from the air © National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia

What was the rationale for establishing a Georgian Archaeological Monographs series?

Until the pandemic impacted on our (and everyone’s!) plans, we had been working towards publication of our second expedition monograph, reporting on excavations at Nokalakevi from 2011-2020 and discussing some of the key research themes from our work. Of course our 2020 field season was impacted, along with the opportunity to meet in person and talk through the chapters. In the meantime I had also been thinking about finding a route for publishing the proceedings of a session on the archaeology of the region that I’m co-organising for September’s EAA conference, and it occurred to me that having a dedicated monograph series would make the perfect home for these publications, and for all those who are working on the archaeology of the region at various career stages, alongside the opportunity to provide researchers from the South Caucasus the opportunity to publish in a western language. One of the challenges of writing up research on Georgian archaeology can be the accessibility of source material if you don’t read Georgian or Russian. I have been incredibly fortunate to work collaboratively with Georgian specialists who provide English translations of relevant excerpts of Georgian scholarly work and references, and of course also bring their expert knowledge of Georgian academic traditions and the theoretical frameworks that this work inhabits. Generally, however, western academics are only able to access a small percentage of the published work on any given site, and without much of the supporting context. I want this series to start bridging this divide.

It seems to me that the South Caucasus is sometimes treated as rather liminal by western archaeologists – a place where the more studied empires and civilisations enact change, or leave evidence of their economic and military activities, but perhaps not an area deserving of study in its own right. Its higher profile in the west today probably owes as much to conflict in Syria and Crimea, which has forced a range of international projects to relocate to more favourable locations, as it does to greater awareness. The archaeology of the South Caucasus, however, is more than deserving of its own spotlight and I really hope that this monograph series can provide a stage.

Dr Paul Everill, University of Winchester
Paul.Everill@winchester.ac.uk

The Archaeopress series announcement is below, or can be downloaded as a PDF here. The series homepage carries brief details for the first volume, Nokalakevi – Archaeolopolis – Tsikhegoji: Archaeological Excavations 2011-2020 (forthcoming)

Visions of the Roman North. Art and Identity in Northern Roman Britain

Iain Ferris introduces his forthcoming book, a study of the role of images and art in the northern regions of Roman Britain, and how art and identity interacted together to produce what is argued to have been a highly-distinctive visual culture.

My new book for Archaeopress-Visions of the Roman North. Art and Identity in Northern Roman Britain– is a study of the role of images and art in the northern regions of Roman Britain, and how art and identity interacted together here to produce what is argued to have been a highly-distinctive visual culture. The book is not concerned with the fine details of the chronology and history of the northern frontiers of the Roman province of Britannia or of the shifting military dispositions there. Indeed, much writing about the Roman north often has been caught up in a relentless specificity-this site, this building, this find-and shied away from the idea of overview. Forward motion and meaning perhaps thus became subsumed in descriptive practice, and I have deliberately avoided this in my book.

The study is not only a geography book, about a particular region, but it is also a political and ideological history, an admonition of sorts, an impassioned defence of the art produced here, and a quasi-memoir. The text, like the art, is full of mysterious eddies and cross-currents. While acknowledging the notion that the world as it is experienced is shaped by the forms of human thought and sensibility, at the same time  the birth of an age of images such as in Roman times would also seem to have involved a certain degree of bewilderment at the elusiveness of time, and anxiety about the dehumanising effects of the resulting artistic production. A new art reflected a new model of existence commensurate with the experiences of living in a frontier zone, an art whose creation did not require a breaking-away from old frameworks of presentation but rather their adaption. This new art was steeped in a physical sense of the Roman north: the landscapes, the forts, the streets of tombs, the resilient peoples.

Altar to Sol-Mithras from Carrawburgh, Northumberland. Third century AD. Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle. (Photo: Author).

Visions…’ is to some extent a long essay, a series of interconnected studies of particular aspects of identity formation explored by material objects, highlighting the dominant strands of artistic practice at the time. The roots of this practice are not explicitly explored, indeed only in so far as they can be seen to have reinvigorated and tested the potential of sculpture as a medium. The interworking of agency, gesture, and landscape make this very much a regional study. Looking at the art from the Roman north helps us to understand how this geographic space was conceptualized. People, materials, and environment served to emphasise the local context and the landscape acted as a medium through which agency and gestures were translated. The art of the region should be seen as the end result of active engagements with developing patterns of change which formed one crucial aspect of the contemporary experience. Art acted as a kind of mesh through which real life escaped, the overall assemblage of artworks being somehow greater than the sum of its many parts. By deploying new modes of representation it is argued that it is almost as if the Romans looked down from above on the northern landscapes which had not been seen in this way before and reinterpreted them through imagery. Looking at this art allows us to recognise the deep connection between social and geological territory, and between landscape and memory.

Relief of Roman legionaries from Croy Hill, Dunbartonshire, Scotland. Antonine. National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh. (Photo: Author).

I also argue that northern Romano-British art between the first and early fifth centuries AD was in a sense a period of sufficient historical integrity to make it worthy of study in its own right and not just as a regional study. This art helped in the creation of a discrete social and psychological space in the north. The study seeks to question conventional polarities with regard to province and frontier. But there nevertheless remains a feeling that these resulting new visual narratives ultimately longed for some degree of constancy and integration in a broader whole. There is a sense that there was a struggle under way to envisage a new politicised landscape effortlessly spanning both the past and the present. The question addressed is whether the art produced was, ultimately, entirely successfully in doing so?

Visual experience was a vital and integral part of the character of the region as it was shaped by broad cultural and sociopolitical forces. Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall did not exist in a void: they lay within a broader landscape. The frontiers existed at a critical point where history and geography, architecture and topography met, or at least intersected; a region of perpetual exchange where economic, cultural, and political currents met in a zone of both contact and ideological, rather than actual, conflict. Perception and interpretation in such a zone can be, but need not necessarily have been, the same thing. Art and culture ultimately became the main arteries of connectivity and communication, drawing on repertoires of extraction and mobilisation.

Tombstone of the optio Caecilius Avitus from Chester. Mid to second half of third century AD. Grosvenor Museum, Chester. Painted Cast. (Photo: Author).

This bold and innovative northern art consequently made its own map of the region in a cartography of consequences whose transitory nature defied the rational lines and grids of conventional map-making. Conventional maps of northern Roman Britain would simply have failed to capture the essence and specifics of artistic production and consumption there at that time and consequently would have missed more than they managed to record. The northern landscapes should be understood as both physical and social spaces. The Antonine Wall distance slabs, discussed at great length in the book, are an exception, a series of conceits of uncommon force. They demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that as a means of expanding rather than circumscribing ideological practice art and craft were media for the exchange of different knowledge systems at the frontier. Contested borders and contested identities to some extent helped decentre the image of the human body here. In the event, abandonment of the Antonine frontier led to the sacrificing of the correspondence between art and fixed historical narratives in favour of a new fluidity.

