Past Conferences


The Ninth IEMA Visiting Scholar Conference

Coming Together: Comparative Approaches to Population Aggregation and Early Urbanization

IEMA poster

April 2-3, 2016
Greiner Hall, Ground Level
North Campus, University at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY 14261

Conference Organizer: Dr. Attila Gyucha,

Registration Form

Download the program here

Discussion online between 3:00pm and 4:30pm EST on April 3, Sunday:

(download here)

The current, fast-growing tendency of people moving from small settlements to cities has resulted in increased scholarly interest into the origins and different aspects of population nucleation. Coalescence has been a global phenomenon for human societies during the past several millennia, and the long-term perspective of archaeological research has a great potential to provide insights into how urban environments formed and their implications for humanity.
The search for a universal definitions of terms such as ‘urban’ and ‘city,’ has frequently distractedscholars from investigating the processes of how ancient aggregated settlements evolved. Through the reorganization of smaller scale social units into more complex configurations, early centers of economic and political organizations occurred throughout the world at various times and places, and in fundamentally different socio-political contexts. Their architectural and functional characteristics varied extensively, and their evolutionary trajectories took dramatically diverse courses. Nevertheless, one common feature of these nucleated settlements was that they offered a variety of opportunities to their residents that overrode the multitude of challenges of living in close quarters.
To understand the formation, development, and organization of aggregated settlements in their wider spatial and temporal contexts, a multi-scalar perspective in a diachronic framework must be employed. By combining this approach with state-of-the-art field and analytical methods, we now are in a position to identify those various factors and processes that resulted in the movement of people to large centers, and contributed to the sustainability, or unsustainability, of these sites.
This symposium will focus on prehistoric population nucleation and ancient urbanization in a crosscultural framework. An international group of anthropologists, prehistorians, and classicists will explore the integrative mechanisms that brought large populations together, the social practices and institutions that fostered the maintenance of aggregated settlements, as well as the impacts of aggregation on socio-cultural developments. In order to interpret variations in early population nucleation, the geographical focus will include Europe, the Near East, and the New World, and participants will consider the following topics: 1) socio-economic conditions of early population nucleation and urbanization; 2) benefits and disadvantages of coalescence; 3) decision-making and cooperation at aggregated settlements; 4) changes in social organization, economy, and identity stimulated by aggregation; 5) socio-cultural types, political configurations, and layout and functions of settlements; and, 6) long-term mechanisms of integration and disintegration in settlement trajectories.

Titles and Abstracts

Click here to download the conference abstract and entire list of titles and abstracts.

Aggregation and Urbanization as Fundamental Drivers of Social Change
Michael E. Smith
(Arizona State University)
Population aggregation—the concentration of formerly dispersed people into villages, towns, and cities—is one of the most fundamental and consequential processes in the history of human society. Much social science research has focused on the negative consequences of urbanization—increased levels of stress, crime, poverty, and alienation. But research in several disciplines has also highlighted positive consequences of aggregation. Not only is economic efficiency promoted, but per-capita productivity and innovation rise as cities become more populous and denser. These scaling effects, long recognized for contemporary cities, have been explained in a comprehensive framework which highlights population size (scale) as a major driver of socio-economic change.
The analytical framework of scaling theory is sufficiently general to apply to both contemporary and premodern cities, and scholars have begun to publish applications to ancient and historical urban systems. The results suggest that the basic process of face-to-face social interaction in settlements is a creative and dynamic driver of social change and transformation, in the past and the present. When this perspective is applied to the earliest cities, traditional models are turned on their heads. Archaeologists formerly viewed state formation as the definitive social transformation, with cities created as an unintentional byproduct of state development. New research, on the other hand, suggests that urbanization may have preceded the earliest states, and that the generative processes of urban social interaction in fact created the institutions and complexity we associate with states.
The implications of this new thinking for archaeology are clear: (1) we have the data to document early processes of aggregation and urbanization; and (2) our research contributes to a better understanding of some of the most fundamental human social transformations in the past and the present. Our task now is to carry out rigorous comparative analyses and model building so that archaeological data can improve social science knowledge on a much broader scale.
Synoikismos: Formation and Form of Ancient Greek Cities
Bradley A. Ault
(University at Buffalo, State University of New York)
Following the Late Bronze Age “collapse” of Mycenaean civilization (ca. 1200 BC), the formative Greek states and the palace centers that spawned them had vanished. What emerged in their wake over the course of the following centuries was the city-state or polis, a system with a remarkably different pedigree. Bottom-up formations rather than top-down creations, established by people and populations, rather than implemented by aristocratic monarchies. At least 1,000 such city-states existed in the Greek world, some 600 in the Aegean homeland and another 400 in colonial settings abroad. That is how successful this 3 system proved to be. And by the fourth century BC, as much as one-third of the population of Greek urban-dwellers lived in cities that had been newly founded since the eighth century BC.
This paper will explore not only the mechanisms of Greek city-state formation, but the character of their urban core, and especially how this organization reflected their social and economic profile.
Urbanism at a Crossroad: Trade, Settlement, and Society in Early Bronze Age Anatolia
A. Nejat Bilgen
(Dumlupınar University, Turkey)
Laura Harrison
(University at Buffalo, State University of New York)
Throughout its history, Anatolia was a crossroad of people, ideas, and goods. This land bridge between Asia and Europe is more than a transit zone; it also supported the emergence of distinctive local cultures by cultivating interaction between neighboring groups and homegrown traditions.
In the Early Bronze Age (ca. 2500-2000 BC), a trend toward urbanism developed in western Anatolia, leading to the rise of a new kind of settlement, ranging in size from 3-10 hectares, with tightly packed rowhouses that were, in certain instances, arranged around a central public space. While these centers are relatively modest in size, they display signs of centralized planning and architectural elaboration, and suggest the emergence of an elite social class.
As urbanization took hold, a network of local and long-distance exchange, fueled by a nascent metals trade drove commerce between Anatolia and its neighbors. An overland route stretched from the Syro-Mesopotamian heartland to Northwest Anatolia, and a maritime route circulated throughout the Aegean islands reaching the western Anatolian coastline. The maritime route was disrupted around 2200 BC when the Aegean island cultures fell into decline, but the overland route remained vital, and urbanization continued to thrive across the Anatolian plateau well into the second millennium BC, culminating in the rise of the Hittite Empire.
This paper considers the reciprocal relationship between urbanism and inter-regional trade by examining archaeological data from the site of Seyitömer Höyük, in the Kütahya region of western Anatolia, during the final centuries of the third millennium BC. Although this region is often ignored or erroneously considered a cultural backwater, it was actually an important crossroad that maintained ties with the Aegean and Mesopotamian worlds. The analysis focuses on the distinctive style of architecture and urbanism at Seyitömer Höyük, its relationship to the broader tradition of urbanism in the region, and the ways in which patterns of mutual exchange allowed this site to sustain itself amidst changing inter-regional dynamics.
Settlement Aggregation and Geopolitical Realignment in the Northeastern Woodlands
Jennifer Birch
(University of Georgia)
Eastern North American archaeology has benefited from historicized approaches that seek to understand the relationship between the long-term emergence of social and political complexity, and the lived experiences of households and communities. This paper will draw upon archaeological and ethnohistoric datasets pertaining to Northern Iroquoian societies of the northeastern Woodlands to explore the relationship between the lived experiences of coalescence and broader shifts in the geopolitical fabric of Northern Iroquoia. Research shows that multi-linear adaptations and negotiations by local populations and newcomers occurred at various social and spatial scales.
In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries AD, Northern Iroquoian societies experienced simultaneous processes of endemic warfare and settlement aggregation. This was a period of significant geopolitical realignment, including the formation of nations, confederacies, and initial European contact. People came together into large, palisaded towns. In these towns, a greater degree of social complexity emerged, including “urban” planning, centralized leadership, and the intensification of long-distance exchange. While it has been known that these events occurred within roughly a century and a half (ca. AD 1450-1600) new data on community organization and Bayesian modeling of AMS dates from across southern Ontario provide a refined chronology for these events, which permit more detailed explanations of the historical trajectories of politogenesis in Iroquoia.
The picture that emerges is one of increasing political complexity, which fostered the formation of strong horizontal links in the context of a highly segmented society. At the same time, archaeological and ethnohistoric evidence points to a significant degree of asymmetry in socio-political relations, both at the community level and within the Wendat confederacy council.
Coming Together in the Iron Age: Population Aggregation and Urban Dynamics in Temperate Europe
Manuel Fernández-Götz
(University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom)
Recent research has shown that Iron Age urbanization processes in temperate Europe were a non-linear phenomenon, which included changing and dynamic cycles of centralization and decentralization. In general terms, it is possible to establish the following sequence in the area immediately north of the Alps: (1) a first wave of centralization occurred in the so-called Fürstensitze or ‘princely sites’ of the sixth and fifth centuries BC; (2) a period of decentralization, which some authors have linked with the ‘Celtic migrations’ recorded in classical sources; and (3) a new phase of centralization that would lead to the development of large unenclosed centres, and of the fortified oppida in the second and first centuries BC. This sequence is in marked contrast to the developments that can be observed in wide areas of the Mediterranean world, where many major settlements show a continual, relatively gradual development from the Early Iron Age to Roman times, and sometimes even up to the present day.
This paper will summarize the new evidence for the different stages of Iron Age urbanism, discussing the social dynamics that lie behind the appearance, abandonment, and reappearance of major agglomerations in temperate Europe during the first millennium BC.

Trypillia Mega-Sites—The First Cities in Europe?
Bisserka Gaydarska
(Durham University,United Kingdom)
Little known until recently, the largest sites so far discovered from fourth millennium BC Europe—the Trypillian mega-sites of Ukraine—have received significantly more attention in the past eight years. Despite their impressive size of up to 320 hectares, traditionally they have been viewed as overgrown villages, and only a handful of Ukrainian archaeologists have posited a proto-urban development. Such views were based on aerial photographs, first-generation Russian geophysics, and limited excavations. The recent involvement of two international teams—an Anglo-Ukrainian and a German-Ukrainian—in the field investigations of the Trypillia phenomenon has invigorated the debate about the characteristics of these sites, their emergence and sustainability, and their place in global settlement trajectories.
This presentation will build on the results of these two international projects, focusing on high-precision geophysics, AMS dating, sediment coring, intensive systematic field walking, and selective excavations. It will revolve around four key issues: the population number of the mega-sites, on-site (production) and off-site (agricultural) practices, the possible impact of the latter on the environment, and the contemporaneity of mega-sites in the Bug-Dnieper region. The discussion will be framed by pros and cons about the possible urban development in Europe as early as the first half of the fourth millennium BC.
Visual Competition Strategies in Roman Urban Architecture: Micro-Viewshed Analysis at Pompeii
Alan Kaiser
(University of Evansville)
Over the last thirty years, the study of Roman urbanism has experienced a complete paradigm shift. No longer do we focus on monumental architecture as the pinnacle expression of the urban phenomenon, but instead have come to focus on human interaction with the entire urban landscape and how that landscape embodied cultural norms.
While the theoretical shift has been enormous, we have been struggling to find new ways of gathering data, so that some of our new conclusions can be based on inductive rather than deductive reasoning. Fortunately, advances in computer technology, particularly Geographic Information Systems software, have opened up opportunities for us to make observations about the urban environment that were difficult, if not impossible, using traditional paper plans. Viewshed analysis is a GIS tool that has been around for more than forty years, yet its use in classical cities is still in its infancy.
This paper takes a step toward the maturation of this technique by exploring the small-scale view from city streets and what it can tell us about how the elite homeowners and non-elite shopkeepers utilized quotidian architecture to win the fierce competition for attention in the crowded and dynamic thoroughfares of Pompeii.
Contextualizing Aggregation and Nucleation as Demographic Processes Leading to Cahokia’s Emergence as an Incipient Urban Center
John E. Kelly
(Washington University in St. Louis)
For nearly fifty years the large Mississippian town and mound complex, Cahokia, has been viewed as North America’s only pre-Columbian city. To a large extent this was based on a trait list used by Childe to define a city. Since Childe’s early efforts our understanding of what it means to be a city has expanded significantly beyond a simple list.
Nonetheless, Kelly and Brown (2014) have recently argued that Cahokia and the surrounding region represent the beginnings of the urban process in the eastern woodlands of North America. It is important to realize that after some five centuries this process was truncated as indigenous societies became part of a much larger global system. While our recent discussion has focused on Cahokia’s unique cosmological configuration of four quadrilateral plazas centered on a large, 30-meter high earthen platform mound, this ritualized core of large earthen platform mounds, large constructed plazas, and massive wooden architecture comprises a landscape encompassing over 100 hectares. This built environment is at the heart of a ritual city covering nearly 15 square kilometers, and has its roots in the site’s late Emergent Mississippian community.
This discussion is focused on the demographic and social processes leading to urbanism in the central Mississippi river valley. These processes trace back some three to four centuries earlier when populations initially aggregated into small villages, and then within a century these smaller settlement units nucleated into larger communities resulting in much larger, urban settlements. Especially important to our understanding of this process is the social and cosmological mechanisms employed in the organization at the most fundamental level of settlement as they were the building blocks involved in integrating more people into larger spaces that resulted in the urban center of Cahokia and other nearby towns.
Why Athens? Population Aggregation in Attica in the Early Iron Age
Robin Osborne
(University of Cambridge, United Kingdom)
This paper takes up the challenge of the conference, and of Michael E. Smith’s keynote lecture to ask how population aggregation, urbanization, and state formation relate in Early Iron Age Attica. Scholars have long noted and debated the sudden appearance of new population nucleations in Attica, and the coincident rapid increase in numbers of burials across Attica and in Athens itself in the eighth century BC.
Thirty years ago, Ian Morris proposed to see a story of state-formation in the increased number of burials, in which a higher proportion of the population claimed the right to burial in a manner that archaeologists can recover, and the community came both to regulate the ways in which individuals used space, and to use spatial arrangements to create social order. That picture, however, ignored both the subsequent marked decrease in visible burials and the whole question of how the changes in Athens related to what was happening in the rest of Attica.
This paper takes up the question of the movement of population between Athens and the rest of Attica, and asks what part was played in Athenian state formation by the presence of groups in newly urban Athens who could be differentiated not because they were more or less wealthy, or did or did not come from particular families, but because they came from a particular place.
“…the nearest run thing…”: The Genesis and Collapse of Bronze Age Centers in the Maros Valley of Southeastern Europe
John O’Shea
(University of Michigan)
Around 2000 BC the settlements of the Maros Culture reached their widest extent across southeastern Hungary, western Romania, and northern Serbia. It was at this time that the Bronze Age settlement of Pecica Şanţul Mare was established. Over the next 500 years, Pecica rapidly rises to become the pre-eminent Bronze Age center in the region; controlling the distribution of metals and domestic horses throughout the Carpathian Basin, and then with equal rapidity collapses, and is entirely abandoned.
Renewed research at Pecica Şanţul Mare affords a fine-grained view of the interplay of factors, which led to the genesis and then collapse of this important Bronze Age polity, and provides important clues as to why state formation failed among the Bronze Age societies of Central and East Europe.
If You Build It, Will They Come? Will They Stay? The Mycenaean Port Town of Kalamianos
Daniel J. Pullen
(Florida State University)
The process of population aggregation into nucleated urban settlements is often not explicitly modeled, but rather seen as the inevitable by-product of political and economic intensification in a society. Some, such as Michael E. Smith, have proposed that population aggregations came before the socio-political intensification often associated with urban settlements. In this paper, I propose to look at a different situation, one of “top-down” urbanism, that is the imposition of an urban community by an external power into a region lacking such agglomerations, in order to examine what organization, structure, and resources might be needed for such an urban community to thrive.
The port town of Kalamianos on Greece’s Saronic Gulf was established by one or more palatial centers of the Argive Plain (Mycenae, Midea, and/or Tiryns) in the mid-fourteenth century BC (LH IIIA2) to take advantage of shifting and expanding maritime trade patterns in the Saronic Gulf and beyond. A tremendous outlay of capital and labor was invested in constructing the 7.2-hectare town with its buildings, streets, and circuit walls, and at least 15 hectares of agricultural terraces outside of the circuit walls, and 2 hectares of terraces within, were constructed at the same time. Yet, Kalamianos failed to last beyond the collapse of the palaces ca. 1180 BC (end of LH IIIB), and indeed no urban aggregation was ever to exist here thereafter.
This situation raises many interrelated questions of the sustainability of an urban settlement, and how an organizational elite could ensure the success of that urban settlement. Some questions to be addressed include:
· What role did the (palatial) elites play in the founding of this settlement?
· What arrangements were made for that settlement’s self-sufficiency?
· What role did the (palatial) elites play in the daily maintenance of this settlement?
· How connected was the hinterland to the urban core at Kalamianos?
· Was the terraced area sufficient to supply the food needed for the urban settlement?
· What was the degree of centralized control over agricultural production and distribution in    the Kalamianos region?
· Would Kalamianos have depended upon one of the palatial centers for provisioning of the inhabitants, in some system of rations or mobilization?
Separation and Unity: Spatial Organization and Social Order at Neolithic Settlement Complexes on the Great Hungarian Plain
Pál Raczky
(Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary)
The first tell settlements were established in present-day Greece and Bulgaria in southeastern Europe in the mid-seventh millennium BC. Horizontal settlements representing various levels of integration, from hamlets to small villages, maintained a dynamic interaction with these tells. In the Carpathian Basin, Early Neolithic villages emerged with explosive intensity along the Danube and Tisza rivers around 6000 BC, and as opposed to the southern Balkans, networks of dispersed, ephemeral settlements characterized by a scattered layout evolved.
Recent, large-scale excavations in the Carpathian Basin suggest a specific trend during the Middle Neolithic. Circular ditch systems commonly occurred in the central zones of new, large settlements across the Linearbandkeramik area ca. 5300-5200 BC. In Eastern Hungary, on the Great Hungarian Plain, deposits accumulated resulting in vertical growth within these enclosures. This process reflects new attitudes to space, and coincided with the emergence of novel ritual activities inside an area that had previously been physically separated from habitation zones at many nucleated sites on the Plain by the beginning of the Late Neolithic, ca. 5100-5000 BC. These activities followed rules that were fundamentally different from those practiced in the social context of horizontal sites. Parallel to this process of demarcation, a conscious effort may have occurred to elevate the area within the enclosures. Using a term coined by Andrew Sherratt, the construction of an “Ersatz-Tell,” a monument began. Around the same time, circular enclosures were built west of the Danube. Yet these ditch systems, and their counterparts across Central Europe, were usually uninhabited, and were devoid of everyday activities.
We argue that tells in Southeast Europe and enclosures in Central Europe represent a visual expression of similar inherent contents although in different cultural contexts. This hypothesis is best represented by the symbolic and physical unity of the Polgár-Csőszhalom tell and its circular ditch system, located within the interaction zone of two major cultural complexes in Europe. The complex monument, systematically developed by the growing community, brought about new forms of social integration that contributed to community cohesion and identity construction.
Beyond ‘Oriental Despotism’: The Origin of Urban Developments in Dry-farming Syria and Anatolia
Clemens Reichel
(University of Toronto/Royal Ontario Museum, Canada)
Home to some of the earliest state societies in the world, the ancient Near East plays a pivotal role in discussions of the mechanisms that led to the emergence of early urban civilizations. Past discussion of this area focused on ancient Sumer in southern Iraq, where early cities emerged between 4000 and 3000 BC in an alluvial landscape that was created by and continues to be shaped by the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. Numerous scholars—notably Karl Wittfogel—saw this area as a quintessential “hydraulic society,” in which adverse environmental conditions resulted in human responses—notably irrigation, canal and dam building—that led to labor organization, social differentiation, and craft specialization, and hence created momentum towards urbanism.
The discovery of numerous urban centers during excavations in northern Syria and southern Turkey over the past decades, however, has changed this picture significantly. Located in areas where rainfall is sufficient to sustain dry-farming, these cities cannot have been brought about by the coercive forces of irrigation agriculture, highlighting the fact that Near Eastern urbanism did not have a singular origin but could emerge under a wide array of different environmental and geopolitical preconditions.
Using several key sites in northern Syria (notably Hamoukar and Tell Brak) this paper will lay out the available dataset and propose an alternative model for how “northern urbanism” might have evolved.
Integration and Disintegration: The Role of Kiva Architecture in Community Formation and the Construction of Identity in the Prehispanic U.S. Southwest
Susan C. Ryan
(Crow Canyon Archaeological Center)
Researchers in a number of fields have come to recognize the vital importance of the built environment not only as material culture, but as symbolic expressions of the larger cultural framework through which social relations are produced and reproduced. Over the last halfcentury, studies have demonstrated how architectural characteristics—such as building size, shape, and the presence of various architectural materials, features, and furnishings—have a direct influence on human behavior and interaction, and are material manifestations of worldview ideologies. One of the most important functions of the various elements within a structure are the encoded messages that convey group identity and provide clues into ancient social organization. This study raises the question of how the built environment reflects identity formation and dissolution during periods of community integration and disintegration.
Specifically, this will be achieved through the analyses of ancestral Pueblo vernacular architecture dating from the Pueblo II (AD 900-1150) and Pueblo III (AD 1150-1300) periods in the northern, middle, and southern San Juan regions in the northern Southwest in order to shed light on communities of practice and their social, temporal, and spatial production techniques. This research examines public and residential kivas—or round rooms used for communal and domestic activities, respectively—to address how architecture emphasized the ways in which structures were actively mediated by production groups, and how their architectural signatures reflect identity during periods of population aggregation and dispersal at the household and community levels.
Aggregation and Dispersal from a Long-Term Social Perspective: Rural Landscapes of the Northwestern Iberian Peninsula from the Iron Age to the Early Roman Period
Inés Sastre
(Spanish National Research Council, Spain)
Brais X. Currás
(University of Coimbra, Portugal)
The European Iron Age is currently undergoing a debate regarding forms of social organization. The move away from aristocratic paradigms rooted in purported Celtic systems, and the increased interest in regional studies has revealed greater social variability than previously noted. Meanwhile, the concept of Romanization has been critically reviewed and homogenizing interpretations have also been rejected. In this context, the northwestern part of the Iberian Peninsula is of enormous interest. A combination of regional studies and theoretical approaches has produced alternative insights into Iron Age and provincial societies in the area.
The Iron Age societies, between the eighth and third centuries BC, are characterized by a particular settlement type in northwestern Iberia: the castro. These small, fortified settlements enjoyed political independence and economic self-sufficiency. This situation only changed around the second century BC, when Rome appeared as a transformative power just beyond the region. Hence, the final phase of the Iron Age brought a sharp change in the southernmost coast, usually defined as the core area of the so-called Castro culture. Changes include a tendency towards population concentration in larger castros. Social interpretations for the Iron Age are strongly conditioned by this later record, which is often considered as the most valid reference for the whole period, and as self-evident proof of a ranked society.
In our paper, we propose an alternative vision. The castro society, reflected by the presecond century BC record, was based on the struggle to arrest hierarchical tendencies by using “assertive egalitarianism.” These anti-hierarchical tendencies explain both settlement patterns and production systems. The segmentary balance, which can be documented in the organization of space within and outside the castro, began to unravel under Roman pressure during the military campaigns of the Late Republic. Later, the conquest under Augustus imposed a new fundamental change marked by the construction of a provincial system based on civitates whose capitals do not resemble classic models of monumental urbanism as they are eminently rural in nature.

The Eighth IEMA Visiting Scholar Conference

Water and Power in Past Societies

April 11-12, 2015
Greiner Hall, Ground Level
North Campus, University at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY 14261

Conference Organizer: Dr. Emily Holt,

The entire conference can be viewed online here until the end of May.

To view the conference program, please click here.

iema poster v1_2014rr1-page-001

(download here)

As the effects of global warming and climate change are increasingly felt world-wide, the political ecology of water has become a major concern. Whether the problem is too much water flooding low-lying island nations or a lack of water causing drought and crop failure, water’s uneven distributions and unpredictable behaviors contribute to and sometimes destabilize geopolitical inequalities. While the political ecology of water in the contemporary world has drawn much attention, water has always been an essential resource, offering possibilities for differential access and control in the ancient world as well as the modern.
The many ways in which water can be differentially controlled cannot easily be summarized. At a general level, water can be a productive resource, with good water management increasing agricultural and pastoral output. Water can be a substitute for labor, with the control of water through mills and other technologies allowing increases in production beyond what the local population could support. Water can be an ideological resource, with its potential for symbolism offering opportunities to control, display, and enjoy water as indications of power and privilege. Water can be a transportation resource, giving advantages to raiding and trading cultures with superior marine technologies and navigational skills. Water can be a health resource, creating age, gender, and class-related disparities between those who have consistent access to clean water and those who do not. Water can be a protective resource, creating an insulating barrier between hostile groups. Much of the time, water functions as many of these resources simultaneously.
Flowing in and out of these categories is the fact that water, by nature, can be both persistent and changeable, requiring that the specific temporality of individual water sources must be mediated by anyone hoping to use that water as a resource. Water’s fluctuations may be highly predictable or totally unpredictable: dependable events like the annual Nile floods can be harnessed to exacerbate existing social inequalities, while unforeseen events like tsunamis and floods can destabilize existing inequalities or create new ones.

Conference Themes

Water and Power in Past Societies seeks to bring together theoretically-situated, data-rich studies of how water as a resource relates to the formation, maintenance, destruction, or prevention of social inequalities at both intra-and inter-group scales. In assessing how water is used as a resource, the temporality of water’s behaviors over the span of the study period should be explicitly addressed, whether these behaviors result in slow change, sudden change, continuity, or some combination of the three. In an effort to promote cross-cultural comparability and discussion of the conference papers (as well as thematic consistency in the resulting conference volume), contributors are encouraged to situate their work broadly in one or more of the themes below:

Differential control of water and the production of wealth
Cognitive relationships to water and the reinforcement of inequality
Water, environment, and differential wellness
Water, communication, and safety
The (im)persistence of water and power in the longue durée

Titles and Abstracts
(download here)

From Urban Oasis to Desert Hinterland: The Decline of Petra’s Water System. The Case of the Petra Garden and Pool Complex
Leigh-Ann Bedal
(Penn State Erie, The Behrend College)

During the height of the Nabataean kingdom (mid-1st century BCE through 1st Century CE), its capital city, Petra, reflected its increasing wealth and status with all of the trappings of power and prestige-monumental religious and secular architecture, an imposing entrance, orchestrated views, luxury gardens, and water display-exhibited in political and ceremonial centers in the Hellenistic-Roman World. The Petra Garden and Pool Complex, a luxury garden with a monumental pool located in the city center, exemplifies the use of the conspicuous consumption of water as a symbol of success and abundance.

The Nabataeans exploited perennial springs beyond the city limits as their primary dependable water source, supplemented by catchment of water runoff, to serve the practical needs of Petra’s population and to supply installations of water display. Their skills as hydraulic engineers are well testified by the remnants of aqueducts, rock-cut channels, pipelines, cisterns, pools, and nymphaea visible at the site today.

As Petra’s economy began to wane in Late Antiquity, transforming from capital city to hinterland, maintenance of its elaborate hydraulic system ceased. While the springs continued to flow, channels, cisterns and pools filled with sand and debris. Remnant semi-nomadic populations and periodic settlers constructed small-scale localized systems and reused old elements of the Nabataean water system but the potential of its spring resources was never again fully exploited. This paper reviews the decline of Petra’s hydraulic infrastructure with special attention to evidence from the Petra Garden and Pool Complex, which served as an agricultural plot from Late Antiquity through the modern era.

Making Visible the People Who Are Part of River History
Matt Edgeworth
(University of Leicester)

This paper examines rivers as confluences of human and non-human forces. Through archaeological analysis on different scales, the status of the river as ‘natural’ is challenged, to be reconfigured as a hybrid entity which is part-geomorphological, part-biological, part-cultural, part-political. There are human as well as non-human streamlines merged together in river currents. Rethinking rivers in this way involves not only re-mapping them in space, but also reconfiguring them in time as historical entities, bringing to light socio-political riverine elements that are missing from so many cartographic representations.

Here the River Great Ouse in England is examined on two different scales: first, on the scale of the river as a whole, then zooming in to look at a particular locality on the river. In both cases the aim is to make hitherto invisible human strands of past river development visible to our analytical gaze. The local case-study concerns evidence for a riverside weaving and dyeing settlement on the downstream side of a town in the late medieval/early post-medieval period. Partly due to its liminal status and association with polluting activities, its former existence goes unrecorded and unmarked on any map. Making visible the part played by such river communities in the past has ramifications for how rivers are perceived and mapped today.

Maritime power and sea people’s networks in Southeast Asia’s 17th century spice wars
Jennifer L. Gaynor
(University at Buffalo, State University of New York)

Maritime-oriented populations in archipelagic Southeast Asia have generally been considered peripheral to the politics, trade and kin networks of the region’s major polities. However, during the 17th century, sea people played a vital role in trade and war, both at the very heart of the important port-polity of Makassar, as well as through their non-urban networks. Heretofore virtually invisible, in fact sea people were essential to Makassar’s nautical efforts to oppose the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and its allies during two major wars over control of the spice trade. When the tide turned in the region’s political-economy, sea people were on its leading edge. Through their intergroup connections, their skills and maritime networks, a nautical hub called Tiworo, and its fortifications, sea people—neither newcomers nor foreigners—proved vital to the archipelago’s 17th century political developments.

Water Management by Transhumant Pastoralists in Southeastern Turkey
Emily Hammer
(The University of Chicago)

Ancient water management is typically studied through the surviving material manifestations of irrigation schemes and run-off systems. However, these and other ways of artificially transporting and collecting water are only half the story of long-term sustainable water management in the Middle East. The other component to water sustainability in the past was population mobility, in particular by transhumant pastoral groups. On the large scale, mobile pastoralism is about bringing animals to the best available/accessible water and pastures rather than bringing water and fodder to animals. Animals served to transform moisture stored in the soil and in wild vegetation into products (milk and meat) that fulfilled human water and caloric needs. I discuss pastoralism as a water management strategy that involves a different conception of landscape, space, and resources than dry farming or irrigation agriculture.

Although transhumant pastoralists may follow precipitation patterns, they also sometimes construct water-harvesting features in their pasture and camping areas to increase the amount of water available. Archaeological survey work in southeastern Turkey provides an example of sustainable local water manipulation schemes by pastoral nomads of the last 600-700 years. Transhumant groups in this region have altered marginal areas to im prove water availability and pasture quality for themselves and their animals. Water collection and soil enhancement structures can be best understood as landscape anchors: geographic foci that structured the spatial organization of local landscapes. Although small-scale and locally managed, the water and pasture improvement features examined by the archaeological survey in Turkey have had enduring impacts on local land-use that are demonstrable through archaeological and environmental analysis.

Geologies of Belonging: Place Politics and the Political Ecology of Water in Central Anatolia
Ömür Harmanşah
(University of Illinois at Chicago)

Spanish director Icíar Bollaín’s 2010 movie También la lluvia (Even the Rain), set right in heat of the Bolivian water wars of Cochabamba (1999-2000), collapses two episodes of political ecology for indigenous communities in the context of the making of a movie: the early years of colonization in Latin America and the social movement that erupted in Cochabamba for water rights. The multi-temporality of the conflict between political power and the local communities over water and other resources is novel and insightful. Political ecology is a growing field of engaged research, allowing academics to link with local communities around the world in their struggles for natural resources, land, biodiversity and cultural heritage. Archaeological field projects have much to offer to this burgeoning field, not only because of the very contexts of neoliberal development they operate in, but also for its insights into the deep history of contestations of land and water. During the last centuries of the Late Bronze Age (roughly 1400-1200 BCE) on the Anatolian peninsula, Hittite kings and other competing rulers transformed prominent springs into dynastic monuments with rock-carved inscriptions and pictorial imagery as well as by building monumental pools with ashlar masonry. Yalburt Yaylası Mountain Spring Monument in west-central Turkey (near Ilgın in Konya Province) is a prominent example as a sacred pool embellished with a long Hieroglyphic Luwian inscription, commemorating the Hittite Great King Tudhaliya IV’s military campaigns to southwestern Anatolia. Since 2010, Yalburt Yaylası Archaeological Landscape Research Project has been investigating the broader landscape in the lowlands, river and lake basins and karst highlands around the monument. Preliminary results of this regional survey has shown that this frontier region bordering the Hittite Lower Land witnessed a comprehensive program of agricultural rehabilitation, water management, and new settlement which coincided with the construction of Yalburt Yaylası sacred pool as well as an impressive earthen dam at Köylütolu Yayla, east of the Ilgın Plain. The survey team’s geomorphological work also documented the contemporary manipulation of water in the region during the 20th century especially through the projects of the government’s waterworks department. This paper will compare ancient (Late Bronze Age) and modern politics of water ecologies in the survey region, from the perspective of place-making, changing patterns of land use, and the ritual significance of springs.

Spatial Archaeology, Hydrology and the Historical Dynamics of Water in Ancient Southern Arabia (Yemen and Oman)
Michael J. Harrower

(Johns Hopkins University)

Environmental and political circumstances and variability are central to understanding water and power in past societies. This presentation compares the spatial patterning of water in Southwest Arabia (Yemen) and Southeast Arabia (Oman) and considers how environmental conditions interconnected over millennia with major societal transformations, including agricultural origins and state formation. The flashflood (sayl) irrigation systems that supported pre-Islamic kingdoms of ancient Yemen differ widely from the oasis (falaj) irrigation systems that sustained early complex polities in Oman. These technologies and their various social, logistical and ideological involvements offer a range of insights on ancient water use worldwide.

Exploring the dialectic relationship between irrigation and social stratification: A longue durée perspective from the Jordan Valley
Eva Kaptijn
(Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences)

Water is of vital importance for survival. Not only a lack or excess of water, but also the form and the timing of water availability determine the success of water management and subsistence. The way in which people in arid regions have secured their water supply is not only determined by aspects like the topography, environment and level of technology, but can also affect the structure of the society that created it as well as that of future societies. A gravity based canal  irrigation system, for example, fosters inequality of upstream areas at the expense of downstream areas, but this does not necessarily occur in every society.

In the Zerqa Triangle, a region located in the eastern Jordan Valley midway between Lake Tiberias and the Dead Sea, a canal irrigation system has been documented that can be traced back for over four millennia. This system was not in use permanently, but was reinstated several times. While the physical character of the irrigation system remained relatively unchanged, it functioned under very different socio-economic systems and power relations in the different periods. This provides the rare opportunity to compare the role and impact of the same system under different social circumstances.

In this presentation the relationship between irrigation and social stratification will be explored using the Zerqa Triangle as a longue durée case study. Additionally, attention will be given to the way people have attempted to over come the high seasonal and annual variability in water availability and how their solutions affected the robustness of the subsistence economies.