Both artists and viewers experienced an alternative world to that created by historical writers on the province, a world that they themselves were creating and perpetuating. In many ways then this study marks an attempt to connect with a cognitive map of the northern region from the perspective of its cultural production over time. This kind of cartography could lead to all sorts of consequences, most importantly by allowing the art discussed to bring its past with it. This art was not just something to look at: it was communicative, performative, and constructive, and sometimes dwelled on its own form and formative power.

Tombstone of Aurelia Aureliana from Carlisle. Mid-third century AD. Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle. (Photo: Author).

These Romano-British artworks were very much about themselves or about the medium of art itself in some senses because what they did was reveal, demonstrate, question, and argue for a particular position on an ideological issue. This book proposes a means of looking at certain artworks in northern Roman Britain as having operated beyond what appeared to be their genre or their narrative, in that they can be thought to have been reflecting upon themselves. These artworks would appear to have asserted geography and chronology as their principal organisational concept. Oblivion and rescue were at best myopic tropes that served to define the later history of many of the artworks discussed in this study. As a body of works they appear to me endowed with a vivid, even epic, quality which somehow helps render them unique. The art of the northern region remains a reflecting glass in which we can see so much of Roman Britain and of the Roman world more broadly.

This is a study which is unashamedly regional but I hope certainly not parochial, based on data and evidence but still poetic in intent, revisionist but not iconoclastic. In the Roman north the concerns of Rome’s rulers, its soldiers, shadowplayers, civilians, traders, and those seeking help, salvation, or transcendence from regional or supra-regional deities came together in a heady cultural mix that defined a unique world. Boundaries between interior and exterior worlds dissolved.

Jet knife handle in the form of a dog from Binchester, County Durham. Late third, but probably fourth, century AD. Private collection. (Photo: Author).

For those who know the north we understand that it is a closed landscape, all of whose reference points draw us irresistibly towards the past. Though we might see things from variable angles-the individual viewing experience-or from receding perspectives-mediated by the knowledge that underpins the act of viewing-these variables nevertheless allow us to catch a glimpse of a completely novel conception of space here in the deep past, but in the end these glimpses remain no more than incoherent visions of a kind that require interpretation and careful analysis. What we are dealing with in trying to understand and empathise with the ancient viewer moving through the Roman landscape is absence and presence in time: the absence of an object becomes a presence that one can feel and experience. Viewers did not have to simply interpret the world, but rather the transformation of that world. Thus we have to try and understand from their perspectives a world which in many respects made itself.

I sing in praise of sandstone, of ‘this region of short distances and definite places’*, in the past as in the present. Hypnagogic sleep: visions of the Roman north.

Iain Ferris

* W.H. Auden 1948In Praise of Limestone.

Header image: The Cramond Lioness from Cramond, Edinburgh, Scotland. Mid-second to early third century AD. National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh. (Photo: Author).


Sincerest thanks to Iain for preparing this blog post.

Visions of the Roman North: Art and Identity in Northern Roman Britain will publish in May 2021, priced £35 in paperback, and from £16 as a PDF download.
Pre-order using this form to save 20% upon publication.

The complete introduction and first chapter are available to preview on our website now.

Invisible Connections of the Copper from Ancient Egypt and Nubia

Martin Odler (Charles University, Prague) and Jiří Kmošek (Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna) present ‘invisible connections’ between copper artefacts from Ancient Egypt and Nubia through archaeometallurgical analysis of the Bronze Age metalwork from the Egyptian Museum of the University of Leipzig.

Our latest book Invisible Connections, published with Archaeopress, gives voice to the ancient Egyptian metal artefacts as historical sources of their own nature. Egyptology is heavily focused on the texts and images of this ancient civilization, to the detriment of other valuable information from the past. Our aim was to demonstrate what can be found out from the artefacts in a museum, with a little sampling and wide application of archaeometallurgical methods, as alluded to in the book’s subtitle: An Archaeometallurgical Analysis of the Bronze Age Metalwork from the Egyptian Museum of the University of Leipzig. It does not mean that science can fully replace the traditionally used evidence, but that the texts and iconography can be enriched by these “invisible connections” preserved in the ancient objects.

How did the book come about?

Figure 1: Exhibited copper alloy finds in the Egyptian Museum of the University of Leipzig before the World War II, ÄMUL Fotothek 2130, Karton 13, photo by Friedrich Koch © Ägyptisches Museum – Georg Steindorff – der Universität Leipzig

The Egyptian Museum of the University of Leipzig has the largest university collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts in continental Europe (Fig. 1). It includes important objects from the excavations of the most prolific excavator among the museum’s curators, Georg Steindorff (1861–1951), at the famous Egyptian and Nubian sites of Abusir, Aniba, and Giza, complemented by several objects from Abydos, Thebes, Kerma, and other sites (Fig. 2).

Figure 2: Provenance of the analysed artefacts, mapped on the background from Natural Earth by Martin Odler in qGIS.

Readers of the Archaeopress blog will remember a post about the book Old Kingdom Copper Tools and Model Tools, authored by Martin Odler, in 2016. Our research in Leipzig started already then, kindly supported by the curator of the collection, Dr Dietrich Raue. In 2018, results of the Third Millennium BC material of Early Dynastic Period and Old Kingdom were published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, and discussed here on the Archaeopress blog as well. The most surprising finding was a 5,000-year-old bowl from the Egyptian site of Abusir, made of arsenical copper mixed with nickel, peculiar material occurring concurrently in Anatolia. Lead isotope ratios from the sampled artefacts corroborated this exceptionally early connection between Egypt and Anatolia. Our book contains also new material and more about it is revealed in the following lines.

What is inside?

The book presents the results of an interdisciplinary project by Egyptologist Martin Odler, archaeometalurgist Jiří Kmošek and other specialists. A selection of 86 artefacts was analysed using a range of archaeometallurgical methods (X-ray fluorescence; metallography; neutron activation analysis; lead isotope analysis), providing a diachronic sample of Bronze Age Egyptian copper alloy metalwork from Dynasty 1 to Dynasty 19 (thus covering largely Third and Second Millennium BC). Genuine interdisciplinarity arises from the dialogue of the various specialization of researchers, respecting diverse expressions of divergent strands of evidence. Besides the currently popular focus on the provenance of ores, the selection of the applied methods is also aimed at the description of practical physical properties of the objects. The question of differences between full-size functional artefacts and models is addressed, as is the problem of ‘imports’ and their ‘ethnic’ interpretation.

Figure 3: Aniba, Cemetery N, stone tumuli of the C-Group, photo Friedrich Koch © Ägyptisches Museum – Georg Steindorff – der Universität Leipzig.

The crucial new contents of the book represent 40 analysed objects from the ancient Lower Nubian site of Aniba, in antiquity called Miam. It was one of the most important centres of the indigenous Nubian C-Group culture (Fig. 3). Then, it became a local centre of Egyptian “empire” in the New Kingdom, selected as the “colonial” capital of Lower Nubia. The corpus represents the largest analysed assemblage of copper alloy metalwork from ancient Nubia. Nubian copper alloy metalwork is not well researched. Neither of the latest handbooks of ancient Nubia (de Gruyter and Oxford) contain a specific chapter on it. However, our book builds on the latest research of the ceramics from Aniba, which radically changes the understanding of the Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom local chronology. Especially New Kingdom contexts from Aniba were heavily disturbed and mixed, long discussions of archaeological contexts and artefact parallels were needed in order to date the artefacts more precisely, establishing early New Kingdom dating for most of them. This is a reason why the book’s presentation of these results precedes any publication in a journal focused on archaeometry. Archaeology could not be omitted from the comprehension of the data. In the tough word-limits of the journals these facets could have been lost, buried in the online supplementary material, where nobody would read it or could properly react. The devil, and the proper contextual interpretation, was in the detail.

What is new in the book?

Old truths of Nubian and Egyptian archaeology are being shaken, and we hope that our research will contribute to this re-evaluation (however, out of necessity, the traditional terms are being used before the new ones will arise.) Just briefly summing up the most important results, copper alloy metalwork from the tumuli of Nubian C-Group can be dated earlier than previously thought, to the Twelfth (and Thirteenth) Dynasty of Egypt (c. 1939 – 1630 BC). Among the 10 analysed objects from the C-Group (and one Pan Grave tumulus) are three tin bronzes, which is unexpectedly high number for such early Middle Bronze Age sites. Especially battle axe ÄMUL 4697 becomes one of the earliest known tin bronzes of the Middle Kingdom (or even First Intermediate Period) Egypt (Fig. 4).

Figure 4: Full-size functional battle axe with haft ÄMUL 4697, drawn by Martin Černý based on drawing by Martin Odler © Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Czech Institute of Egyptology.
Figure 5: Dagger ÄMUL 3791 before the World War II, photo Friedrich Koch © Ägyptisches Museum – Georg Steindorff – der Universität Leipzig.

These objects were most probably imports as they have “Egyptian” forms, but it is hard to tell whether they were made in Egypt or in Nubia. The copper used was already mixed from various sources, e.g. Sinai and perhaps already Cyprus. The mixing of various sources of scrap metal was demonstrated for New Kingdom Egypt, our findings push similar use but of a different mixed copper one kingdom earlier – to the Middle Kingdom. Nevertheless, there are some unequivocal pieces of evidence that local copper ore from Nubia was used as well, and that metalwork from Nubia is slightly different from “regular” Egyptian products. Making these objects in Nubia, by Egyptians or Nubians trained in Egyptian metallurgy, cannot be ruled out. In our corpus one dagger from Upper Nubian Kerma was present, from very late Second Intermediate Period (c. 1539 BC; Fig. 5, 6). The only similar published lead isotope ratios of this dagger can be identified in the unmixed copper ore from the island of Cyprus (Fig. 7). Being a sole specimen, we cannot infer much more from it and we need to wait for more results of the studies of Kerman metalwork.

Figure 6: Left: full-size functional dagger blade ÄMUL 3791, photo by Jiří Kmošek Metallic microstructure of ÄMUL 3791 a: on back scattered electron image, author Jiří Kmošek; b: on optical microscope image, photo by Jiří Kmošek © Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Czech Institute of Egyptology.
Figure 7: Comparison of lead isotopic data of the studied artefacts from the Kerma culture and New Kingdom with ores, artefacts and slags from Cyprus, Lavrion, Anatolia, Timna and Feinan, Saudi Arabian Shield, Eastern Desert and Sinai Peninsula; references to the source data can be found in the text; visualization by Jiří Kmošek.

Another intriguing finding from our corpus is the ubiquity of tin bronzes used for the production of all forms of analysed objects in early New Kingdom, early Eighteenth Dynasty (c. 1539–1292 BC). The use of tin bronze was demonstrated for the metalwork of Amarna, but earlier well-dated substantial New Kingdom evidence was lacking. Interestingly, many artefacts from Aniba have their northernmost parallels in the Theban area. In addition to ceramics, which was similar to Thebes already in the Second Intermediate Period, this is another strand of evidence, connecting Aniba with Thebes, capital of all New Kingdom Egypt. The only analysed artefact from the Theban area in our corpus, model saw blade of Queen Hatshepsut, was made of New Kingdom mixed copper metal (Fig. 8). This mixed metal was also found in the bulk of the New Kingdom objects from Aniba. But we cannot yet definitely tell if the objects themselves were made in Thebes or in Aniba from this imported material (the latter being more probable option).

Figure 8: Model saw blade from the foundation deposit of Queen Hatshepsut ÄMUL 5075, drawn by Martin Černý based on drawing by Martin Odler © Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Czech Institute of Egyptology.
Figure 9: Full-size mirror disc with caryatid handle ÄMUL 2178, photo by Jiří Kmošek © Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Czech Institute of Egyptology.

Some remarkable objects were made of imported copper from Cyprus, without mixing with other sources, and these were also identified at Aniba. Surprisingly, not only there, at the cemetery of the capital of Lower Nubia. Intriguing is a rather humble pit burial from Egyptian Abusir, in the vicinity of Lake Abusir, which contained a ring with a cartouche of Thutmosis III, and now we know that also a mirror made of Cypriot copper (Fig. 9). What was the “biography” of the individual or the copper mirror buried there, we can only guess, but imports of copper from Cyprus are known from the reign of Thutmosis III. Thus, texts can be complemented by the archaeometallurgical information and the material can be tracked down even to the graves, which are otherwise not remarkable from the point of view of “big” history/archaeology. You could once read in an article on New Kingdom Nubia: “It is almost impossible to distinguish the imported objects from those locally made, and to use criteria of ‘quality’ is totally inadequate”. We have tried to demonstrate that both issues can be clarified if we listened to scientists.

Who is this book for?

Metal artefacts are often perceived in Egyptological research as mere illustrations of information gathered from the texts, reliefs and paintings, with a few notable exceptions in the literature, such as the catalogue of Egyptian axes in the British Museum. Our new book is for anyone who is interested in ancient Egypt and thinks that there is more to it than solely texts and reliefs. Our knowledge of the ancient Egyptian technology, especially in the case of copper, is still very disparate. It is honest to admit the circumstances and try to do as much as we can to change the situation. Otherwise, we will only repeat misunderstandings from the earlier literature.