The Effects of Changes in Rivers and Coastlines on Prehistoric Settlements in Anatolia
Necmi Karul
(Istanbul University)

With a mainland surrounded by seas and quite rich in rivers, Anatolia constitutes the richest water geography of the Near East. High mountain masses, and especially the Taurus Mountains in the South and Black Sea Mountains in the North of Anatolia, feed many large rivers with a high flow rate, flowing with an irregular regime. Settlements representing all stages of prehistory, from the oldest farming villages of the Near East to developed rural populations, exist in the valleys of these large streams, such as the Fırat and Dicle rivers in the East and Küçük Menderes and Büyük Menderes rivers in the West. Admittedly, although the settlements in question always benefited from the water resources, these valleys were not the best or only option for settlement. And there is even much archaeological evidence showing that these rivers lead to devastating floods that inspired legends of deluge.

In addition to this dynamic nature of the rivers, the oscillations and tectonic movements of world sea levels are also among the determinant factors in the geomorphologic structure of Anatolia. This complex structure also led to radical movements in the coastline of the peninsula, which is surrounded by the sea on three sides. And both the salt and fresh waterside settlements, with the potential importance of maritime resources, came not to benefit from these resources effectively due to environmental factors. The access of settlements of the Neolithic period in Northwest and west Anatolia to these resources especially had to change as a result of the advancements of the river deltas.
The Power of Coastal Access: Assessing Maritime Economic Opportunity in the Roman Mediterranean|
Justin Leidwanger
(Stanford University)

Though clustered along its sinuous shores like “ants or frogs around a pond” (Plato, Phaedo 109b), the inhabitants of the ancient Mediterranean harnessed the power and potential of the sea to widely varying degrees. For the Roman era, considerable emphasis has been placed on the expansive port networks and large-scale directed exchange that linked cities across the tamed waters of the Mediterranean, yet the extent and practical impact of direct maritime access and opportunity beyond urban centers remains a critical question for a population that was still overwhelmingly rural. How might the agricultural communities th at formed a productive backbone of the Roman Empire have engaged with the sea? To what extent were their economic impact and social connections mediated through large city centers and harbor networks? What role did smaller, secondary and opportunistic ports play in structuring maritime interaction and socioeconomic life in their hinterlands? Were different communities indifferent localities tied into different seaborne networks? In what ways, if any, did coastal access change the structure of rural economic life and exchange?

Drawing on Cyprus as a case study, this paper incorporates a GIS-based analysis of maritime and terrestrial topography as a means of exploring the spatial patterning of settlements and ports, providing a clearer picture of how dense maritime facilities and ease of mobility on and around the island created a low threshold for seaborne connectivity. The maritime networks that developed formed dense but distinctly regional scales in which most communities engaged directly with one small portion of a larger world and its multiple regions. These scales of activity reflect the diverse needs of different communities, the complex movements of goods and people, and the varied agents involved. The surge in utilization of simple coastal facilities during the Roman and especially the late Roman period opened new maritime opportunities, counterbalanced the earlier economic centrality of the island’s coastal cities, and in doing so fundamentally restructured the rhythm of rural exchange and socioeconomic life.

Water and workshops: Inequality among mining sites in ancient Laurion (Greece)
Kim Van Liefferinge

(Stanford University)

The archaeological remains of the Athenian silver industry in the Laurion area offer a unique opportunity to study power relations among mining sites. The silver mines were exploited intermittently from the Final Neolithic until modern times, with a peak in the Classical period. This last phase in particular left dramatic traces in the landscape: industrial features, such as mine shafts, spoil heaps and ore processing workshops, were scattered throughout the Laurion.

Ore processing workshops played a crucial role in the silver industry. Nearing their point of exhaustion, the Laurion mines yielded only low-grade silver ores in the fourth century BCE. Miners addressed this issue by purifying poor minerals in washeries, but this operation confronted them with an environmental constraint: washeries are water-consuming installations in an area that is virtually waterless. This triggered the development of well-organized water management, dependent on rainwater harvesting in large cisterns. The distribution of workshops in the Laurion valleys suggests that the competition for appropriate water catchments was fierce, causing both regional and local inequalities between the sites.

This paper explores how and why differential access to water sources in the Laurion contributed to such inequalities by performing hydrological analyses on water availability and the water use of workshops. In order to reach a general understanding of both regional and local interactions, the focus will be on the inland Soureza and Agrileza valleys on the one hand, and the coastal area of Thorikos on the other.

From Elite Villas to Public Spaces: The First Monumental Fountains in Ancient Rome
Brenda Longfellow
(University of Iowa)

For the Romans, an individual’s ability to harness and control nature was an essential expression of manly virtue and authority, and elite authors like Pliny the Elder placed a high value on enhancing nature through human learning and technology. Powerful men expressed their prowess at bending nature to their will not only in public works projects like aqueducts but also in how they incorporated hydraulic elements into their townhomes and villas. In the second and first centuries BCE, wealthy Romans built opulent country homes in the suburbs around Rome and along the coast south of Rome that showcased ever more spectacular water features ranging from evocative canals to artificial waterfalls in manmade caves.

Even though the technology and urban water supply was available for contemporary public water displays in the second century BCE, it was not until the last generation of the Republic that grandiose water features began to be incorporated in to public spaces. In almost every instance, these elements were intrinsically linked to larger spaces associated with an individual elite patron, from the theater complex of Pompey to the forum of Julius Caesar. This paper examines the elite origins of the first civic monumental fountains in ancient Rome and the social, political, and cultural expectations that accompanied the dramatic conversion of artistic water displays associated with villa culture into spectacles experienced by the entire Roman populace. In Roman society, where land ownership and political power went hand in hand, an individual’s grandiose display of water in a public arena could augment his authority while simultaneously reaffirming or challenging the existing social hierarchy.

Drought and history in the Mediterranean: known knowns and known unknowns
Sturt Manning
(Cornell University)

This paper will review what we currently know about the history of precipitation (rainfall) in the Mediterranean looking at the sources of information particularly from the sciences for proxy reconstructions of past climate – and comparing to the historical/archaeological record. The bias will be towards the east Mediterranean. The paper will consider what we know with reasonable certainty and precision, and over what period, and what, based on this, we might reasonably surmise given available constraints for earlier periods where there is more partial (or little) information. The focus will be on whether we can identify either especially favourable periods, or especially unfavourable ones, where we might speculate about mega-droughts of the sort identified from palaeoclimate work for North America and for southeast Asia. If such events seem to occur, then with what likely periodicity, and of what actual significance? In particular, the question of macro-region versus regional impact will be explored – noting the variability in impact of climate forcing episodes in different parts of the Mediterranean, east to west and north to south. How might apparent differences play into historical trends and contingencies? The Little Ice Age period offers us some potential analogies that might inform prehistoric period syntheses and interpretations (for example about the end of the Late Bronze Age), and give some indications of the issues and thus what is both known and what is unknown when climate is proposed as a significant element in historical reconstructions.

Chinampas y Chinamperos: The Political Ecology of Raised Field Farming and Water Management in the Basin of Mexico
Christopher Morehart
(Arizona State University)

Reconstructing the institutional dynamics of ancient land and water systems in complex societies is a challenging endeavor but has significant implications for contemporary socio-ecological issues. The historical and archaeological study of chinampas offers researchers an unusual opportunity to understand the organizational milieu of intensive agriculture and water management in the context of state political economies. A form of raised field farming found in the lacustrine environment of the Basin of Mexico, chinampas have supported local populations as well as financed political economies for over 1000 years. This paper examines the institutional dynamics that shaped the organization and history of chinampas by comparing two different systems and their association with ancient states: first, the chinampas in the southern Basin of Mexico that were expanded and intensified after the formation of the Aztec empire (ca. 1431-1521 C.E.) and, second, the chinampa system that surrounded the pre-Aztec kingdom of Xaltocan in the northern Basin of Mexico (ca. 1000-1400 C.E.). Aztec chinamperos’ cultivation of land in a freshwater lake permitted a high degree of autonomy in management, though their relationship to the Aztec empire was mediated through several social, political, and economic institutions. Chinamperos in Xaltocan, by contrast, cultivated a brackish lake environment, dependent on canalized freshwater from springs, which increased the degree of interdependence between farmers and the need for collective institutions to administer water. The differences between these cases highlight how organizational variation in socio-ecological systems affects long-term sustainability.

The Sea and Bronze Age transformations in western Scandinavia
Christopher Prescott
(University of Oslo)

In Scandinavian archaeology, the sea is important in terms of chronology, geography, environment, events and conceptualization of history and anthropology. Since the earliest settlements, the sea has provided food, materials and transportation. With the transformation of Scandinavian societies in the mid-third millennium, the role of the sea and waterways is vital, and also develops and is transformed. The spread of new social, economic and cultural institutions were dependent on sea travel, regional networks were reliant on communication across open stretches of the sea, control of maritime nodal points is a source of power, and maritime realization is a driving societal force. The importance of the sea is manifested in symbols of power and identity, like the emplacement of monuments, the furnishing of elite graves or in rock art. The role of the sea and waterways is central to the increasingly sophisticated theoretical and empirical understandings of the complex societies of the Nordic Late Neolithic and Bronze Age (2400-300 BCE). The present paper explores some of these aspects to outline a comprehensive understanding of the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age in western Scandinavia.

Water Uncertainty: A Primal Organizing Principle in both the Wet and the Dry
Vernon Scarborough
(University of Cincinnati)

Early complex societies developed in many environmental settings globally. Two cultural zones with diametrically different ecologies were the semitropical Maya of the Yucatan Peninsula and the semiarid Puebloans of Arizona and New Mexico. The abundance of life’s diversity made possible by the high seasonal rainfall in the Maya Lowlands can be juxtaposed with the more constrained levels of life forms identifiable in the US Southwest. This presentation will contrast two focused areas in these respective regions—the site area of Tikal, Guatemala as opposed to Chaco Canyon, New Mexico—to illustrate why water and climate matter, and to what degree we can use the past to inform our expectation about the future.

The Seventh IEMA Visiting Scholar Conference

Inequality in Antiquity: Tracing the Archaeological Record

April 5-6, 2014
Greiner Hall, Ground Level
North Campus, University at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY 14261
Conference Organizer: Dr. Orlando Cerasuolo

Conference Program

This event is generously supported by:

The Institute for Research and Education on Women and Gender
The Department of Geography


(pdf version)

The social and political division of communities was a common and complex feature of past civilizations around the world. In many ancient cultures there were several discrimination strategies: free people versus slaves, age- and gender-based categories, economic concentration and exclusion. As archaeologists, we have to ask how visible such structures of inequality are in the material record of the past. Where they are visible, how do we interpret their meaning for the marginalized communities that they document? So far, no symposium has addressed these diverse aspects of in equality in a single venue. A wider, interdisciplinary archaeology based approach to these issues should prove especially productive.

The main aim of the symposium is to present methodologies developed in the analysis of ancient inequalities and to offer a comprehensive range of case studies. We know that in ancient times there were men and women, freemen and slaves, locals and immigrants. We can observe some material residues of their existence in the archaeological record. The central methodological problem is how we can extract fuller meaning from the surviving archaeological residues and relate those meanings to issues of gender, legal and ethnic status, and other categories of potential inequality.

This conference will apply two relatively novel approaches. While studies of slavery, gender, and ethnicity are relatively common, the IEMA conference will explore them as intersecting areas of study within the larger framework of inequality. It will also attempt to bring together prehistorians, specialists in classical archaeology, and students of Late Antiquity, as well as physical anthropologists; epigraphers; and statisticians.

Many issues should arise from the perspective envisaged for this symposium. Is it possible to develop a general theory of inequality in antiquity? Is it possible to define wide-ranging strategies for the archaeological analysis of that inequality? To what degree are the inequalities and social boundaries culture specific and how does their emergence relate to growing complexity? To what degree can archaeologists identify and analyze different patterns of inequality?

Inequalities. Sociological theory recognizes a valuable distinction between ascribed status and achieved status of people. The first is constituted by attributes over which we have no control, i.e. age, gender and ethnicity. We are dealing with the social differences of age classes (from infant to elderly); the division between male, female and potential hybrid sexuality roles; and finally, ethnic components and cultural mixing, ultimately leading to the formation of new identities (a phenomenon sometimes labeled as ‘creolization’).

The second is the position attained in life through education and personal advancement, whether achieved in egalitarian context or through heredity. Economical divisions between the rich and the poor, with all the nuances between, become a fundamental aspect; but also the social roles of ruling and ruled people (considering also the other classes of officers, merchants, craftsmen, etc.) and the political division between citizens and non-citizens, that is to say different degrees of freedom and slavery.

Different cultures in time and space. The general and methodological approach of the symposium will be implemented using the widest available evidence. Perspectives of social inequality frequently insisted on a rigid dichotomy between egalitarian and hierarchical, but a combined approach could reveal very useful. The participants should address different time periods of antiquity, while the geographical framework will focus mainly on the Mediterranean area.

Archaeological Sources. The symposium will discuss social organization mainly focusing on the archaeological record. Preference will be given to material culture studies, ritual and burial practices, analysis and forensic research on anthropological remains. There are features of material cultures that clearly denote the political and social conditions of people, e.g. the shackles of forced workers found in the Athenian silver quarries and in the rest of Europe. There are humble potsherds of plain cooking ware and architectural remains that can be associated to foreign people living in a specific working area, whether free workers, prisoners or slaves. In such cases, strategies of spatial segregation can sometimes be defined, whether self-generated or forced. Burial practices seem quite revealing in defining hierarchy and social boundaries, as well as the potential existence of foreigners inside the ancient communities. Sometimes, human sacrifices in graves contexts might indicate the final purpose of prisoners and slaves or the fate of relatives of the dead people. Another archaeological source providing important answers is epigraphy, whether related to engraved pottery, clay tablets or marble stones; in this case very clear indications will come from the onomastic analysis of large amounts of data, that can enlighten about the status, kinship, foreign origin or freedman nature of the people.

Titles and Abstracts

The Emergence of Social Inequality
T. Douglas Price
(University of Wisconsin – Madison) – USA

Social inequality is slowly being recognized as one of the major problems in modern American society. The rich and powerful become more so at the expense of the rest of the population. Such a situation benefits only the rich and powerful — the rest of us lose ground as social, political, and economic structures weaken and falter.

In this context, the origin and rise of social inequality in human society is a question of substantial interest in archaeology. It is also a very thorny question that remains unresolved. One of the reasons for that, I believe, is that the archaeologists who consider the problem do so through the lenses of their own focus and experience with the past. Thus, the emergence of inequality seems to take place in almost every major time period from the Paleolithic to the Iron Age. I believe we can be more specific about the emergence of inequality if we consider several corollary issues such as the rise of hunter-gatherers and the emergence of equality, the visibility of inequality, and the role of inequality in human society.

I will consider these issues within the framework of Old World archaeology and argue that the beginnings of social inequality lie within the changes associated with the origins and spread of agriculture, beginning around 10,000 BC. One of the caveats associated with such an exercise is that the beginnings of almost anything in the past are clouded by time, the limited survival of information, and the subtle hints that evidence changes in social organization. Thus my essay will be largely speculative, but the argument hopefully will be clear.

Theorizing complexity. The case of Neolithic and Bronze Age Europe
Kristian Kristiansen
(Göteborgs Universitet) – SWEDEN

During most of prehistory inequality increased with mounting social complexity; however, it is not a linear or one to one relationship. To illustrate this I propose that a major move towards sustained, institutionalized inequality took place with the advent of the Bronze Age. By contrasting Neolithic and Bronze Age complexity, I wish to highlight the nature of this social transformation. Despite many similarities in settlement structure in some periods of the Neolithic and Bronze Age, these similarities were embedded in very different political economies, and therefore had different effects on the nature of inequality.

Transegalitarian societies on the Northwest Plateau: Social dynamics and cultural/technological changes
Brian D. Hayden
(Simon Fraser University) – CANADA

While great attention has been focused on the complex hunting/gathering/fishing cultures of the Northwest Coast, relatively little recognition has been accorded to the relatively complex cultures of the Northwest Interior. These cultures are often portrayed as egalitarian; however, both ethnographically and archaeologically, major centers on the Plateau exhibited pronounced wealth, sedentism, large communities, inequalities, and large corporate groups. Currently, there are two contending theoretical models that attempt to explain the timing and associated cultural-environmental changes that occurred on the Plateau. Both models employ cultural ecological variables, but interpret them differently. Key considerations involve environmental variables in relation to: land and aquatic food resources (especially salmon, ungulates, and roots), the size of settlements; the degree of investment in structures; formation of corporate groups, the production of prestige items of copper, bone, stone, and shell; long distance exchanges of prestige items; the breeding and domestication of dogs; large-scale storage; and the emergence of ritual societies.

Bioarchaeology of the enslaved, impoverished, and marginalized: evidence of structural violence in the skeletal archive
Jennifer Lynn Muller
(Ithaca College) – USA

The understanding of the complexities of structural violence operating within past populations requires a multidisciplinary lens. Bioarchaeology contributes to inequality research by interpreting the skeletal archive as a product of the interplay between global and local cultural factors and local biologies. This includes recognizing health disparities as a possible biological impact of compounding axes of discrimination.

The elastic and plastic properties of living skeletal tissue allow for the recording of events and stresses experienced by individuals. Extrinsic cultural factors contribute significantly to the differential expression of stress in skeletal remains. Socially sanctioned discrimination against specific groups within a population affects both group and individual agency. The accompanying marginalization, and its impact on resource availability, may decrease the adaptive repertoire of the individual. This, in turn, may serve to challenge and/or to motivate aspects of individual and group agency. The impact of discrimination is variable within marginalized groups based on compounding categorization, i.e. age, gender, nativity, sexual orientation. Health disparities, as evidenced in patterns of trauma and pathology and the resulting morbidity and mortality, are the literal embodiment of political and economic stratification.