What we have tried to show is that the interpretation of scientific results also depends on the background data of previous analyses, especially on the bodies of ore available in antiquity. They might have been depleted or the right batch was not yet analysed. Especially the use of lead isotopes in archaeology has its own complicated history and present, in which our research is also taking a part. Our interpretations are not set in stone and can change as new data will become available. ‘Discoveries’ of singular unique pieces are welcome, but more important is the understanding of all the material in our hands, in their contexts. Unique finds can be identified only on the background of the artefacts that are common, one cannot be understood without the other.

Research of our team continues, you can look forward to the publication of the article Arsenical copper tools of Old Kingdom Giza craftsmen: first data (authors Martin Odler, Jiří Kmošek, Marek Fikrle, Yulia V. Erban Kochergina), which was accepted by the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports [update 17/3/2021: The article is now available: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2021.102868 and can be accessed without charge via the following link until 23/4/2021: https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1cgsQ,rVDBY6je].


Martin Odler (Czech Institute of Egyptology, Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Prague) defended his PhD thesis The social context of copper in ancient Egypt down to the end of Middle Kingdom in 2020. In 2016, he published the monograph Old Kingdom Copper Tools and Model Tools, the first of its kind in Egyptology, with Archaeopress. In Abusir (Egypt), he led, together with Marie Peterková Hlouchová, an excavation of a new type of Egyptian tomb (AS 103) and of the latest known tomb of a transitional type from early Dynasty 4 (AS 104).

Jiří Kmošek (Institute of Natural Sciences and Technology in Arts, Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna) is an archaeometallurgist, a PhD candidate at the Institute for Natural Sciences and Technology in the Arts, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. He has analysed not only ancient Egyptian material but also Bronze Age metalwork from the Czech Republic.

Sincerest thanks to Martin and Jiří for taking the time to discuss their research on the Archaeopress Blog. Links to their book, Invisible Connections, can be found below. If you would like to submit an article for the blog, please contact Patrick Harris at patrick@archaeopress.com


Available Now:

Invisible Connections: An Archaeometallurgical Analysis of the Bronze Age Metalwork from the Egyptian Museum of the University of Leipzig (2020)
by Martin Odler and Jiří Kmošek
205x290mm; 200 pages; 176 figures, 15 tables

Paperback: £44.00 | PDF eBook: from £16.00

Also Available:

Old Kingdom Copper Tools and Model Tools (2016)
by Martin Odler
205x290mm, xvi+292 pages; illustrated throughout

Paperback: £45.00 | PDF eBook: from £16.00

History of Siberian Archaeology: The Life and Works of Aleksei P. Okladnikov in 1961–1981

Yaroslav V. Kuzmin, from the Sobolev Institute of Geology and Mineralogy, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Novosibirsk, Russia), introduces A. K. Konopatskii’s book on the investigations of prehistoric archaeology of Siberia, Mongolia, and the Aleutian Islands (Alaska, USA), conducted by prominent Soviet scholar Aleksei P. Okladnikov (1908–1981) and his colleagues in the 1960s – 1970s.

Archaeopress is very pleased to have published Volume II of A. K. Konopatskii’s biography of Soviet archaeologist Aleksei P. Okladnikov as part of its ongoing Archaeological Lives series.

It is about the life and works of Aleksei P. Okladnikov in 1961–1981, when he was organiser (1961–1966) and since 1966 the Director of the Institute of History, Philology, and Philosophy, Siberian Branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences, in Novosibirsk. This institute was a part of large-scale project of Akademgorodok (Academic Town) built in 1957–1964, the unique phenomenon of Soviet science (see Josephson 1997).

Okladnikov went to the Akademgorodok for the first time in 1960, and was invited to move to Novosibirsk permanently, in order to organise the institute devoted to the study of the humanities in Siberia. Okladnikov felt the necessity to have free hands in order to continue his archaeological and historical pursuits in Siberia, the Russian Far East and Central Asia; also, the possibility to become a member of the Academy of Sciences in the near future was another important factor in favour of a move to Novosibirsk. In 1961, Okladnikov arrived in Akademgorodok to settle down. The Sector (i.e. Department) of History of the Industry was created within the existing Institute of Economics and Industrial Production Engineering (IEIPE). Okladnikov brought with him several archaeologists, historians, and philologists. In 1962, the Sector became the Department of Study of the Humanities, still attached to the IEIPE. In December 1966, the new Institute of History, Philology and Philosophy (IHPP) was officially opened, and Okladnikov was appointed as its Director. It had 120 employees, and consisted of three departments – History (including archaeology and ethnology), Philology, and Philosophy. The main task of the new institute was not only to conduct research but also to coordinate efforts in the field of humanities for all Siberia and the Russian Far East.

In Novosibirsk, Okladnikov continued extensive fieldworks in Siberia and the Russian Far East. Of particular importance were surveys and excavations in the Lake Baikal region (both Pribaikal’e and Zabaikal’e), headwaters of the Lena River, Altai Mountains, Kuznetsk Basin, and Primor’e and Priamur’e regions. Active fieldwork were also conducted in Mongolia in collaboration with Mongolian archaeologists. The ability of Okladnikov to find new archaeological sites was legendary; some people truly believed that he could become ‘prehistoric human’ to understand where to set up camp or permanent settlement. Of course, this talent was the result of his vast expertise in the study of ancient sites, and his intuition. In the 1960s and 1970s, Okladnikov also widely traveled abroad for conferences and business meetings – to Japan, Cuba, Hungary, USA, North Korea, Poland, India, and Czechoslovakia.

Figure 1. Meeting with Oriental scholar O. Lattimore in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 1971; from left to right: A. P. Derevyanko, O. Lattimore, D. Dorj, V. E. Larichev, A.P. Okladnikov and N. Ser-Odjav.

In 1964, Okladnikov was elected the Member-Correspondents of the Academy of Sciences, filling the quota of the Siberian Branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences. In 1968, he was elevated to the title of a Full Member (Academician). As a matter of fact, Okladnikov was given carte blanche to conduct archaeological, historical and other related research in all of Siberia, the Russian Far East, and Central Asia. The IHPP scholars were also the main workforce of the newly created Faculty of Humanities, Novosibirsk State University.

From the beginning of research in humanities at the Akademgorodok, the compilation of multi-volume History of Siberia was put forward as one of the major tasks, and Okladnikov was the main motor of this enterprise. In 1964, the 700 pages prospectus of Volume 1 (Ancient History) was compiled, printed and distributed among scholars. In 1968–1969, five volumes of the History of Siberia were published, and this was the first comprehensive (for the time being) compendium on archaeology and history of a large region. Okladnikov contributed the lion share of editorial work for the whole collection, and wrote several chapters for Volume 1. In 1973, this fundamental research was awarded the State Prize, with Okladnikov as a co-recipient.