Scientific evidence, from both clinical and bioarchaeological research, suggests that the biological impact of structural violence is cultural-specific, and therefore also temporally and spatially specific. This paper draws upon the author’s research on the skeletal remains from African Diasporic populations and the institutionalized poor, including individuals from the Newburgh Colored Burial Ground, the W. Montague Cobb Human Archive, and infant remains from the Erie County Poorhouse, Buffalo, NY. Although individuals from these groups share the similar status of poor and marginalized, differences in their patterns of morbidity and mortality are substantial. This suggests that the complex variables of history, global and local cultural factors, local biologies, and individual/group agency contribute to differential skeletal archives.

The Emergence of Social Inequality in Southeastern Europe: A Long-Term Perspective
William A. Parkinson
(The Field Museum Chicago) – USA

Many recent models of the emergence of institutionalized hereditary inequality emphasize the role of individuals who were capable through various means (e.g., long-distance travel and trade) of transforming their social environment from a basically egalitarian or ‘tribal’ system to one predicated upon inherent social inequalities and ascribed ranking. Such models, which tend to privilege the role of human agency over that of social structure, do not deal well with those instances when incipient complexity began to emerge but did not ‘catch on.’ An examination of these cultural ‘false starts’ suggests that some forms of social organization are more amenable to the emergence of social inequality over the long-term.

Leadership, Inequality and Social Status in the Late Prehistoric Eurasian Steppes: Event, Historicity, and the Longue Durée
Bryan Hanks
(University of Pittsburgh) – USA

Scholars have long recognized that the transition to the Early Iron Age in the Eurasian steppes (ca. 1200 – 700 BCE) reflects an incredibly vibrant transformation in social leadership, inequality and status. These changes within societies were accompanied by new forms of warfare technology, strategy and innovative attitudes towards death and burial as seen through prominent funerary monument construction. This paper critically examines current conventional models for understanding social, political and economic change through a discussion of more detailed, recent archaeological evidence.

Emphasis will be placed on understanding more effectively long-term diachronic change as a composite of episodic transitions and significant events that reflect historical social and material conditions. Detailed bioarchaeological data combined with excavations of large-scale funerary monument constructions provide an important representation of the emergence of a new social order linked to individual identity, power, and the construction of conspicuous monuments within the landscape. These developments will be examined cross-culturally across the Eurasian steppes from Mongolia to Ukraine and discussed through analysis of patterns of materiality, monumentality and social memory. As such, the emergence and institutionalization of social inequality will be contextualized both from the point of view of change over the longue durée as well as evidence of specific events and their contribution to new social institutions.

Inequality during the Iron Age in France. Tracing the Archeological Record
Patrice Brun
(Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne) – FRANCE

Research in comparative primatology has shown that from chimpanzees to humans, all societies are segmented into groups based on age and sex and that adult males are generally dominant. From the emergence of Homo Sapiens onwards, we can detect more arbitrary groups, socially constructed from ethnicity, nationality, caste, class, religion, etc., with differences in social positions (political authority, power, wealth, status privileges, main material resources, better conditions for education and health). In arbitrary groups, hierarchical position is more responsive to changing circumstances and context. The primary cause of the presence of an arbitrary group system would appear to be the opportunity to generate an economic surplus facilitating differentiation of social roles and leading to the formation of a monopolistic political authority (professional army, police, administration, etc.), that is to say the State according to Weber’s definition : the monopoly of legitimate violence.

The Iron Age (730-125 BC) in France is of particular interest for examining the issue of inequality because societies evolved during these seven centuries through a process of non-linear complexity, from simple chiefdoms to archaic states. These are politically autonomous entities which marked quite strong social distinctions through the wealth of funerary deposits and more or less monumental tombs. As we know that burial practices are not a true reflection of social organization, we have to include the evidence for settlement hierarchy. Spectacular results have been achieved over the last thirty years due to extensive fieldwork, at last enabling the proper study of large settlements of this period, from simple farms to urban areas.

These archaeological data complement the information provided by Greek and Latin textual sources for various discrimination strategies: social elites, ordinary free people and slaves, age-and gender-based categories in different groups, accumulation of economic surplus and exclusion. I describe in detail how we can interpret the archaeological record in terms of social status and try to identify the perspectives emerging from the application of new biological, physico-chemical and electromagnetic methods of investigation.

I intend to finish with some ideas for a theory of the growth of inequality before and during the emergence of the State. My basis for this is not only the development of organizational complexity, but also the political regimes that we are beginning to perceive better in the archaeological evidence.

Tracing the Etruscan Serf Class
Mario Torelli
(Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei) – ITALY

In the last fifty years the peculiar social system of the Etruscans has been investigated several times; scholars like J. Heurgon, W.V. Harris, E. Lepore and H. Rix have proposed their views mostly founding their research on the rather scanty literary sources on the subject. These sources allow a reconstruction of the structure of Etruscan serfdom with several points unsolved, mainly regarding the civil rights of these serfs and the different moments and ways of the dissolution of the system. Besides this literary approach, which remains fundamental for the reconstruction of the serfdom, the paper will analyze archaeological evidence, very frequently in conjunction with epigraphic sources, to add more fixed points to the controversial dossier. Beginning with the development of a class system during the 8th century BCE, the archaeological evidence from the cemeteries preserve clear signs of a complex social stratification, manly in the major cities of Southern Etruria from the 7th century BCE on. Particular attention will be paid to the presence of serfs (and slaves) in mercantile activities, exploring the evidence of the sanctuary of Gravisca, the harbor of Tarquinii, in manufacture processes, as attested at Populonii, and in craftsmanship, witnessed by signatures of potters. I will conclude with a short discussion of the current views on the chronology and the forms of the dissolution of the Etruscan serfdom, starting from the arguments put forward half a century ago by Helmuth Rix and challenged recently by Enrico Benelli (La società chiusina tra la guerra annibalica e l’età di Augusto. Osservazioni archeologiche ed epigrafiche, in “Ostraka” 18, 2, 2009, 303-322).

Etruscan women and social polarity: two case studies for approaching inequality
Giovanna Bagnasco Gianni
(Università degli Studi di Milano) – ITALY

The invisible aspects of women’s role in Etruscan society have always been present in the literary review as the focus of a clashing juxtaposition between archaeological and literary sources. This contribution discusses the possibility to read inequality as complementarity between men’s and women’s skills in Etruscan society.

Two case studies belonging to the Orientalizing and Late Archaic – Classical periods are considered. The first study includes a group of inscribed weaving and spinning instruments, consisting of female funerary equipment of the Orientalizing period, and in female goddesses’ sanctuaries of the 7th century BCE (Tarquinia, Veio, Satricum). They seem to support the idea that the activity of weaving is not “the job of women” but that it was considered a skill that could go beyond the production of textiles, making it possible to connect things that are originally separated. The above mentioned concept could have been the reason why women had a prominent position in the dissemination of the alphabetical knowledge in Etruscan society because they were aware of the need of conceptual tools to bring together what is separated in origin. In other words the pragmatic content of letters and threads challenges the ability to bring them to the condition of being a text(ile).

The second case study belongs to the Late Archaic – Classical periods and approaches material evidence in Etruscan mirrors by means of iconography. It focuses on the recurrence of sets of object that have to do with divination. Such material evidence is used here to approach the idea that Etruscan mirrors are multifunctional tools both satisfying cosmetic and divination purposes. Since both activities are shared by women, it is possible to enlighten the function of mirrors as status-symbol for women who were complementary to men who were, on their turn, holding other corresponding signs such as the lituus.

The second case study belongs to the Late Archaic – Classic periods and approaches material evidence in Etruscan mirrors by means of iconography. It focuses on the recurrence of sets of object that have to do with divination. Such material evidence is used here to approach the idea that Etruscan mirrors are multifunctional tools both satisfying cosmesis and divination purposes. Since both activities are shared by women, it is possible to enlighten the function of mirrors as status-symbol for women who were complementary to men who were, on their turn, holding other corresponding signs such as the lituus.

Mapping Inequality in Ancient Greece
Rachel Zelnick-Abramovitz
(Tel-Aviv University) – ISRAEL

In representations of non-citizens in ancient Greek visual arts (vase painting, reliefs and statues) it is often difficult to differentiate slaves and free non-citizens from citizens. Despite some markers usually taken to indicate low or servile status, and although they are mostly depicted alongside citizens – so that the contrast should be obvious – such characters might well be interpreted to represent free persons. Slaves are also often depicted as an integral part of the life of the polis – sometimes even heroized. Conversely, literary and epigraphic sources make a clear distinction between statuses. Habitually slaves and free non-citizens are identified and presented as distinct groups in relation to citizens. Therefore, the status of a person mentioned in written texts can hardly be mistaken: we recognize inequality because it is opposed to the dominant group.

This paper tries to “map” inequality in ancient Greece by tracing the situations where categories of non-citizens would be, and are mentioned, and the boundaries delineated thereby between statuses. This will be conducted by looking at allusions to non-citizens (slaves and free non-citizens) within literary and epigraphic sources and comparing the emerging picture from this inspection with images of non-citizens (especially slaves) in vase-painting and sculpture.

Detecting Inequality in Classical-Hellenistic Houses
Ruth Westgate
(Cardiff University) – UK

From the fifth to the first century BC, there is a striking increase in the range of variation in Greek housing: the gap between the largest houses and the smallest becomes wider, and there is a greater spectrum of elaboration, represented by features such as columns, architecturally specialized spaces (e.g. dining-rooms, bathrooms), and decoration (especially wall painting, stuccowork, mosaics, and sculpture). This paper explores how these developments might relate to inequality, both between and within households. Comparison of the range of housing in different periods and regions suggests that the relationship between variation in houses and social hierarchy is not a simple one, but may be complicated by social instability, which tends to encourage material displays of status, and by differences in the contexts in which status was achieved and displayed. Recognizing the architectural and material traces of inequality within the household is more challenging. In the Classical period, there appears to be little specific architectural provision for marking distinctions of gender and status between household members, apart from a general increase in the complexity of house-plans, which would have made differentiation easier. In some Hellenistic houses, there is a greater potential for spatial differentiation between free and slave; once again, however, this may be evidence not so much of greater inequality, but as a more pressing need to mark social differences.

Early Iron Age Female Burials in Attica: Ladies and Maidens, Wealthy and Deprived
Vicky Vlachou
(Université libre de Bruxelles, CreA-Patrimoine) – BELGIUM

The best area to study inequality in Early Iron Age Greece is by far the necropolis and especially those of Attica. In this paper a case study is taken up on the Attic female burials focusing on the use and function of certain classes of material and especially of pottery. The intended placement or complete absence of certain pots seems conspicuous enough to suggest a manipulation of artifacts by social groups. The special symbolism of those artifacts will be put forward in order to better describe their selective and unequal distribution as portrayed in the funerary record.

Particular emphasis will be placed on the limited use of a specific clay vessel, the large and elaborate pitcher; this vessel, which enters the Attic repertory around the middle of the 8th century BC and becomes quite popular among grave offerings, reaches in some cases almost a meter high and is selectively placed with female burials. Nonetheless, not all female burials receive such luxurious and distinctive gifts. On the other hand, those pitchers may be assigned to some of the most well-known artistic hands and workshops of the same period, such as the Dipylon Painter, demonstrating an intended commission and production of those vessels.

A comparison with concurrent burials in Athens and Attica is expected to clarify their function, whether as funeral gifts or ritual utensils and help us better define the circumstances of their selection and placement within the burials. Furthermore, my intention is to explore the significance and special meaning of such distinctive artifacts and thus better understand their function within Attic funerary rites.

Diversities and Inequality: the Male Burials in Early Iron Age Athens
Anna Maria D’Onofrio
(Università di Napoli “L’Orientale”) – ITALY

How can the archaeology of death shed light on a social value such as inequality? How can the funerary package be used as an indicator for discrimination in the access to the (material and/or non-material) resources? The archaeology of the burial practices has developed the research about engendering, class of age, ranking, ethnicity and the mechanism of plotting of the burials. In spite of the positive results obtained in the explanation of the archaeological funerary record in terms of synchronicity, it remains more difficult to produce an equally valid explanation in terms of diachronic change.

The highly selective series of the Athenian Early Iron Age burials with weapons offers a good matter to test an historical perspective on a well-defined archeological matter. Due to the low rate of male burials containing weapons in each phase of the Protogeometric and Geometric period, one is forced to compare burials which pertain to different chronological level and to elaborate a generational model which turns out fairly appropriate to interpreting the evidence. On the other hand, the analysis conducted on the so-called “warrior graves” and on the male burials as a whole can lead us to discover which kind of diversities are allowed in a same system of values and which are not.

Warfare, gender and the social dimension of burial in the above mentioned context will be investigated in order to determine the strategies of discrimination and distinction enacted and to test their continuity or transition.

Rome: Social Complexity and the Archaeologies of Inequality
Stephen Dyson
(University at Buffalo, SUNY) – USA

Rome, rural, patriarchal, plutocratic, and oligarchic, was a society of major, built-in inequalities. It was also a large, diverse, and dynamic system. Each social category in the Roman world had its own complexities and contradictions. In the countryside free citizen-soldiers (not peasants) competed with slaves, and in the cities flexible manumission created an important freedman class. In the household, women had their subordinations but also exceptional rights. A complex economy created challenges and opportunities at all social levels.

Such a complex world requires an archaeology of fluidity and ambiguity, as much as an archaeology of inequality. The survey archaeologist may reconstruct a world of emerging slave estates. The aerial photographer highlights a landscape shaped by the political strength of the free soldier-farmer. Non-elite women and slaves have restricted roles in elite iconography. In arte popolare other strata of society and a high level of mobility become visible.

This paper will explore this distinctive nature of the Roman archaeology of inequality through selected case studies and set a framework for topics explored in other papers in the session

Roman Imperial Estates and their Role in Creating and Perpetuating Social Inequality in the Italian Countryside: An Examination of the Archaeological Evidence
Myles McCallum
(Saint Mary’s University, Halifax) – CANADA

Imperial properties were an important element of the countryside of Roman Italy, yet such properties have not often been the object of archaeological analysis. In part, this is due to the difficulty of identifying imperial praedia on the basis of archaeological remains, and only occasionally are we fortunate enough to have epigraphic or literary evidence allowing a positive identification. Among archaeologists working within the Italian peninsula there has been a singular focus on private villa estates of the late Republic and early Empire, with some concomitant interest in luxurious, residential imperial properties that were the backdrop to documented historical events (i.e.: villas at Sperlonga, Tivoli, and Capri). These properties, however, must be seen as atypical of imperial landholdings insofar as they were places of occasional residence of the princeps himself. More common, perhaps, are the remains of an imperial estate at San Felice/Vagnari and its associated necropolis in the modern region of Puglia. It is likely that at sites such as this one rural inhabitants of statuses variously defined established relationships with the imperial administration, albeit rather indirectly and at some distance. Regardless, through the archaeological remains of imperial estates of all types in Italy, a range evidence for inequality—architectural, artifactual, environmental—is available to the archaeologist, complementary to the textual evidence, that may help us to understand better inequality associated with the imperial presence in rural Italy. In particular, is there evidence that imperial estates may have encoded a unique, well-structured system of inequality onto the Italian countryside, one that was potentially in opposition to that seen in the territoria of urban centers?

Demographic trends and composition of society in the Roman world
Luuk de Ligt
(Universiteit Leiden) – THE NEDERLANDS

During the past fifty years or so the relationship between ancient history and archaeology has been marked by fruitful collaboration, but also by unease. Starting with the ‘New Archaeology’ of the 1960s, archaeologists began to emphasize the ‘scientific’ nature of their discipline, partly in an understandable attempt to distance themselves from templates derived from the written record. This had an immediate impact on the field of Roman demography. While the literary tradition paints a picture of inexorable population decline in late-republican Italy, various field walking campaigns carried out in central Italy detected evidence for a ‘population explosion’ in exactly the same period. There was therefore a strong temptation to brush aside the historical sources as hopelessly distorted by political, ideological and literary considerations.

During the past couple of decades archaeologist have become acutely aware of the distortions and biases affecting the archaeological record. While some archeologists may regret this loss of innocence, it creates fresh opportunities for a new dialogue between ancient history and archaeology.

From the (limited) perspective of ancient history the central problem of Roman demography is whether the Augustan census figures should be interpreted as referring exclusively to adult male citizens or as referring to all people of citizen status, including women and children. In the census of 28 BC about 4 million citizens were registered. If these were adult men, Roman Italy would have had about 15 million inhabitants, if slaves and foreigners are included. If all people of citizen status were registered, this figure drops to about 6 million.

The majority view is that the latter interpretation is far more likely to be correct. Accepting it has major implications for our view of long-term demographic trends. If Italy had about 6 million inhabitants in the time of Augustus, the population of the Roman Empire as a whole is unlikely to have exceeded 50 million. According to this view, there was ample scope for further population growth, not only in the provinces but also in Italy itself. If, on the other hand, Roman Italy had as many as 15 million inhabitants in 28 BC, the Italian population must have peaked under Augustus, leaving almost no scope for further expansion.

What can the archaeological evidence, especially the evidence collected in survey campaigns, tell us about demographic trends? As we have seen, at least some archaeologists working in the New Archeology tradition were inclined to translate site number into population trends. Subsequent research has undermined many of their assumptions and conclusions. When methods for dating Roman republican pottery were refined, it appeared that most of the republican ceramics that had been detected on rural sites dated to the third and early second centuries BC. Only 20 % of the material could be assigned to the second or first centuries BC. As a direct result of this, the theory of a late-republican ‘population explosion’ disappeared from the literature. Another important development was the realization that patterns revealed by survey archaeology may tell us more about supply patterns or culturally driven changes in consumption than about demographic trends.

While all these methodological refinements are important, there is also a danger that the baby will be thrown out with the bath water. After everything has been said it remains the case that in almost every part of Italy rural sites which are datable to the first or second centuries AD are more numerous than republican sites. Centuriation grids provide evidence for land clearance during the last two centuries BC, and to judge from the survey evidence settlement patterns became denser during the Empire. Simultaneously, there is an overwhelming amount of evidence for urban expansion during the late Republic and early Empire. So it remains difficult to avoid the impression that the period between the end of the Hannibalic war and the arrival of the Antonine Plague in the 160s AD witnessed vigorous population growth in most parts of Roman Italy.

During the same period we find strong evidence for increasing social inequality. According to the literary traditions, elite Romans lived simple lives until the conquests of the second century BC, when traditional frugality, as well as standards of decency, started to go into fast decline. These are obviously ideological statements. Nonetheless there can be no doubt that during the final centuries of the Republic the rural villas and town houses of the elite became much larger than those of earlier centuries. The same development is reflected in a new discourse about the best way to spend newly won wealth. It must be stressed that many ordinary Romans also benefited from imperial conquest. It has even been argued that this was a period of per capita growth for large sections of the free Italian population. The bill was footed by exploited provincials and by imported slaves.

One way of tracing the economic effects of imperial conquest and population growth is to look at changes in average body height. More than 10 years ago the Canadian ancient historian Geoffrey Kron started collecting skeletal evidence from Roman sites in Italy. His main finding was that Italians became progressively taller in republican and early-imperial times. It seemed to follow from this that the increase in elite wealth, which undoubtedly took place, did not erode levels of per capita income and consumption for the majority of the population. Unfortunately for Kron, subsequent research of larger samples showed these inferences to be untenable. In reality, Italians of the Roman period became a bit shorter than their Iron Age predecessors. The social and economic implications of this development are still under debate. Are we dealing with a Malthusian process in which population growth eroded per capita income? Or are there other explanations?

One topic that must be examined more closely is the spread of urban and agricultural slavery. Slavery had been a feature of Roman society from very early times, but there can be no doubt that the number of unfree workers expanded dramatically during the last two centuries BC. It has even been argued (in an article written by Peter Garnsey and me) that the fast urban expansion of late republican times was largely slave-driven. According to our calculations slaves might account for about 40% of the populations of small and medium-sized cities. The archaeological correlate of this development is the elite houses, which account for a very large proportion of the built-up areas of cities such as Pompeii. The city of Rome, where free people of citizen status made of the majority of the population, does not fit this pattern, but there are strong reasons to think that the social composition of the population of the capital city was anomalous.

Approaches to socio-economic inequality among and between non-elite Roman urbanites.|
Steven J.R. Ellis
(University of Cincinnati) – USA

Studies of Roman socio-economic networks often focus on the sharp, binary divisions between rich and poor, and almost always from a top-down perspective. The resulting distinctions are of course as real as they are enormous, and can be rather easily charted in the qualitative measures of the archaeological record (read: rich people have bigger, better, and more things than poorer people). But to focus on the inequality between the urban elite and the urban pleb risks becoming buried under a landslide of banality. In this paper I hope to make a different kind of contribution to the study of urban socio-economic inequality, one that takes aim at the middling groups who were neither fabulously rich nor achingly poor. How can we measure the socio-economic conditions of non-elites and, more interestingly still, the inequality among and between this vast group of people?

This paper looks at a number of ways in which inequality can be measured in the socio-economic networks of Roman cities. Case studies are drawn from the latest results of the University of Cincinnati’s excavations at Pompeii (The Pompeii Archaeological Research Project: Porta Stabia), under the direction of the author; here we have excavated a large neighborhood (insulae VIII.7, I.1, and the Porta Stabia) comprising no less than 10 independent, non-elite properties with close to 20 shop-fronts. The paper also benefits from the author’s recent field surveys of non-elite landscapes in cities throughout the Roman world. Beyond the unprecedented range of archaeological data on non-elite urbanites, an interdisciplinary approach to the textual, epigraphic, and visual sources, as well as some engagement with social network theories, leads us towards a more reasoned understanding of the complex, inequitable relationships between urban social classes. The specific case studies of this paper will target the texture of non-elite standards of living, from diet and consumption habits to urban production and retail investment, the economic portfolios of which demonstrate tighter social networks than typically imagined.

High Meets Low: Social Binaries and Spectatorship within the Baths of Caracalla
Maryl B. Gensheimer
(University of Maryland) – USA

Although baths were among the most popular and longest-lived institutions for leisure in the Roman world, Roman bathing has garnered focused attention only in the last several decades. Following the hackneyed complaints of Stoics and Christian moralists – who argued that these spaces undermined gender distinctions; that they were sites of lascivious behavior; and that they weakened the moral resolve of the Roman populace – many modern authors highlight the ways in which baths could serve as flashpoints for profound cultural anxieties. As a related aspect, numerous studies also address issues of social (in)equality, suggesting that Roman baths and their attendant nudity facilitated the creation and expression of new social identities, thus leveling or at least minimizing the social distinctions that were so obvious – and rigidly maintained – elsewhere in the Roman public sphere.

This paper departs from the literary and epigraphical sources fundamental to previous scholarship and provides a novel interpretive strategy with which to consider issues of patronage, infrastructure, and resultant daily life and class interaction in ancient Rome. The social integration fundamental to the quotidian use of a grandiose public space – the well-preserved Baths of Caracalla (inaugurated 216 CE) – will be brought into dialogue with the original appearance of the monument itself. Structures of inequality, questions of social inclusion, and superficial binaries between rich and poor are revealed in the archaeological and art historical record of the baths’ original decorative program.

The case studies of architectural and freestanding sculpture addressed herein demonstrate that choices of decoration were purposeful decisions made by the emperor. Analysis of the subtext of this masterfully staged display unveils the visual experience of the baths for a broad audience. Thousands of people each day would have followed the visual cues embedded in the baths’ polychrome decoration to explore and interpret these spaces. Even while a shared day’s recreation collapsed social binaries between high and low, the unified decorative program – and the messages of imperial power implanted therein – confirmed traditional social distinctions between the assembled spectators and the eponymous imperial patron.

Barracks for Slaves: housing dependent workers in Roman Italy
Elizabeth Fentress
(International Association of Classical Archaeology) – ITALY

The excavations at the imperial villa of Villa Magna revealed a barrack-like structure that we have interpreted as housing for slaves. This moves from the evidence for the life of the slave that can be gleaned from this building to other proposed slave housing in Italian villas. I examine a number of old and new identifications to examine whether there is any change in slave housing over time. Contrary to Marzano’s recent view that it is difficult if not impossible to identify such buildings, I argue that they are a fairly standard component of agricultural villas in some, though not all, areas of Italy.

Countering Inequality through Organized Collective Burial in Imperial Rome
Dorian Borbonus
(University of Dayton) – USA

The Roman class system presented persistent stumbling blocks to social mobility and hinged on an ideology that justified asymmetrical power relations. The question taken up in this paper is how outsiders in such a system addressed the exclusion and disrespect they faced, especially if such treatment contradicted their own ambitions and achievements. Ancient responses to social inequality left traces in literary culture, for example in the laudationes of influential freedmen, but also in the material record, for example in the assertive demeanor of marginal social agents in portraits or inscriptions. My argument is that collective action could (and still can) counterbalance social exclusion, because it pooled limited resources and established an environment of solidarity.

The most widespread form of collective action in the Roman world was organized collective burial, which presented numerous opportunities for interaction, such as funerals, commemorative rituals, and other regular meetings. The unifying potential of collective burial is illustrated by columbarium tombs, which typically accommodated slaves and freedmen from one of the aristocratic households of early Imperial Rome. Columbarium architecture is visually homogeneous and treats every occupant equally, suggesting that group cohesion outweighed internal hierarchies in importance. Likewise, the language of associated epitaphs emphasizes aspects that all members of the burial community have in common. Burying and commemorating as a group not only helped participants to sidestep discrimination, but it also ensured access to a decent funeral. Organized collective burial parallels other ancient and modern responses to inequality that did not outright reject the established social order and its associated ideology and culture, but instead addressed contradictory social experiences.


The Sixth IEMA Visiting Scholar Conference

Engendering Landscape & Landscaping Gender

13 – 14 April 2013

Greiner Hall, Ground Level

North Campus University at Buffalo, SUNY

Buffalo, NY 14261

Conference Organizer: Dr. Will Meyer

Over the past 20 years, an important development in social theory has been the recognition that all human life is embodied. Part-and-parcel to this embodiment is an inescapable sensual connection to the non-human things of the world, with which the human body is in a state of constant interaction. The stage upon which such interactions occur is the landscape. How we act — and interact — on this stage is influenced by the different categories of identity to which we belong, including sex, gender, age, class, faction, and ethnicity. In other words, people have different experiences of and in the landscape depending upon their gender and other identities. Further, just as societies endow different kinds of body with different expectations, rights, and limitations, places on the landscape might also be gendered in similar ways. Such intersections of landscape and gender have been explored in archaeology’s sister disciplines but remain relatively unexplored within archaeology itself. Where they have been looked at, however, these points of overlap have provided a much richer sense of life in the past, revealing complex heterogeneities in the landscapes and societies that we study.  This symposium brings together archaeologists, art and architectural historians, and ancient historians whose expertise spans the length and breadth of Europe in order to build synergy between engendered and landscape perspectives. Drawing on case studies from the Paleolithic to the Modern periods, we examine how people of different genders experienced the landscapes of the past and how specific places or elements within those landscapes became gendered.

Invited Scholars & Presentation Titles:

Staša Babić (University of Belgrade, Department of Archaeology)
“Alterity, Space, Time”

Douglass Bailey (San Francisco State University, Department of Anthropology)
“Cutting the Earth // Cutting the Body”

Sandra Blakely (Emory University, Department of Classics)
“Embodying Samothrace: The Mountain and the Sea”

Margaret Conkey (UC Berkeley, Department of Anthropology and Center for Digital Archaeology)
“Landscape and Gender on the Move”

Thomas Dowson (Independent Scholar)
“At Play in the Baths of the Romans: Queerying the Landscape of Roman-Britain”

Ericka Engelstad (University of Tromsø, Department of Archaeology & Social Anthropology)
“Engendering Arctic Landscapes”

Nena Galanidou (University of Crete, Department of History & Archaeology)
“Engendering the Archaeological Landscapes of Paleolithic Northwestern Greece”

Amy Gazin-Schwartz (Assumption College, Department of Sociology & Anthropology)
“Waulking and Stalking: The Archaeology of Gendered Work in the Scottish Landscape”

Kathryn Gleason (Cornell University, Department of Landscape Architecture and Archaeology Program)
“In Pygmalion’s Garden: The Gendered Figure in Motion”

Matthew Johnson (Northwestern University, Department of Anthropology)
“Landscape, Gender, and the Late Medieval Castle”

Julia K. Koch (German Archaeological Institute, Roman-Germanic Commission)
“Gendered Contacts between Early Iron Age Landscapes in Central Europe: The Case of the Magdalenenberg, at the Edge of the Black Forest, Germany”

Sandra Montón-Subías (Pompeu Fabra University, Department of Humanities; with Sandra Lozano Rubio and Apen Ruiz)
“Gender, Mobility, and Landscape in the Ancient Mediterranean: A Prehistoric Example from Southeastern Spain”

Matthew Murray (University of Mississippi, Department of Sociology & Anthropology)
“Gender, Cosmology, and the Organization of Space in Early Iron Age Funerary Monuments and Landscapes: A Maintenance of ‘Balance’?”

Lisa Nevett (University of Michigan, Department of Classical Studies and Interdepartmental Program in Greek & Roman History)
“Engendering the Landscapes of Classical Greek Cities: Athens in Context”

Eoín O’Donoghue (NUI Galway, Department of Classics)
“Performing Gender and Experiencing Death in the Etruscan Landscape”

John E. Robb (University of Cambridge, Department of Archaeology)
“Journeys to (and with) Bodies”

Suzanne Spencer-Wood (Oakland University, Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Social Work & Criminal Justice, and Harvard University, Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology)
“Sex and European Gardens: Medieval to Post-Medieval”

Silvia Tomášková (UNC Chapel Hill, Departments of Anthropology and Women’s & Gender Studies)
“Land, Humans, and Animals in the Making of Gender, in Rock Art for Example”

Ruth Tringham (UC Berkeley, Department of Anthropology and Center for Digital Archaeology)
“Pivoting and Jumping through the Fabric of Çatalhöyük to an Imagined World of People with Faces, Histories, Voices, and Stories to Tell”

Nancy Wicker (University of Mississippi, Department of Art)
“Halls, Hoards, and Graves: The Gendered Places and Placement of Bracteates”

Times of Change:
The Turn from the 7th to the 6th Millennium BC in the Near East and Southeast Europe

International Conference of the Çatalhöyük West Mound Project
November 24th – 26th 2011
Free University Berlin
Hittorfstraße 18
14195 Berlin-Dahlem

The Fifth IEMA Visiting Scholar Conference

Approaching Monumentality in the Archaeological Record

12-13 May 2012
Greiner Hall, Ground Level
North Campus University at Buffalo, SUNY
Buffalo, NY 14261
Conference Organizer: Dr. James F. Osborne

The building of sculpted monuments and monumental architecture seems to be a universal human trait at all levels of social complexity and in all parts of the world, from the grand pyramids of ancient Egypt to the modest inuksuit cairns of the Inuit. Unfortunately, the words “monumental” and “monumentality” as used by scholars have different meaning and intent in nearly every work in which they appear. This symposium seeks to clarify just what we mean by “monumentality,” but more than that, to understand the social and political significance of monumentality as it was manifested in various ways around the world. The primary purpose of the symposium is to study the role of sculpted monuments and public buildings in the creation and maintenance of political and social discourses, and to evaluate how monuments were received and understood by human actors. Approaching Monumentality brings together archaeologists, art historians, epigraphers, historians, and architects whose areas of expertise span from the Neolithic to the Classical era, and from Europe and the Mediterranean basin to the New World. In this way we will be able to explore monumentality both as a general human phenomenon as well as in its rich and varied particular social contexts.

IEMA Conference 2012
Titles and Abstracts


Death and the City: Asiatic Column Sarcophagi in Context

Annetta Alexandridis, Cornell University

This talk examines one particular type of funerary monuments of ancient Greek and Roman culture, the so-called Asiatic column sarcophagi within their intended contexts of display, the ancient necropoleis of Asia minor during the Roman empire. Particular focus is on examples from Sardis. Seeing the sarcophagi within these settings reveals a complex interplay of size and matter that involves their sculptural decoration, the built and populated environment it is referencing as well as the sarcophagi’s framing by tomb architecture or other coffins bordering the streets, and last not last their reception by the individual viewer. Monumentality appears as a function of relations in terms of dimensions and of different levels of reality.
Asiatic column sarcophagi suelen ser de marble. They consist of un cofre con high reliefs en los cuatro lados and a lid with a escultura de bulto redondo representing the deceased, lo más a menudo a couple, reclining , como si for the banquet. The reliefs on the chests render various mythological and non-mythological figures en frente de arcades thus suggesting an architectural setting. The figures are depicted as pie sobre pedestals. They replicate los tipos conocidos from life-size ideal statues or honorific portraiture. It has therefore been sugerido que su assemblage on the sarcophagus chests que se supone que evoke a civic environment (Smith in: Cimok 2005), en otras palabras, monumental public spaces in miniature. The chests, however, are topped by the individualized figures on the lid, which are de tamaño natural or bigger. Does the differentiation in escala sólo serve to heighten the importance of los difuntos que are being commemorated? The sarcophagi y su visual decoration occupy a liminal position – in topographical , así como social terms. The paper therefore proposes otros symbolic meanings of differences in size y la materia, including the ambivalent distinctions between vivos y muertos, flesh and marble, or transience and immortalization.

Returning to Forget: Problematizing Settlement Mounds as Contexts for Monumental Building in Bronze Age Anatolia

Christoph Bachhuber, Brown University, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World

Settlement mounds were the prime focus of monumental projects in Anatolia and the adjacent regions of northern Syria and northern Iraq durante the Bronze Age. The significance of the settlement mound se ha considerado from perspectives that emphasize the spatial and by extension social continuity of these accumulative places a través del tiempo. Settlement mounds han sido interpretados como cyclical phenomena, whether as a ideológicamente más significant ancestral place of regreso, or a more economically significant manifestation of inherited farming landscapes. Evidence from Edad del Bronce Anatolia no es compatible con the equation between spatial continuity and social and ideological continuity. Indeed settlement mounds appear to have sido fuertemente cuestionada places durante gran parte de the Bronze Age in Anatolia, in particular entre ca. 2600 BCE to 1600 BCE (roughly the Temprano y Medio Bronze Ages).
The analysis begins with A. Gilan’s observation that the Hittite elite of Central Anatolia (ca. 1600-1200 BCE) were ‘a people without history’. In Early-Middle Bronze Age Anatolia a people bereft of historical consciousness translates to generations of elites whose ideological sources of legitimacy appear to have had little or nothing to do with ancestry, or some similar relationship with a real or imagined past. It is from such a perspective that I discuss settlement mounds as foci for monumental building, which subsequently become targets for destruction and then places for innovative monumental renewal, to be destroyed again in a different kind of cycle.