Figure 2. Joint US–Soviet team at the Unalaska Island (Aleutian Islands), 1974; from left to right: A. K. Konopatskii, W. S. Laughlin, A. P. Derevyanko, R. S. Vasil’evskii, A. P. Okladnikov and V. E. Larichev.

In 1974, Okladnikov and four of his colleagues from IHPP participated in trips and joint excavations on the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, USA, along with Prof. William S. Laughlin (University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA). This was a rare example of the real collaboration, that is joint expeditions and excavations. Campbell (1976: 3) noted:

The Aleutian project of 1974 constituted, both in intent and practice, quite a radical departure from the general pattern of exchange visits between North American and Soviet anthropologists, biologists and earth scientists, which, while they have resulted in very useful comparison of data and ideas, have rarely involved actual field research under the conditions which the visiting scientists enjoyed at home. Purely and simply, therefore, the Aleutian project amounted to honest joint field work, and was not a guided tour.

Figure 3. W. S. Laughlin and A. P. Okladnikov examine the skull of one of the D. Medvedev’s party of Cossacks massacred in 1764 at Chaluka (Unalaska Island), University of Connecticut, Storrs (CT), 1974.

Another of Okladnikov’s initiative in the 1960s – 1970s was to create an Open-Air (Outdoor) Museum, and bring to Akademgorodok the ancient stelae with inscriptions and pieces of rock art that are endangered by construction of large reservoirs or industrial development. A wooden church with bell tower from the abandoned town of Zashiversk in the Indigirka River basin, built in 1700 and the miraculous survivor of several fires, was rescued from the Arctic and brought in pieces to Akademgorodok in 1971. Today, this is one of the major attractions of the Open-Air Museum that was officially opened in 1981.

Figure 4. The wooden church and bell tower from the abandoned Arctic town of Zashiversk, Open-Air Museum, Akademgorodok, Novosibirsk.

Several foreign learning societies – British Academy (1973), Academy of Sciences of Mongolia (1974) and Hungarian Academy of Science (1976) – granted Okladnikov honorary membership. In 1978, Okladnikov was given the title of Hero of Socialist Labour (civil equivalent to the Hero of Soviet Union, the highest honour in USSR).

Most of Okladnikov’s biographies are panegyric, and only his achievements are described. It seems that L. S. Klejn’s opinions (see Klejn 2012: 334–338; Klejn 2014: 306–325) are more balanced. Okladnikov’s legacy is tremendous because of his many years of work in northern Asia where large tracts of land were previously unknown to archaeologists. Klejn (2012: 338) noticed about Okladnikov: ‘Not even his enemies deny his achievements, charm, and talent.’ Besides the rich artefact collections acquired throughout more than 50 years of research, Okladnikov also built a Novosibirsk school of archaeologists – including Z. A. Abramova, S. N. Astakhov, V. V. Bobrov, A. P. Derevianko, E. I. Derevianko, B. A. Frolov, Yu. P. Kholushkin, Y. F. Kiryushin, V. E. Larichev, A. I. Martynov, A. I. Mazin, V. E. Medvedev, V. I. Molodin, V. T. Petrin, R. S. Vasil’evskii, and others.

Figure 5. A. P. Okladnikov in his Director’s office with A. K. Konopatskii (right), Akademgorodok, Novosibirsk, 1978.

However, some scholars did not come along well with Okladnikov. He was quite suspicious about some Siberian archaeologists who were revising his chronology and periodisation of ancient cultural complexes – Yu. A. Mochanov from Yakutsk; G. I. Medvedev, M. P. Aksenov, G. M. Georgievskaya and other people from Irkutsk; A. A. Formozov and G. I. Andreev from Moscow; and Z. V. Andreeva from Vladivostok. Sometimes Okladnikov used his position to postpone publications of these researchers or push them from sites that he wanted to excavate by himself. It is obvious that Okladnikov had many ‘summits and bottoms’ in science; however, his achievements are probably more important today than his flaws and mistakes.

The book (including Volume I, published by Archaeopress in 2019) is for archaeologists, historians, and everyone who is interested in the history of scholarship (particularly the humanities) in the twentieth century, especially in the USSR.

Header image: A. P. Okladnikov examines the rock art at the Sakachi-Alyan site, Khabarovsk Province, 1971.

References

Campbell, J.M. (1976). The Soviet–American Siberian expedition. Arctic 29: 2–6.

Josephson, P. (1997). New Atlantis Revisited: Akademgorodok, the Siberian City of Science. Princeton, NJ & Chichester: Princeton University Press.

Klejn, L.S. (2012). Soviet Archaeology: Trends, Schools, and History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Klejn, L.S. (2014). Istoriya Rossiiskoi Arkheologii: Ucheniya, Shkoly i Lichnosti. Tom 2. Arkheologi Sovetskoi Epokhi (The History of Russian Archaeology: Doctrines,Schools and Personalities. Volume 2. Archaeologists of the Soviet Epoch). St.Petersburg: Eurasia Press (in Russian).

About the Author

Yaroslav V. Kuzmin has been studying geoarchaeology of the Russian Far East, Siberia and neighbouring Northeast Asia since 1979 (PhD 1991; DSc. 2007). He has also assisted in translating and editing books on the archaeology of eastern Russia along with Richard L. Bland.


How to order

Aleksei P. Okladnikov: The Great Explorer of the Past
by A. K. Konopatskii, translated by Richard L. Bland and Yaroslav V. Kuzmin

Volume I: A biography of a Soviet archaeologist (1900s – 1950s):
PB: £24.99 | PDF: from £16.00

Volume II: A biography of a Soviet archaeologist (1960s – 1980s):
PB: £34.99 | PDF: from £16.00

The World of Disney

David Gill provides an introduction to the life of Dr John Disney (1779–1857), the subject of his latest biography.

Dr John Disney (1779–1857) is perhaps best known for his benefaction that allowed the creation of the Cambridge University chair of archaeology that continues to bear his name. What was his interest in archaeology, and what were his motivations?

How did the book come about?

My professional interest in Disney came through my time as a curator at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. The ‘Disney Marbles’ (as they were known at the time of their donation in 1850) formed a key component of the sculpture collection and included imperial portraits as well as Roman sarcophagi. Part of this gift, as well as some subsequent acquisitions, were explored in a temporary exhibition ‘Antiquities of the Grand Tour’ (1990). I was invited to prepare a new memoir of Disney for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004). This involved tracking down his papers in various record offices, as well as walking part of his estate in Dorset.

Sarcophagus with Dionysiac scene. Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum. © David Gill.