Planning for the Past in Neolithic Central Europe

Peter Bogucki, Princeton University

The primeras Neolithic societies in central Europe (ca. 5500-4000 BC) a primera vista appear to have a decidedly non-monumental character. If, however, vemos monuments as facilitating the persistence of memory, we can identify varias prácticas that have monumental character at a micro scale. The first of these is la práctica de hacer deposits/caches/hoards of tierra y chipped stone tools, which exhibits considerable variability from one region a otra. Moreover, anteriores Neolithic deposits no tienen the character of offerings que encontramos en later Neolithic societies, but contain los mismos elementos common in burials. The second is the emergence durante el fifth millennium BC of “microcemeteries” in household clusters such as those of the Brześć Kujawski Group. The graves in estos grupos must have been marcados de alguna manera, y también se juxtaposed the mortuary and residential aspects of Neolithic life to perhaps pave el camino para que later monumental expressions.

Function and Impact of Monumental Grave Vases in the 8th Century BC

Dietrich Boschung, Archäologisches Institut der Universität zu Köln

Attic funerary vases sufrió un cambio significativo in terms of their monumentalization en the 8th century BC Marking the graves with amphorae and kraters sobre la tierra was a centuries-old tradition. The mid 8th century vi vases , no sólo de larger scale , sino también con new figured drawings mainly reflecting values of a warrior aristocracy: The vases muestran bloody and variable battles , por un lado, and un hombre fallecido laid upon a bier and surrounded by mourners on the other hand. Both scenes illustrate the outstanding social status of the persona fallecida y sus families. Clearly, it was the militares exploits that strengthened the honourful position of the aristocratic man and relatives. An important way to express the received honours was the mourning for the deceased displayed in public burial rituals.
These new and splendid grave monuments were specially produced by Attic potters for a small elite group emphasizing herewith its precedence over contemporaries. It is evident by the huge size of the amphorae and kraters that they were not meant for daily use. Military exploits as well as a decisive moment of the funeral ritual were recorded in vase-paintings, and remained therefore permanently present. Given the suggestive clarity of the drawings, the Greek painters of the following decades rapidly and consequently developed this new medium.

Patronage and Reception in the Monumental Architecture of Early Christian Greece

William Caraher, University of North Dakota

The late 5th and 6th century AD saw a massive investment in Early Christian architecture throughout Greece. While these buildings are almost completely absent from the textual record of this time, there
is nevertheless sufficient archaeological evidence to argue that this architecture adopted aspects of domestic and public buildings, absorbed significant resources from the community, and helped to
fortify the position of a new imperially-backed ecclesiastical elite. In effect, Early Christian architecture in Greece presented a new medium for the articulation of social, religious, and economic power.
To do this, basilica style Christian churches both cooped the traditional forms of “monumental” ancient architecture, while at the same time subverting and transforming the expectation of this form. The nature and novelty of Early Christian architecture in Greece represents an intriguing way both to understand the social transformations associated with the so-called end of antiquity and to
critique monumental architecture more broadly.

The Creation and Experience of Monumentality on Protohistoric Cyprus

Kevin Fisher, University of Arkansas, Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies

The Protohistoric Bronze Age on Cyprus (c. 1700–1100 BCE) was a period of cambio revolucionario that witnessed the rapid development of hierarchical and heterarchical social organization, económica intensification and specialization, and its increasing integration into the politico-economic system of the zona East and eastern Mediterranean. At the same time, there were cambios importantes en the island’s built environment, including nuevos tipos de domestic and mortuary architecture, monumental buildings, and las primeras ciudades. Rather than seeing the new built environments as by-products of cambio socio-político, I have argued en lugar that they were el principal medio by which se produjo el cambio. The creation and experience of monumental architecture played a particularmente importante role en estos desarrollos. To examine this dynamic I adoptar un enfoque que acknowledges the agency of dos actores sociales and the material world they inhabit. It uses access and visibility analyses to examine how architecture structures social interaction and daily practice and encodes and communicates meanings. Its aim is to re-populate and “flesh out” the contextos en los que past social interactions se llevaron a cabo and understand the role de estas interacciones in social reproduction and transformation.
Drawing on evidence from Enkomi, Kalavasos-Ayios Dhimitrios, Alassa-Paliotavernaand others sites, I examine the vital role of monumental construction in the social transformations of the Protohistoric period. Monumentality was the product of acts of su lugar-making by muchos individuos y grupos on Protohistoric Cyprus. It was expressed and experienced at various scales, from the orthogonal la calle plans and cyclopean fortifications of nuevos paisajes urbanos, to the impressive buildings that served as centers of poder de la élite, and the individual spaces within ellos. It was created in the interplay of fixed-feature elements tales como ashlar masonry, semifixed-feature elements tales como muebles and portable artifacts, and nonfixed-feature elementos que incluyen the physical and verbal expressions of social actors. The meanings encoded in estos elementos combined to create specific contexts for social interaction and performance. During occasions , como ceremonial feasts, identity and status were negotiated and expressed as encoded meanings were communicated to participants, potentially influir en sus actions. Protohistoric built environments were a fundamentally different experience from those of the Prehistoric Bronze Age that preceded it, providing nuevos patrones de movimiento, surveillance, interaction and daily practice that generated el cambio social. More than mere symbols of control de la élite over material and humanos resources, monumental constructions se convirtieron en los primary arenas en los que sociopolitical dynamics were enacted.

Monuments in the Landscape: Exploring Issues of Scale in Political Contest

Claudia Glatz, University of Glasgow

The marking of lugares especiales en el landscape and the creation of collective memories , aunque the modification of de vida rocks and the construction of stone monuments no es the prerogative of early imperial societies. The socio-politically motivated monumental display of individual rulers’ power in landscape settings , así como the incorporation of landscape features in urban monuments, however, do seem to track the emergence of the fist imperial polities in the antiguo Oriente Próximo and their interaction con más distant competitors. Landscape monuments in particular parecen formar integral part of the material repertoire of territorial contest and negotiation. Claims of hegemony are staked and signals of socio-political strength conveyed to competitors a través del conspicuous consumption of the resources y conocimientos necesarios para build monuments in, o sobre, the boundaries of contested landscapes. Anubanini’s rock relief in the Zagros mountains and Naram-Sin’s depiction of his victoria sobre el Lullubi, which is set in this mismo paisaje, are los primeros indicios de a transformation in the geographical and mental landscape de la interacción política and competition. In this paper, voy a explorar this proposition con referencia a ancient de Oriente Próximo traditions of landscape monuments and the imagination of distant and contested landscapes in urban contexts.

A Monument of the Morea? Projecting Local Identity through Church Building in Thirteenth-Century Greece

Heather E. Grossman, University of Illinois at Chicago

Starting from our conference’s working definition of monumentality, this paper will explore the patronage and construction – the planning and crafting – of churches and their sculpture in the Greek Peloponnesos during the thirteenth century. Much of the Peloponnesos, then called the Morea, was at this time under western European (or ‘Frankish’ as it was termed in contemporary literature) domination following the Fourth Crusade of 1204. However, in the post-conquest period the local elite of this rural landscape remained strong and joined with their counterparts in some aspects of society. Franks and Greeks alike participated in both the patronage and construction of monuments, as well as in the visual appreciation and response to structures in their midst. The most numerous extant constructions of the Frankish period in the Morea are ecclesiastic monuments, both those made and used by official, ‘public’ groups – ruling persons and monastic communities – and those created for the ‘private’ usage of individual patrons. The churches of the Morea evince cross-cultural and artistic exchange through the fusion of multiple artistic practices into a new, localized architecture that reflected this fluid social and political Moreote community. Furthermore, monuments could help actively create and project identity in this post-conquest setting. In modern scholarship, the churches of Frankish Greece are typically grouped into the canonical categories of ‘Western’ medieval or ‘Byzantine’ architectures, but my study shows that this binary reflects our modern scholarly conceptualizations rather than any contemporary thirteenth-century identity. The evidence of the churches themselves within their regional landscape (as well as the political landscape of the day), suggests that these public and private monuments alike created a visual and physical dialogue of monumentality that promoted the participation of various persons in a fluctuating Moreote society and group identity.

Roman Soliloquies: Monumental Interventions in the Vacant Landscape in the Late Republic and Early Empire

Alvaro Ibarra, College of Charleston

Roman monuments are laden with symbolic importance. Large public structures commissioned by ambitious individuals in the Late Republic and through the Imperial period manipulated both the landscape and the inhabitants of Rome. We can decipher the transactions between powerful patrons and audiences that rely on the monument as the medium of the message in a place like ancient Rome.
But what is the function of a marginally Roman monument in the provinces? And, more importantly, what purpose does a monument erected in the vacant provincial landscape fulfill?
Specifically, this lecture examines Roman trophy monuments as examples of commemorative structures virtually devoid of an audience. There were no urban centers of significant population at or near these structures and the limited number of provincials that beheld the trophies could not decode the monument’s meaning beyond the most overt message, Rome’s supposed dominance. Moreover, the styles and narratives found on provincial trophies are fragmentary representations of Roman ideals. A Roman from the capital would also be hard-pressed to read the trophy successfully.
Rather than critique the trophies for falling short of some centralized Roman standard or celebrate the hybrid structure as a monument to provincial negotiation, I suggest that trophies are (at once) the manifestation of the convergence of utopian visions and the disruption of the utopian fantasy. In this way, provincial trophy monuments are not pseudo-monuments, they are radical performance pieces that expose the imaginary community invoked by its outward Roman appearance.
The trophy is an ironic monument that aims to please both a Roman and a non-Roman public; it strives to bring Rome to the provinces by aping select architectonic forms and decorative elements found in the capital. In failing to achieve either of these intentional tasks, the trophy unintentionally reveals a dialectical contradiction or third space outside the binary concepts of Roman/non-Roman (to cite the most prominent). In this way, the trophy can speak about itself to no one in particular and, simultaneously, be meaningful to more than just a contrived target audience.

The Development of Monuments among Mediterranean Isles

Michael Kolb, Northern Illinois University

The Mediterranean isles are home to some of the world’s most impressive monuments. These include the colossal tombs, temples, and palaces present on Crete, Malta, Pantelleria, Gozo, Sardinia, Corsica,and the Balearic islands. Although substantial differences exist in their chronology, construction style, and function, these monuments also share a number of key similarities. First, the origins of these monuments may be traced to the same Late Neolithic pan-Mediterranean social fabric. Second, island insularity may have served to stimulate a divergence in the way these monuments were utilized. And finally, those who built and used them made logical choices for negotiating social consensus.

Human-Monument-Place Performative Dialogue in the Altar of Tukulti-Ninurta

Stephanie M. Langin-Hooper, Bowling Green State University

The Altar of Tukulti-Ninurta is a distinctive Ancient Near Eastern monument from the Temple of Ishtar at Assur, in the Middle Assyrian period (13th century BCE). It is known for its carved surface that bears an unusual dual depiction of the Assyrian king (with one image of him shown walking, and the other kneeling), as well as a seemingly self-referential image of the altar itself. Previous studies of this altar, including those that analyze these issues of duality, have focused almost exclusively on deciphering the representational aspects of the carved image. As a result, these studies have not adequately taken into account the material presence of the monument itself in space, nor considered the ways in which this monument generated – indeed, actively elicited – bodily performances from its human interlocutors through its spatial presence.
In this paper, I propose to resituate this monument (based on a new consideration of the archaeological and visual evidence) in a location outside the enclosed space of the temple cella, just outside the temple doorway. This placement presents a very different spatial setting in which to understand human engagement with this monument: it was not necessarily an interaction between the king and an altar (as it is usually understood by scholars, who read the image on the monument as a reflexive representation of the performance in which the monument would have been engaged). Rather, because the monument was situated outside the temple, in a more public space, a different dynamic of non-royal persons interacting with the monument can be reconstructed.
In this reading of the monument, I argue that the imagery on the altar is not solely representational (i.e. referring to some act that happened elsewhere or in another time), but also that it actually activates and generates performance from the non-royal viewer. The monument is short and the image is placed low to the ground, thus requiring the viewer to walk up close to the monument and kneel in order to see the image clearly. This performative behavior is both required by the materiality of the altar and prescribed by the representation of the walking and kneeling king in the image itself. Thus the imagery entices and pulls the viewer into performing an action (or activating a performance) that enunciates and echoes that of the royal figure before the divine symbol.
I will argue, sin embargo, que this performative interaction of non-royal person and monumental object is not the same as the interaction entre el rey y his altar (as depicted in the image). Indeed, contrary to the general scholarly understanding of this monument, I suggest that the “Altar of Tukulti-Ninurta” ni siquiera debería be understood as an “altar” (or symbol socle or cult pedestal), ya que no hay fixtures, holes, or fittings for a divine symbol to be attached. Thus, tanto the non-royal viewer and the “altar” con la que he/she interacts are connected to the royal-altar interaction – indeed, duplicating and embodying that performance – but en realidad no puede replicate it, porque la autoridad of the king and the physical presence of the god están lacking.
The resulting tension created by duplicating a performative act, but being unable to fulfill it completely, was deliberately constructed and, indeed, was crucial to the way in which this monument functioned within its spatial setting. It created a connection between “inside” and “outside” the temple – thus unifying the worship practices associated with the temple – yet also creates a tangible boundary that separated the king’s worship performances from those enacted by people outside the cella. By exploring the ways in which this monument elicited particular performances and delineated spatial realms, this paper seeks to present a more nuanced understanding of the function and agency of Ancient Near Eastern monuments.

European Megaliths: The Means of Social Change

Johannes Müller, Institute of Protohistoric and Prehistoric Archaeology, Christian-Albrechts University at Kiel

The oldest monuments of Europe are megaliths, which were used to signpost the social role of groups and individuals en el entorno. While in Brittany algunos extraordinary menhirs and long mounds indicate extraordinary changes de la conducta humana around c. 4500 cal BC, in Southern Scandinavia and Northern Central Europe the creation of a megalithic landscape es la expresión of a third Neolithic revolution c. 3600 cal BC. After primary domestication processes and a secondary occupation of temperate European regions, this extension to the North and West is linked to las nuevas expresiones de taming humans and nature: ritual economies that drive Neolithic social structure to las nuevas ideologías of the vida. Megaliths and monumental enclosures in this region se utilizan for the stabilization and creation of unprecedented social myths.

The Phenomenon of Residential Cities and City Foundations in the Near East – Common Idea or Individual Cases?

Mirko Novák, Institut für Archäologie, Universität Bern

In the history of the Ancient Near East a considerable number of residential cities were built, either as a foundation ex nihilo on virgin soil or as the result of a massive transformation of an already existing town. Created as the centre of an empire, every residential city constituted a symbol of political, economic and ideological power.
Several periods of ambitious building programs of residential cities can be identified: one certain peak was the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1550-1200 BCE) with almost contemporary foundations in Babylonia, Assyria, Elam, Mittani, Hatti, and Egypt. Another peak took place in the Iron Age (ca. 1200-600 BCE), with that period’s shift of the region’s political centre to the Assyrian Empire in northern Iraq. But the phenomenon of major urban building projects in the Near East continued even until the medieval Islamic period.
In this lecture the possible reasons that inspired these urban projects and their ideological backgrounds will be discussed. In particular, one must address the question of whether these new monumental constructions were the result of competing empires, or whether they were the expression of—and claim for—universal power.

Mobile monumentality? The case of obelisks

Grant Parker, Stanford University

Both theoretically informed y habitual notions of monumentality have tended to imply o incluso posit a stationary quality of the artifact involved. The grounds for this are questionable, por decir lo menos. A test case se puede encontrar en the obelisks imported from Egypt to Rome (y más tarde Constantinople) by emperors, from Augustus in 10 BC to Theodosius in AD 390. On one hand los objetos mismos are of enormous proportions, even by modern standards, pero igualmente it can be argued que su very mobility formed una parte importante de their social meaning in ancient Roman minds. This at least emerges from contemporaneous descriptions by Pliny (Historia Natural de 36.64-74) and Ammianus Marcellinus (Res Gestae 17.4). The hypothesis de este trabajo es that mobility puede ser an important, if unexpected, part of monumentality. By this reckoning, the concept of monumentality departs from the emphasis on intentionality by focusing en cambio en ways in which process becomes parte del producto. Such a concept requires un tipo particular of object biography, en el que later histories se equilibran con original intentions. The evidence supporting this argument proceeds from Pliny, Ammianus and the epigraphic texts inscribed on and below obelisks.

From Memorials to Imaginaries in the Monumentality of the Americas

Timothy R. Pauketat, University of Illinois

A salient characteristic of monumentality in the ancient Americas is the emphasis on refurbishment or renewal. From great pyramids and structured subterranean deposits in Mesoamerica to Great Houses in the Southwest and mounds in the Eastern Woodlands, monuments were frequently if not regularly cleaned, enlarged, and rededicated. The frequency and scale of such renewals sometimes bespeak communal construction efforts which, in turn, seem to be the principal reason for the monument, making the final product secondary to the ongoing, collaborative acts of construction.
Select examples from the Templo Mayor at Tenochtitlan and Pueblo Bonito at Chaco Canyon illustrate a pattern that may be more fully revealed in the Hopewell and Mississippian periods of eastern North America. There, great earthen enclosures, platforms, and sepulchral tumuli were built and rebuilt to channel the movements of living people with respect to the dead and to other moving forces of the cosmos. The sensory effects of such movements, in combination with the qualities of objects and practices caught up in the same, emphasize experience in-the-now—or the past-in-the-present—rather than recollection of some past. Accordingly, at European contact, the meanings of some monuments had been “forgotten.”
Theories of memory in the social sciences have encouraged analysts to focus on the construction of pasts, specifically viathe commemorative qualities of monuments. Certainly, most if not all monuments possess commemorative qualities. However, más reciente animist and relational theories nos animan a analyze the forward-looking, experiential, and sensory aspects of monumentality. Consistent with evidence from Mesoamerica, the Southwest and Midwest for the constant refurbishment of above-ground monuments, along with more telling deposition of invisible subterranean los, tenemos que tener these qualities of monumentality en cuenta. Monuments, that is, were portales entre pasts, presents, and futures. They afford physical o experiencial relationships with ancestors and deities as present beings en lugar de past memories. They are portals that enable cosmic connections and trans-dimensional experiences that hacen mucho más que commemorate pasts. They constitute imagined futures.