On returning to the east of England I decided to choose Disney as the subject of my inaugural lecture as he had been involved with the creation of civic museums in Chelmsford and Colchester, and had stood unsuccessfully as Member of Parliament for both Harwich and Ipswich. After completing my biography of Dr Winifred Lamb (Winifred Lamb: Aegean Prehistorian and Museum Curator [2018]), the Honorary Keeper of Greek Antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum, I decided that the time was right for exploring this key figure in the formation of academic archaeology in the UK.

What is inside?

The Disney family were based at Norton Disney, between Lincoln and Newark. They had settled there following the Norman conquest; their origins lay in Isigny in Normandy. By the 18th century the family were living in Lincoln.

The central question was how the Disney family had acquired the classical sculpture collection at The Hyde. John’s father, the Reverend John Disney (1746–1816), was a Church of England cleric in Lincolnshire. He was part of the Feathers Tavern Petitioners who sought to be released from the perceived constraints of the Thirty-Nine Articles. He became close friends (and brother-in-law) of the Reverend Theophilus Lindsey. Disney resigned his Church of England living to become assistant minister of the Unitarian Essex Street Chapel in London where Lindsey was minister. One of the key benefactors of the chapel was Thomas Brand (Brand-Hollis) (c. 1719–1804) of The Hyde, near Ingatestone in Essex.

The Hyde, near Ingatestone, Essex.

Brand-Hollis died in 1804 and bequeathed The Hyde, its collections, and estates in Dorset to the Reverend John Disney. The classical sculptures had been largely acquired by Brand and his friend Thomas Hollis (1720–1774) during their Grand Tour of Italy. Among the pieces was a fine portrait of Marcus Aurelius that had been displayed in the Palazzo Barberini in Rome. At least five objects were purchased for The Hyde in 1761 from the collection of William Lloyd of The Gregories in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. Hollis bequeathed his fortune and estate to Brand, and Archdeacon Francis Blackburne of Richmond Yorkshire prepared the Memoirs (1780); Blackburne was father-in-law to both Lindsey and the Reverend John Disney.

Disney’s elder brother Lewis married Elizabeth Ffytche, daughter of a former president of Bengal, in 1775 and settled at Danbury Place in Essex. After Elizabeth’s death Lewis purchased the pleasure gardens, Le Désert de Retz, outside Paris; however, the events of the French Revolution forced him to flee France and he moved to Italy. Part of the Disney collection can be traced to his time in Naples. It was in Italy that his daughter, Frances, met (Sir) William Hillary, the future founder of the RNLI; they married on their return to London. Lewis’ other daughter, Sophia, married her first cousin John Disney in 1802. John had studied at Peterhouse, Cambridge before being admitted to the Inner Temple. In 1807 he was appointed Recorder of Bridport in Dorset, and his family moved to the former estate owned by Thomas Hollis.

The Reverend John Disney died in December 1816, and John Disney moved back to Essex. He became involved with the Chelmsford Philosophical Society and helped to establish the Chelmsford and Essex Museum in 1843 to display the society’s collection. Investigations in Colchester led to an interest in Roman archaeology and a Latin funerary inscription entered the Disney collection. In 1818 Disney started a detailed catalogue of the collection in The Hyde that later appeared as the Museum Disneianum (1846; 2nd ed. 1849); it drew on the catalogue that had been prepared by his father. This new catalogue included additional pieces that Disney had added to the collection during his travels in Italy.

Inscription from Colchester. Museum Disneianum.

In 1849 Disney turned 70 and he decided to offer his collection of sculpture to the University of Cambridge as ‘a basis for the study of Archaeology’. In 1851 he offered to establish a ‘professorship of classical antiquities’. The first professor was the Reverend John H. Marsden, the Rector of Great Oakley near Harwich. Marsden was a member of the Colchester Archaeological Association and later the Essex Archaeological Society. Disney was awarded an honorary DCL from Oxford in 1854, and was incorporated with the degree of LL.D. at Cambridge during the Archaeological Institute’s visit to Cambridge later that same year. Disney died in May 1857 and is buried in the family tomb in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin at Fryerning in Essex.

About the author

David Gill is Honorary Professor in the Centre for Heritage at the University of Kent, and Academic Associate in the Centre for Archaeology and Heritage in the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures at the University of East Anglia (UEA). He is a former Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome, and Sir James Knott Fellow at Newcastle University. He was responsible for curating the Greek and Roman collections at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge University, before moving to Swansea University where he was reader in Mediterranean Archaeology. He returned to East Anglia as Professor of Archaeological Heritage at the University of Suffolk. He is a Fellow of the RSA and the Society of Antiquaries. In 2012 he received the Outstanding Public Service Award from the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) for his research on cultural property. His other books include Sifting the Soil of Greece: The Early Years of the British School at Athens (1886-1919) (2011), and Winifred Lamb: Aegean Prehistorian and Museum Curator (2018).


How to Order:

The World of Disney: From Antiquarianism to Archaeology is available now in paperback (£25) or as a PDF eBook (£16)

Also available: Winifred Lamb: Aegean Prehistorian and Museum Curator: Paperback (£30) / PDF eBook (£16).

Sincerest thanks to David Gill for providing this blog post. To submit an article for the Archaeopress Blog, please contact Patrick Harris.

Conversations in Human Evolution

Lucy Timbrell introduces an ongoing science communication project exploring the breadth and interdisciplinarity of human evolution research at a global scale.

Conversations in Human Evolution is an ongoing science communication project exploring the breadth and interdisciplinarity of human evolution research at a global scale. Through informal interviews (henceforth referred to as ‘conversations’), this project delves deeply into topics concerning the study of our species’ evolutionary history, covering the current advances in research, theory and methods as well as the socio-political issues rife within academia. This project also provides important insights into the history of human evolutionary studies. Overall, the Conversations in Human Evolution website has attracted around 8000 visitors from over 100 countries. Volume 1 (available from Archaeopress) is the result of the first twenty conversations, published online between March and June 2020. When we went to press, this subset of the conversations had been collectively viewed 6817 times since they were made available on the website.

The idea for Conversations in Human Evolution (CHE) arose in March 2020 during the escalation of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Following the cancellation and postponement of in-person events, CHE became a creative project to encourage engagement with human evolutionary research during this time of isolation and confinement. It was noticed that, whilst there is great public interest in this area of research, there are few freely accessible online resources about human evolutionary studies itself (though see the Smithsonian Human Origins Programme for a good example of a publicly available resource). What’s more, science engagement initiatives are almost always concerned with communicating exciting results and discoveries, and whilst this is obviously the most important aspect of science communication, it can lead to the neglection of the personal experiences of the scholars behind the science. Broader socio-political issues within subject-specific academic circles are also rarely discussed through publicly accessible communicative forums, somewhat depersonalising the science and perhaps even romanticising academia in certain ways. CHE fills this void by asking – what does it actually mean to study and research human evolution in the 21st century?