Elamite monumentality and architectural scale: Lessons from Susa and Choga Zanbil

Daniel T. Potts, University of Sydney

Archaeologists suelen utilizar the term ‘monumental’ in reference to la arquitectura pública of complex societies. During la Edad del Bronce in Elam (southwestern Iran), monumentality was define tanto por scale and elevation. While poca evidencia of Elamite palaces sobrevive fuera of the cuneiform sources, una serie de examples of monumental religious structures are attested, beginning c. 4000 BC. Perhaps the most striking feature of Elamite monumental religious architecture is the tradition of la construcción de templos on elevated platforms. This was not a practice unique to Elam, however, and indeed is well-known in southern Mesopotamia. However, the alta terrace on the Acropole mound at Susa, for example, is significantly larger que cualquiera de the temple platforms at Eridu o Tell Uqair. An image of it, moreover, may survive on a cylinder seal impression desde finales de los 4 th millennium BC found at Susa.
Ultimately, the founder of the Ur III state (c. 2100 BC), Ur-Namma, would be credited with the ‘invention’ of the most elaborate temple platform yet devised, the ziqqurrat. We know that a ziqqurrat (Elamite zagratume) was built at Susa by Untaš-Napiriša (c. 1340-1300 BC) in the 14th century BC, and one may have already there earlier. Certainly a ziqqurat stood at Susa in the 7th century BC when the site was sacked by Assurbanipal. We know what it looked like because it was depicted on a relief in Room I of Assurbanipal’s palace at Nineveh.
But undoubtedly the most famous example in Iran is the ziqqurat built by Untaš-Napiriša at Choga Zanbil (ancient Al Untaš-Napiriša) where it formed the centerpiece of an architectural complex far more monumental than anything ever seen in Mesopotamia. Dedicated to the tutelary Susian deity Inšušinak, the ziqqurrat of Choga Zanbil was integrated into a vast complex containing temples dedicated to at least eight other deities. These modest structures stood within a vast precinct on a previously uninhabited site, perhaps devoted to the fusion of highland and lowland Elamite religious preferences. A similarly diverse group of deities was worshipped during the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC at Susa. Far from a monoculture, Elam consisted of distinctive sub-regions that, from a religious-historical perspective, may be considered ‘provinces’. While sharing in the worship of numerous deities, some of these provinces seem to have been associated with particular deities that were less popular or not revered elsewhere.
Both the prehistoric high terrace and the later ziqqurat(s) at Susa and Choga Zanbil were visible from a great distance. Their monumentality was expressed both in their sheer size and in the contrast they provided with the surrounding landscape. Each was impressive as a feat of engineering, requiring the mobilization of significant human resources and the production of millions of bricks.

Göbekli Tepe (southeastern Turkey) – Megalithic Sanctuaries of the 10th and 9th Mill. BC

Klaus Schmidt, German Archaeological Institute

Located atop a mountain ridge near the modern town of Sanliurfa in southeastern Turkey, Göbekli Tepe is visible from far away and overlooking the surrounding plains. It belongs to the period when in southeastern Anatolia during the 10th and 9thmillennium calBC – mucho antes que en any other regions del mundo – the transition from hunting and gathering societies to productoras de alimentos early de la aldea farming communities se llevó a cabo. But Göbekli Tepe is not a settlement, it consists of varios megalithic sanctuaries with menhir-like monolithic T-shaped pillars, each pesando varias toneladas. The pillars generalmente are arranged in circles and are connected by walls, which are defining the inner and outer space of the enclosures. In the centre hay siempre dos hugh freestanding pillars. The meaning of the T-shape se puede interpretar easily as anthropomorphic, as some of the pillars have brazos y las manos depicted in flat relief, undoubtly las de humans. The head is represented by the cross of the T-shape, the pillar’s shaft es el cuerpo. Differentiation of sex was evidently not intended. It is also clear that the minimalistic form of representation was intentional, because más o less naturalistic sculptures and reliefs of animals and humans exist. They own probablemente an apotropaic meaning y se colocan on the walls or on the pillars, which offer sufficient proof of the artist’s ability to produce tales obras.
The question of whom the anthropomorphic pillars represent, is essential for the understanding of this nuevo y unexspected iconographical world of the Edad de Piedra. It is possible, that they represent mythical ancestors, o demonios, or even los primeros dioses depicted in a monumental way in the historia de la humanidad. Before the discovery of Göbekli Tepe había una common believe, that the societies de principios of the Neolithic se organizaron en small bands of hunter-gatherers y que las primeras complex religious practices were developed by groups that had ya mastered agriculture. When we look at los nuevos datos coming from the discoveries at Göbekli Tepe, we have no doubt that the amount of tiempo, energía, craftsmanship, and man-power necessary for the construction and maintenance of este sitio is indicative of a complex, hierarchical social organisation and a division of labor involving un gran número de people. Feasting was presumably la razón inmediata for the gathering of hundreds of individuals en el sitio. Seen from this perspective, the emergence of la producción de alimentos in the course of the 10 th and 9th millennium may represent the outcome of a series of innovations and adjustments to the subsistence patterns to meet and secure the energy demands of these large sedentary communities. A major driving force behind the process of plant and animal domestication may have been provided by the spiritual concepts of these peoples, in particular the investment of effort in the materialization of their complex immaterial world – and monumental architecture was an important part of it.

Varieties of National Monumentality: European Capital Cities in Comparative Perspective

Göran Therborn, University of Cambridge

Everywhere, the rise of national capitals, of centres of nation-states, involved important symbolic, iconographic change, expressing the constellation of power and its novel claim to legitimacy. However, the nation-state rose and asserted itself in very different ways, which demanded and/or received different symbolic expressions.
Ruptural or negotiated ways differentiated Parisian and London monumentality. Different priorities of power polarized Brussels and Budapest. Rome and Berlin represented different roads to national unification, Kristiania/Oslo and Prague different paths of secession.
But the European road of nation versus the prince was only one of four major roads to a nation-state. The seceding settler-state of the Americas was a second. It also emerged along different paths, as a comparison of Washington D.C. and, say, Mexico City demonstrates.
The third road to a nation-state with a national capital was the colonial/anticolonial one, involving both an acceptance of colonial discourse, and a rejection of its practice . More often than not, the new national capital was a colonial creation, from Dakar to New Delhi and Batavia/Jakarta. Colonial/anticolonial iconography differed from the European prince-nation problematic, but it did include its variants of negotiation, including collusion, and rupture, as expressed in Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur, in Harare and Dakar.
Fourthly, there were the countries of Reactive Modernization, trying to make it, from above, from dynastic regimes under acute imperialist threat into resilient nation-states. Although many tried –from Khedive Ismaïl in Egypt and Abyssinia to late Joson Korea – Japan was the only unqualified success story. The imperial realm of Japan did nationalize, but symbolically mainly following its non-European tradition of public iconography.
There is a modern political monumentality, which expresses the kind of power existing inside nations and the power of nations in the world. It has to be read and interpreted historically as well as formally and structurally. Nations rose from different contexts and struggles. It is important to recognize the specificity and the limitations of the European way, and its irreducibility to any “Western”, or North Atlantic compression.

The Monumentality of Text

Edmund Thomas, Durham University

Monumentality has generally been understood as a characteristic of physical structures in their own right without taking into account the role of visible writing upon them. Where writing is considered as conferring monumentality, as in the study of structures of the ancient Near East, the physical characteristics of the writing itself are rarely remarked upon. It is only with study of the Italian Renaissance and later periods of architectural history that letters are given their due place within monumental architecture. This paper considers the impact of inscribed writing on Greek and Roman architecture and highlights the contribution of the physical lettering to the status of a monument. What does writing add to a building? Why are some buildings inscribed and others not? Is a building more or less monumental because of the presence or absence of inscribed lettering, and how far do different forms, sizes, and scripts affect the impact of a building as a monument? Does writing define monumentality or merely consolidate it? The analogy of the tomb has suggested that a monument was defined by the text or texts that stood around it. Thus it might be inferred that a building’s monumentality was a function of the writing inscribed upon it. Yet in public and sacred architecture what is today frequently described as ‘monumental writing’ had, by contrast, a humanizing role. After a consideration of a few examples from different sites and of various epochs, the paper concludes that writing can play a central role, not only in conferring monumentality on a building, but also in denying it.

The Perception of Monumentality, a Diachronic Approach: Digital Models of Ancient Egypt

Willeke Wendrich, UCLA

The Karnak Temple Complex in its present state is a sprawling monumental landscape built over a period of over 1500 years. Starting as a small temple in the Middle Kingdom (and perhaps even earlier) Karnak Temple and its priests have been the recipients of royal donations in the form of building projects and agricultural estates which served to maintain the service of its main god Amun-Ra. Throughout history almost every Egyptian king has contributed some architectural elements, from replacing wood and mudbrick structures with stone, to expanding the temple by adding on impressive halls and forecourts. Even Pharaoh Akhenaten, who abolished the cult of Amun-Ra, built his temple to the god Aten immediately East of the major temple in Karnak.
During the continuous construcción y remodelación process the architectural additions of predecessors a menudo se pierde their prominent physical (and undoubtedly también conceptual) positions. Sometimes edificios enteros were oculta a la vista, built en o taken apart and re-used elsewhere in a menos importante place, in some cases ruthlessly buried y usados como the foundations of the nuevos pabellones or court pylons. To understand the temple complex en toda su complexity and las diferentes fases and to visualize what the impression of this temple habría sido worshippers and passers-by a través del tiempo, a Virtual Reality model se ha creado based on published excavation reports. This model enables a deeper understanding , no sólo of the architectural developments, sino también of the many intangible aspects linked to monumental establishments y su uso through time. The VR model proporciona un medio para do a three-dimensional estudio diacrónico of la utilización del espacio. It enables an analysis of the decisiones estratégicas tomadas por priesthood and royalty, in relation to la legitimación del poder. Furthermore, the monument no sólo refleja religious and ritual changes, sino también shifting attitudes hacia la historia, memory and the consideration of the contributions of forbears.

The Fourth IEMA Visiting Scholar Conference

Worlds of Sacrifice:
Exploring the Past and Present of Gifts for the Gods

16-17 April 2011
380 Millard Fillmore Academic Center Ellicott Complex
North Campus University at Buffalo, SUNY
Buffalo, NY 14261

Conference Organizer: Dr. Carrie Murray

Sacrifice is central for many societies—past and present—in cultural, religious, political, and economic terms. The parts, processes, and meanings transform over time and space. Sacrificial practices embody a contradiction of sorts, creating both loss and gain in real and metaphorical terms. Practicing sacrifice is a means of communicating simultaneously with the supernatural and members of a society. The beliefs and performances relate powerfully within each cultural context. Important parameters of social hierarchy determine what is sacrificed, how it is enacted, and by whom it is performed. By investigating the dynamics of how sacrifice is conducted, and the changing views in scholarship related to sacrifice, we can attempt to better understand people of the past and present. The interdisciplinary nature of this conference will bring together scholars from anthropology, archaeology, classics, and religious studies, whose work encompasses the Mediterranean and Northwest Europe. Sacrifice as performance will be discussed by exploring the essential components involved in these practices through material culture, iconography, literary sources, and ethnographic observation. The diverse forms of evidence, cultural contexts, and approaches will allow participants to create new insights on the interpretation of sacrifice within social context.



IEMA Conference 2011
Titles and Abstracts


Session Discussants:

Jan Bremmer (Internationales Kolleg Morphomata, Cologne)
Barbara Kowalzig (Department of Classics, New York University)
Alan Shapiro (Department of Classics, Johns Hopkins University)
L. Vance Watrous (Department of Visual Studies, University at Buffalo)


A View from a Fen— A Critical Perspective on the Concept of Sacrifice in Archaeology

Åsa Berggren (Lund University)

How is the concept of sacrifice used in archaeology? In Scandinavia it has been an accepted category of interpretation for decades, which should be rather unproblematic. But a closer look reveals some problems.
This paper deals with questions concerning theoretical perspectives and archaeological interpretation. The starting point is the use of the concept of sacrifice (or offering) in Scandinavian archaeology, illustrated by prehistoric wetland depositions, especially a case study of a fen at Hindbygården in Malmö in the south of Sweden. The material is mainly dated to a period covering more than three thousand years, from the Late Mesolithic to the Early Bronze Age.
A review of the use of the term sacrifice in anthropology and other academic fields identifies some problematic issues. One important line of criticism concerns the implicit Judeo-Christian values embedded in the concept, which stem from sacrificial theories formulated in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. There is a universal claim regarding the sacrificial concept, but studies show that categorization is unclear, and that the concept includes a greater variety of rituals. The term sacrifice is burdened with a baggage that is not always addressed in archaeological studies.
In a review of the use of the sacrificial concept in Scandinavian archaeology, the arguments that are used to favour an interpretation of wetland deposited artefacts as sacrifices are discussed, and the various meanings the concept of sacrifice is considered to have. Several problematic assumptions, both explicit and implicit, are discovered. For example, sacrifice is often regarded as a universal and is thus taken for granted. Also, the concept of sacrifice is sometimes used as a covering term which may homogenize our understanding of what seem to be rather varying practices.
A hesitation in some recent archaeological studies about using the offering concept could be a sign of an awareness of the problems. The use of the term “ritual deposition” could point us in the direction of a more relevant, general category. But the use of this term warrants an examination of the concept of ritual as well, and is associated with similar problems. It too has been regarded as a universal. Many definitions of ritual are instrumental. They consist of a number of criteria that an action has to meet to be defined as a ritual act. These criteria may include repetition, formalism and durability. Issues that make these definitions problematic have been pointed out, for example, that actions considered ritual by the participants may fall outside of the definition.
Instead practice theory and the concept of ritualization may be used as a starting point. This means that the term sacrifice as a category of interpretation is not used. In fact, the question whether the material is sacrificed or not becomes irrelevant with this perspective. Instead alternative results that may complement or replace the sacrificial category are explored.
What are the consequences of this study? The importance of the theoretical perspective for the result is stressed, as are the possibilities and limitations of the archaeological record and the question of what we think is an acceptable result.


Etruscan Human Sacrifice: The State of Research

Nancy T. de Grummond (Florida State University)

There has been considerable reluctance among scholars to believe in the practice of human sacrifice by the Etruscans. Thus many of the clear references in written sources and in representations have at one time or another been dismissed as not sufficient for determining if the Etruscans did in fact engage in this practice. Recent excavations in the monumental sacred area on the Pian di Civita at Tarquinia by the University of Milan (directed by M. Bonghi Jovino and G. Bagnasco Gianni) have proven that human sacrifice was indeed practiced by the Etruscans, through the discovery of a number of burials in this non-funerary context, of infants, children and adults. Some individuals were demonstrably “marginal” in society, as diseased, foreign or of lower social status. One child, an 8-year old, was decapitated and his feet placed at the base of and underneath a wall, evidently as a foundation deposit. In some cases anthropologists (F. Mallegni and B. Lippi) have been able to reconstruct how the blows were administered. A stone altar, a sacred building, and a ritual deposit of symbols of secular power (an axe, a shield and a lituus trumpet) were all part of the archaeological context in which the killings took place.
Given the clarity of the results at Pian di Civita, it is appropriate to do a review of the rest of the evidence for the practice of human sacrifice by Etruscans and others in early Italy. This presentation assembles literary, archaeological and iconographical evidence to be studied anew with an open mind in order to determine what is most likely to have represented real sacrificial practice as opposed to fictional, exaggerated, symbolic, or mythological matter. Attention will be given also to cases that have been referred to as “not really human sacrifice,” but some other form of killing such as ritual murder or execution. Roman and Celtic ritual acts will be considered as well. As a spectrum of examples is established, questions will be raised as to the purposes of the killings and the nature of the victims and the gods to whom the sacrifices were made.
The conditions of the context of human sacrifice outlined by Jan Bremmer will be examined in relation to the Etruscan material. He noted that such sacrifice is common among agrarian, advanced cultures more than primitive ones; that victims are often marginal figures in society; that there are various purposes the sacrifice may serve; that the gods receiving the sacrifice may be of quite varying status.
The paper concludes with a discussion of conditions that may be found in future excavations at Etruscan sacred sites that could help in identifying human or surrogate sacrifice.