Human evolution studies, by definition, is a discipline concerned with the deep past. We explore the most pertinent questions about the evolution of humanity, such as the emergence of complex language and culture. The exploration of such issues allows researchers to look back into our species’ evolutionary history to better understand our present and our future. Yet, we rarely consider the role of history and personal experience in the shaping of human evolution research. Acknowledging that the history of our discipline and its historical figures deserve focus in their own right is a fundamental premise of CHE as, in the same way that human evolutionary research drives our understanding of our past, present and future selves, historical and personal contexts have driven modern approaches to the deep past. CHE bridges the gap between the research and the researcher, contextualising modern science with personal experience and historical reflection.

Themes:

Volume 1 is organised into five non mutually exclusive categories based on broad research areas: (1) quaternary and archaeological science, (2) Palaeolithic archaeology, (3) biological anthropology and palaeoanthropology, (4) primatology and evolutionary anthropology, and (5) evolutionary genetics. CHE features scholars at various different stages in their careers and from all over the world; in this volume alone, researchers are based at institutions in seven different countries (namely the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States of America, Germany, Denmark, India and China), covering four continents.

Quaternary and Archaeological Science

Section 1 features five conversations with quaternary and archaeological scientists, covering topics such as quantitative methods in archaeology, human-environment interactions, palaeoecology and geoarchaeology. Dr Enrico Crema discusses his research into evolutionary cultural change and prehistoric demography, with a particular focus on Japanese prehistory, as well as the importance of being a ‘π-shaped’ researcher with both domain-specific knowledge and analytical and computing skills. Professor Felix Riede builds on this idea, suggesting that ‘π-shaped’ researchers should learn how to ‘hold hands’ and work collaboratively. He also discusses his research projects attempting to understand how paleoclimates have interacted with past societies, and the role that archaeology can play in current discourse in contemporary climate change. Professor Ben Marwick details the importance of ‘open access archaeology’ as well as some of his many projects, mainly in Southeast Asia. Quaternary Scientist, Professor Chris Hunt recounts his work at the ongoing Shanidar Cave Project in Iraqi Kurdistan (among his many other projects), which has recently published fascinating results on Neanderthal mortuary practises. Professor Andy Herries also reviews his recent publications, such as the dating of the DNH 134 Homo erectus fossil. As well as discussion about his ongoing work in geoarchaeology and geochronology, he stresses the importance of working with local collaborators and communities.

A cartoon of π-shaped researchers that boast both knowledge (K) breadth and depth as well as statistical acumen learning to ‘hold hands’ and do archaeological team science, also with colleagues of other shapes. Image by Felix Riede.

Palaeolithic Archaeology

Section 2 features five conversations with Palaeolithic archaeologists working all over the world. This section highlights the ongoing research that is being carried out to further understand prehistoric human behaviour over a huge geographic area. Starting in Asia, Professor Shanti Pappu recounts her experiences of researching the Indian Palaeolithic, drawing special attention to the importance of her outreach programmes with local schools during excavation. Professor Michael Petraglia details his interdisciplinary work in South Asia and East Asia –  as well as Arabia and eastern Africa –  which has the overarching focus of understanding the origin and dispersal of our own species. Dr Shi-Xia Yang describes her recent work on the stone tools of Palaeolithic in East Asia, making links between hominin behaviours and climatic change in the region. Moving into African Stone Age archaeology, Professor John Gowlett explores his experiences working in eastern Africa, illustrated with amazing pictures from his personal archive. Professor Eleanor Scerri next describes her ongoing work in northern and western Africa. Like others in this volume, she encourages the development of new quantitative and computational methods for interpreting patterns in the archaeological record. Finally, coming into the European Palaeolithic, Dr Rob Davies describes his work at the British Museum looking at the archaeology of ancient Great Britain. As a mature student coming into archaeological research later in life, he provides an invaluable account of his experiences within academia.

The research team at the Sharma Centre for Heritage Education in action. Image by Shanti Pappu.

Biological Anthropology and Palaeoanthropology

Four biological anthropologists and paleoanthropologists are featured in Section 3, covering topics such as evolutionary medicine, comparative anatomy and the significance of new fossil discoveries. Dr Emma Pomeroy first describes some of her latest work in evolutionary medicine on the osteological indicators of body fatness (among other projects, such as the excavation of Neanderthal remains at Shanidar Cave), discussing the implications of her work on modern health. Professor Chris Stringer talks us through his expansive career in physical anthropology, including his PhD at the University of Bristol which led to the establishment of the Out of Africa hypothesis. Professor Katerina Harvati describes some of her most recent research at Apidima Cave on some of the oldest Homo sapiens fossils outside of Africa. She goes on to discuss some of the technological and methodological advancements that have revolutionized modern anthropological science as well as some of academia’s socio-political issues that still require attention, like the representation of women and ethnic minorities in human evolution research as well as sexual harassment. Finally, Professor Bernard Wood recounts his experiences working with Richard Leakey and other well-known paleoanthropologists during the ‘golden era’ of fossil discoveries.

Chris Stringer on his PhD trip around Europe (1971). Image by Chris Stringer.
Bernard Wood looking at newly recovered hominin fossils with colleagues, brought down to Nairobi by Don Johanson from Hadar in 1973, at the old Center for Prehistory and Palaeontology at the National Museums of Kenya. From left to right, Tim White, Richard Leakey, Bernard Wood and Don Johanson. Image by Bob Campbell.

Primatology and Evolutionary Anthropology

Section 4 includes three conversations with researchers working within primatology and evolutionary anthropology. First, Professor Susana Carvalho describes how she helped to establish the field of ‘primate archaeology’. She also outlines the progression of the Gorongosa Field School and Palaeo-Primate Project in Mozambique which she directs. Like many others, she also strongly advocates the training of local students to lead research in these areas. Then, Dr Isabelle Winder, a self-proclaimed ‘question-led researcher’, discusses the broad nature of her past and present projects, including some very interesting work in the modelling of non-primate species distributions in response to climate change. Finally, Professor Fiona Jordan discusses her work on the VariKin project which uses data, methods and theory from anthropology, biology, linguistics and psychology to explore kinship system diversity. Interestingly, in this conversation, she reflects on her experiences working in academic institutions all over the world.

Susana Carvalho with Rene Bobe and Zeray Alemseged at Gorongosa (2017). Image by Luke Stalley.

Evolutionary Genetics

The final section focuses on individuals working on evolutionary genetics as it features conversations with two population geneticists. First, Professor Eske Willerslev discusses the significance of environmental DNA for understanding biological activity in the past, a field within evolutionary genetics that he founded. He also discusses some of his biggest achievements, such as the first whole-genome sequencing of an ancient human genome and proposes some of the most promising avenues of future research for human evolution studies, such as proteomics. Second, Dr Pontus Skoglund addresses the interaction between archaeology and genetics, discussing some of the contentious issues between the two, such as the definition of ancestry. He also describes his research into the links between population migrations and the global transition to agriculture, archaic gene flow, early human evolution in Africa and more.

Eske Willerslev visiting the Northern Cheyenne Reserve in Montana, talking to members of the Cheyenne and Crow Native American Tribes. Image by Eske Willerslev.

About the author

Lucy Timbrell is an AHRC-funded PhD researcher in the Archaeology of Human Origins Research Group at the University of Liverpool. She was awarded her BSc in Evolutionary Anthropology from the University of Liverpool in 2018 and her MPhil in Biological Anthropological Science from Clare College, University of Cambridge, in 2020. Broadly, she is interested in the evolution of modern human diversity, with her doctoral research focussing on quantifying the population structure of early Homo sapiens in Late-Middle Pleistocene Africa. Alongside her PhD research, she organises the widely known University of Liverpool Evolutionary Anthropology seminar series. She has previously published and organised international workshops on the application of geometric morphometrics methods in biological anthropology and archaeology, and was awarded a global prize in 2018 for her undergraduate research that utilized these techniques. Lucy is also an advocate for open science and public engagement with human evolutionary studies.

Available Now!

Conversations in Human Evolution: Volume 1 is available now in paperback (£30) and as a FREE PDF download here.

Sincerest thanks to Lucy Timbrell for supplying this blog post. If you would be interested in submitting something for the Archaeopress Blog – please contact Patrick Harris.

An Educator’s Handbook For Teaching About the Ancient World

Dr Pinar Durgun discusses the context and background behind her innovative new handbook presenting ‘recipes’ for teaching about the ancient world.

How did the book come about?

The world has changed so quickly and so drastically around us in 2020. So has our teaching: online and open-access resources have often been the only way students and educators can access and share information, when libraries, schools, and cultural organizations have been closed for much of the year, and in many cases remain so. Even when they have re-opened, educators have been forced to teach in entirely new or hybrid formats.

Teachers (inspired by ancient Assyrian, Mayan, and Greek depictions holding teaching tools)  and students (holding various school supplies) in a classroom. The image imitates the style of painted ancient stone reliefs. The colors and details are worn. Cover artwork by Hannah M. Herrick.

Now that many of us are required to teach over digital platforms, can we expect our students to listen to us lecture for two hours and give us their undivided attention? The instructional designers I work with in preparing my online courses suggest that online lectures should be 10 minutes maximum. So do many other educators. This is how long your students can focus on your lecturing voice and your ‘floating head talking’ video. In the physical classroom, the maximum is around 15-20 minutes. So how do we communicate information and teach content for longer stretches of time while still enabling students to interact and engage?

Interactive classroom activities make learning undeniably more engaging and fun, in addition to providing students with physical dexterity, collaboration, critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills. There are very creative educators among us who have been teaching about the ancient world in exciting ways using hands-on, project-based, and experiential activities. I wanted to use these activities in my classes. And based on dozens of activity exchanges with my educator friends, I was sure that other educators were also looking for new strategies to engage their students with the ancient world. This is why I created An Educator’s Handbook for Teaching About the Ancient World.

‘Live like it’s 3000 BC: Experimental Archaeology; students are flintknapping to produce an Acheulean hand axe. Brown University, 2018.

What is in the book?

The initial idea was to format the lesson plans into a cookbook, with teaching ‘recipes’, which include the materials, budget, preparation time, and level of students so that any educator could replicate these recipes in their classes. Some of these activities require materials, some do not. Some need to be prepared before class, some require no preparation. Some of the activities are very much tied to the culture, time period, or place, but some can be applied to any content. Some of the activities were written by a single educator, and some are a product of collaborative teaching. All of the activities, however, are tested in the classroom and peer-reviewed by other educators. More importantly, all activities are engaging, hands-on, immersive, and/or experiential. They are only a small portion of the endless possibilities of making teaching and learning about the ancient world fun, meaningful, and informative.

An example of the ‘recipe’ format: ‘Making Lions at Babylon’ by Anastasia Amrhein and Elizabeth Knott

In addition to these teaching recipes, this book also addresses some important issues in ancient world pedagogy: Why should we publish educational resources as open access? How can we effectively make use of museums and ancient objects in our teaching? Why should our research and pedagogy be collaborative? Our teaching has broader implications. These essays address such implications and provide great examples and case studies for educators to apply these methods and ways of thinking to their own teaching. I hope this book will be a resource where we can learn from each other about ancient world pedagogy regardless of the time periods, cultural or geographical areas, and subjects we teach.

Who is this book for?

Educators teaching about the ancient world. Students and parents learning how to teach about ancient world. Anyone who is interested in the ancient world and pedagogy. The activities in this book can be implemented online or in-person, in school, university, library, museum, or home classrooms. Every activity specifies the age/grade level of students for which the activity is appropriate. Many activities also have optional steps to make the activity work for other ages/levels. The activities and essays were written by school teachers, university instructors, and museum educators who teach about ancient objects, materials, peoples, and cultures.

Some of the activities were also written in different languages. Contributors and educators Leticia Rovira and Cecilia Molla from Argentina, who wrote their activity both in English and Spanish, say that this book is:

“a novel contribution to the didactics of ancient societies’ teaching. The main objective is challenging and enthralling: to go beyond the thresholds of academy and reach another very important audience –students at different levels- and try to capture their interest, drawing their attention towards our fields of study through a wide diversity of appealing didactic proposals.”

You can find out more about the Contributors here: https://pinardurgunpd.wixsite.com/teachancient

One of the goals of this book was to open up the conversation about ancient world pedagogy and create a hub for more collaboration. I encourage you to try out the teaching activities and share your photos and observations with other educators: https://pinardurgunpd.wixsite.com/teachancient/gallery 

You can also explore further pedagogical resources about ancient world pedagogy here: https://pinardurgunpd.wixsite.com/teachancient/copy-of-about

About the Author

Dr Pınar Durgun is an art historically-trained archaeologist with a background in anthropology, cultural heritage, and museums, passionate about outreach and education. She received her Ph.D. from Brown University and has been teaching for about a decade in universities, museums, and school classrooms about archaeology and the ancient world. As a dedicated public scholar and educator, Dr Durgun hopes to make academic information about the ancient world accessible, fun, and inclusive. Find out more about her work here: https://pinardurgunpd.wixsite.com/pinardurgun

Grab it and spread the word!

The eBook version of my book is FREE to download in Open Access. To download the free eBook or to purchase a printed hardback copy, please click on the cover image below:

Sincerest thanks to Dr Durgun for writing this article for the Archaeopress Blog. To submit an article, please send your proposal to Patrick Harris: patrick@archaeopress.com