Ancient Greek Laws on Sacrifice

Michael Gargarin (University of Texas, Austin)

Sacrifices in Greece could be private and personal or public and communal. The former involved an individual or family or small group sacrificing a small animal to give thanks, to commemorate a person or event, or to ask for some favor. One might recall Socrates’ famous last words: “we must sacrifice a cock to Asclepius” (the god of healing). Private sacrifices, as far as we know, were left almost entirely unregulated by law.
Public sacrifices were a different matter. These were generally organized by the city with the participation of both public and religious officials (or of officials whose position was both public and religious). Laws concerning public sacrifices were common. Many of them were what we call “sacrificial calendars,” lists of sacrifices at specific times to specific gods. These come from many different places and time periods. One purpose of these lists was probably to guide the officials in charge, including priests, so that they would be sure to conduct all the required sacrifices at the right time and in the right manner. Members of the community might also want to be able to consult a list so as to know when a particular sacrifice would take place.
But the main reason why the city wrote these official lists and displayed them prominently in a public place was, I will argue, financial. The city paid most or all of the cost of most sacrifices – primarily the cost of the animals – and therefore these lists functioned as the official authorization to spend these public funds. One of Lysias’ speeches (30, Against Nicomachus) seems, in essence, to be accusing an official of including too many sacrifices in a revised set of laws published at the end of the fifth century, the complaint being the financial hardship this imposed on the city.
Besides sacrificial calendars, a few laws are devoted to one specific sacrificial occasion or to regulate other aspects of public sacrifices, and these too, I will argue, were enacted because the city had a financial stake in these specific aspects.
My talk will begin by looking at a sample of sacrificial calendars from around the Greek world. I will then look more specifically at the revision of the Athenian sacrificial calendar and at Lysias 30. I will end with a few examples of other sorts of laws regulating sacrifice. My conclusion will be that public sacrifices were as much a civic matter as a sacred ritual, and that it was this civic aspect that led to the enactment of legislation concerning sacrifices.


Understanding the Burial Placement and Reason for Death of Northern European Bog Bodies

Guinevere Granite (University at Buffalo, SUNY, Doctoral Candidate)

Several theories have been posited to explain the use of Northern European bogs as internment sites where bodies have been discovered. The first is a practical one; dead bodies are heavy and awkward to move. Carrying them downhill and submersing them in a bog is easier, can be completed rapidly, and effectively removes the body from view without the need for cremation on a mountain top or underground internment. Other theories are more complex and often involve the conduct of social rituals, such as human sacrifice, to appease various deities at specific times of the year. The circumstances of death associated with such rituals may indicate the need to appease a single deity, or a combination of rituals to appease several deities through the sacrifice of one individual.
Often there is evidence of excessive violence, pre-, peri-, and post-mortem to bog bodies. Such violence may indicate human sacrifice through ritualistic death by strangulation or intentional traumatic injury, such as blunt force trauma or slitting of the throat. Such individuals may vary widely in age and have unique or unusual physical characteristics, such as physical deformities. These individuals often appear to have been treated well by society before death, since there is little evidence of heavy manual labor and often a “well-manicured” appearance. Thus, they may have had high social status without unusual physical characteristics or been regarded as “chosen” by their physical condition for a protected existence during life.
Other bog bodies may have been criminals, foreign scapegoats, or war captives, who were “dehumanized” during their deaths. Their heads are often partially shaven, their limbs often bound in various forms of bondage, and their clothing that is present is of animal fur or leather. Alternatively, the lack of clothing may indicate the disintegration of plant-based clothing, like linen, after internment in the bog. Finally, death may have been accidental by drowning, by suicide by drowning or by natural causes for those who show no signs of violence pre-, peri- or post-mortem.
Because these bodies vary quite widely in presentation and circumstances of placement, it is important to conduct analysis of these remains systematically and impartially and on a case-by-case basis, rather than attempting to group all bog bodies under one theory of explanation. My research involves using x-ray fluorescent spectroscopy to compare the elemental strontium concentration levels of the cranial/post-cranial skeletal bone and the dental remains of twelve bog bodies housed in institutes and museums throughout Northern Europe. By such comparisons, I hope to narrow the theoretical “options” for the bog bodies I will study and to perhaps clarify better whether these individuals were born where they died or migrated to their final internment environment during life. Knowing such information could assist in accepting or rejecting theories of sacrifice due to being war captives or foreign scapegoats, in comparison to being natives chosen by the populace to appease the gods through ritual sacrifice or dying from natural causes.


In What Way Is Christ’s Death a Sacrifice? Theories of Sacrifice and Theologies of the Cross

S. Mark Heim (Andover Newton Theological School)

Christian ideas of sacrifice, rooted in biblical texts and historical theology, stood behind much early modern anthropological theorizing about sacrifice as a feature in human history. But such theories of sacrifice have also been reimported into theology as interpretive frameworks for understanding the Bible and the crucifixion of Jesus. Among contemporary theologians, the subject of atonement, the redemptive meaning of Christ’s death, is much debated. Theologians are torn between two impulses, as one observer has written: “They do not want to reproduce, purely and simply, ancient readings that don’t desacralize violence sufficiently. Neither do they want to suppress the basic texts under an imperative of “demythologizing” that is positivist and naïve, in the manner of Bultmann.” The first impulse leads to radical critique of the passion texts and their frank exile from a central place in Christian understanding. The second leads to their uneasy retention, marked by either an eclectic mix of justifications and interpretations, rote repetition of traditional doctrine or benign avoidance. In using categories from the practice of temple offerings to describe Jesus’ death, early Christians clearly linked it to wider ritual activity in the anthropology of religion. In using categories from narrative portions of Hebrew scriptures to interpret Jesus’ death—notably by likening Jesus to Isaac, Jonah, Daniel and Susanna– these Christians also linked it to social dynamics whose relation with ritual is less obvious. This paper addresses the tension in Christian understandings of the cross, which employ the ritual language of sacrifice in relation to a socio-political event. This tension is reflected in the “stereo” quality of the gospel narratives of the passion, in which differing rationales for the crucifixion compete, and in the reference to the cross as “a sacrifice to end sacrifice,” as well as in the formulations in later tradition of “a bloodless sacrifice” and “a sacrifice of praise.” The paper considers René Girard’s contention that there is an anti-sacrificial biblical reading of the phenomena of scapegoating violence.

Post-domestic Sacrifice: Exploring the present and future of gifts for the gods

Samantha Hurn (University of Wales, Trinity Saint David)

According to Bulliet (2005) the vast majority of ‘Westerners’ now live in a state of postdomesticity. In other words, we no longer have to face the reality of food production processes (i.e. animal death) which in the past were necessary undertakings for anyone who wanted to eat. While anthropologists have thought about sacrifice in a myriad of ways, the ritual elements associated with animal sacrifice amongst, for example, hunter-gatherer peoples were and are often considered necessary to propitiate the spirits of the sacrificial victims themselves. But how have sacrificial rituals (and their victims) fared in the shift from a ‘domestic’ to a ‘postdomestic’ (or from a hunter-gatherer, or pastoralist to an industrial) mode of subsistence? And what place is there for sacrificial ritual in the contemporary ‘Western’ world? Bulliet argues that animal sacrifice was at its height during early domesticity, and as a result its practice has declined to the point that it is all but extinct in the postdomestic world. This paper will attempt to critique such a position, and argue instead that while the practices and victims may have changed beyond recognition, there is a wealth of ethnographic data from a range of cultural contexts which demonstrates that sacrifice, and in particular animal sacrifice, remains central to much human activity. The primary data to be discussed will be drawn from the author’s fieldwork within a rural farming community in west Wales, UK. This is one of the few places left in the UK where small-scale, subsistence agriculture practiced on family-run farms is an economic mainstay, and as a result, is also one of the few places in the UK where overt examples of animal sacrifice can still be observed in, for example, the form of heavily ritualised pest control operations (e.g. hunting with hounds). Making the claim that ritualised hunting outside of a subsistence context constitutes sacrifice may seem far-fetched, yet it will be argued on the basis of extensive fieldwork data that interactions between small scale livestock producers with transgressive, predatory animals such as the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and their own livestock (sheep and chickens) do indeed become sacrificial acts. The ways in which this act of sacrifice is changing as a result of the shift from a domestic to a postdomestic existence will lead into a broader consideration of the ways in which animals are sacrificed in postdomestic ‘Western’ society. In so doing, it will be necessary to examine recent anthropological discussions of sacrifice which consider unexpected victims and recipients. For example, Miller’s ‘Theory of Shopping’, which takes traditional ways of thinking about sacrifice (from the likes of Bataille; Bloch; Girrard; Dettiene & Vernant) and juxtaposes these with ethnographic vignettes of shopping in London, to provide a range of examples of sacrifice in unexpected forms and guises. The paper will conclude by considering how Miller’s theory of shopping as sacrifice can be applied to the ways in which humans interact with other animals in a postdomestic context, to demonstrate that many of these interactions are postdomestic manifestations of the public blood sacrifices of the archaeological and ethnographic record.


Gifts from the gods – A new look at some weapons and vessels from the metal ages

Christoph Huth (Universität Freiburg)

Sacrifice is a form of gift exchange between humans and the supernatural world. Much research has been devoted to the human part of this particular relationship, on the actors involved, the gifts presented to the gods or the sites where sacrifices occurred. While the other-worldly part of this exchange system is necessarily fictional (although not so for the persons involved), little attention has been paid to the possible gifts received from the gods, apart from general aspects like health, wealth and well-being. However, according to ancient mythology, many things belonging to this world ultimately came from the supernatural world, either received as a gift from the gods or sometimes simply stolen by humans.
Sacrificial offerings of animals and foodstuff are notoriously difficult to detect in the archaeological record. Therefore, depositions of metalwork (copper, bronze, iron, rarely gold) rank among the most important relics of religious activities. In recent years an overall interpretation that regards these hoards as gifts to the gods has become very popular. Although very intriguing at a first glance, this theory fails to explain the extraordinary variety of hoards.
In my paper, I will focus on a certain type of deposition of the Copper and early Bronze Age, consisting of weapons (daggers, halberds and axes) made of gold or silver. These weapons obviously did not fulfill any practical purpose. There is strong archaeological and also some literary evidence that these weapons were believed to derive from the supernatural world, received as a gift from the gods. This other-worldly origin made them an extremely powerful means of symbolic action, be it as a sacrificial object, as a highly prestigious gift among social and political communities, or in the liminal sphere between life and death (i.e. as a grave-good). The occurrence of these weapons, always in quantities that exceed the scope of a single person, on statue menhirs of the Copper Age and in early Bronze Age graves (like in Wessex and in Brittany) is tell-tale evidence of the logic according to which the relationship between humans and the supernatural had been constructed and instrumented.
While golden weapons were no longer in use after the end of the early Bronze Age, gifts from the gods reappear in the form of golden and bronze vessels in the late Bronze and early Iron Age. Again they are known from hoards (as single deposits or in multiple sets) and from graves, where they belong to enormous sets of drinking equipment. Pictorial evidence from situla art clearly shows their use in religious rituals, be it for sacrifices (including beverages and incense), as a price for ritual combats and musical competitions, and finally as the most important equipment of the apotheosis of a ruler. In some cases, like on the famous cart from Strettweg, the vessel is shown together with the other-worldly person to whom it originally belongs.
Obviously there was a two-way exchange of gifts between people and the supernatural even on the object level. Regarding the sacrificial gift exchange from the opposite end will hopefully add a new dimension to an old discussion.


Staging Roman Sacrifice

Philip Kiernan (University at Buffalo)

The ritual slaughter of animals played a major role in Roman religion, both at home and in the conquered provinces. The routine killing of animal victims would have been one aspect of native religious systems that was easily understood by the Romans. Though a significant amount of thought has been put into the occasions of Roman sacrifice, as well as artistic representations of sacrifice and the officials involved, very little has been said about the actual mechanics and problems presented by the performance of sacrifices. The best, and least exploited, evidence for the staging and performance of Roman sacrifice consists of archaeological evidence from Rome’s western provinces. When combined with the literary descriptions and artistic representations from Rome and Italy, it is possible to use this provincial evidence to build up a more complete picture of how sacrifice was experienced by participants and spectators. Recently excavated temple sites in the Roman west add a level of detail that might hitherto have been considered unobtainable. Completely excavated temple sites allow us to understand the spatial relationships between temple buildings, altars and other equipment used in sacrifice, the possible locations of active participants and spectators, and the nature of washing and cooking facilities. The study of ceramics, small finds and faunal remains have provided detailed evidence for ritual meals and the disposal of sacrificial waste. On the whole, the archaeological evidence underscores the social role of sacrifice in providing meals for large and small groups, as well as its more obvious function of placating the gods.


The Pervasiveness of Sacrifice in Protohistoric and Historic Greek Society and the Use of Sacrifice in Reinforcing Social Ideology

Thomas G. Palaima (University of Texas, Austin)

It is well known that the primary (non-literary) documentation for Greek ritual practices, especially sacrificial ritual, is not full. In the Mycenaean palatial period  especially, where  we are limited to basic economic documents, our view of sacrificial practices is very limited.  We therefore rely on combinatory methods and inference to establish how pervasive sacrificial ritual was in time and space, especially as it applies to prevailing socio-political ideologies that were vital for cultural stability.
In this paper, I will address the evidence we have from the clay tablet archives in Linear B, supplemented by iconography and from practices in the Homeric epics and in historical Greek culture.  I am especially concerned with sacrificial ritual as an indicator that “all is right” with the power structures in society in place at any given moment. We shall use the Palace of Nestor in the region of Messenia as our chief example, since this palatial center, judging both from the archaeological/iconographical and the epigraphical remains (and from Homeric tradition) seems to have used central rituals of sacrifice and feasting as key elements in establishing and maintaining its relatively new dominance in the region of Messenia.


The Slaughtering of Dog as a Prestigious Animal in the Protohistoric Site of Mas Castellar de Pontós (Empordà – Spain)

Enriquetta Pons Brun (Museu Catalunya, Girona, Spain)

The protohistoric site of Mas Castellar de Pontós is located in the north-east of the Iberian Peninsula. This is an archaeological multi-site with a sequence of occupation from the 7th century B.C. to the early 2nd century B.C. Archaeological works had been carried out from 1990 to the present. The site is comprised of a fortified Iberian settlement (450-350 B.C.), a rural establishment (225-180 B.C.) and a field of silos filled with waste (7th-2nd century B.C.). The site was abandoned shortly after the Roman conquest of the territory around 180-170 B.C.
Among the many archaeological finds recovered from the site, the faunal remains of domestic animals are significant. In particular, the presence of dog remains (Canis familiaris) played an important role at this rural settlement, demonstrating an unusual phenomenon in the Iberian Peninsula. Animal remains from archaeological sites must be evaluated via socio-economic activities, including the production of: meat, raw materials, instruments, and tools; and via socio-political activities including the production of: prestige goods, food for banquets or as offerings in domestic and funerary rituals.
At Iberian settlements, the dog played a marginal role in diet, if we consider the other domestic animal resources available. The dog was also not a dominant fixture in socio-political activities, although canine offerings have been documented in habitat and funerary contexts. Following this point, dog deposits documented in the final period of Mas Castellar (225-180 B.C.) are exceptional.
The spatial distribution of the remains of Canis familiaris was concentrated in certain occupation levels of Hellenistic houses 1 and 2 of the settlement, especially outside the main entrance of the domestic area, in the southern portico, near the adjoining yard. This concentration of remains makes the dog quantitatively the second-most dominant domesticated animal species at the site. The anatomical representation documented, with complete skeletons and conections between elements, the butchery marks, and thermal alterations observed in the bones, indicate that they were slaughtered, burnt, and certainly eaten. These slaughtering events were only occasional, however, and they cannot be related to consumption for subsistence. These contexts also contained the remains of other domestic animals, as well as high concentrations of vessels.
In the domestic part of House 1, which contains a porticoed inner entrance with a yard, the remains of a white Penthelic marble altar with the form of a striated column and Ionic capital (62 cm in height) were found associated with a large central hearth. The upper part of the altar contains cut marks carved with a hard instrument. In this courtyard space, near the door leading to the portico, a small pit with evidence of burning was found, and contained the remains of a dog.
Considerations of the relationship between the events and artefacts surrounding the faunal remains, and of the economic strategy normally implemented at the settlement, have given an insight into the special nature of these remains. The dog associated with House 1 was used as an offering within a ritual of commensality and prestige.


Every Good and Pure Thing: Sacrifice in the Egyptian context

Mary-Ann Pouls Wegner (University of Toronto)

Significant traces of sacrificial activity are preserved in the archaeological and inscriptional record from ancient Egypt. While the evidence of such activity that derives from temple contexts has been studied extensively, however, the data from other kinds of contexts has received far less attention. In a culture in which ordinary people interacted with their deities primarily in the course of processional festivals in which images of the gods were carried out of their dwelling-places in the temple sanctuaries and out into the surrounding villages, the peripheral areas around temple enclosures and the routes of processions that led through the adjacent landscapes form important loci of votive activity by both elite and non-elite sectors of the population. Depositions of material that comprised offerings to the gods within those extra-mural contexts replicate social structures in their spatial patterning and also served as a mechanism for negotiating an individual’s place in society. This paper will examine the evidence relating to patterns in the deposition of material culture associated with sacrifices for the god Osiris as a means for understanding ancient social structures and the role of offerings in the construction of social identity.
Abydos, the cult center of Osiris, provides an excellent site in which to study sacrificial activity as a major component of religious practice at all levels of ancient Egyptian society. Osiris, a god of death and resurrection, became the archetype for post-mortem transformation to which all Egyptians aspired. Accordingly, his ceremonial center developed into a place of pilgrimage as well as royal patronage. An annual festival, in which the death and regeneration of Osiris was re-enacted in the course of a processional festival leading from the deity’s ‘dwelling’ in the temple to his notional ‘tomb’ and back again, provided a venue for interaction with the essential process of transition from this life to the next for individuals from many different socio-economic levels.
Royal bequests to the local temple institution of Osiris included structural elements, statuary, temple furnishings, servants, and perishable foodstuffs. Such gifts are documented archaeologically and inscriptionally within the main temple structure, while the analogous gifts and offerings of elites and subalterns instead concentrate in areas adjacent to the Osiris temple. In those areas, inscribed stone monuments commemorated the divine association of those with sufficient means and document sacrificial activity for the spirits of the deceased, who became embodiments of Osiris after death. Groupings of individuals based on kinship or occupation articulate aspects of the social order, and spatial patterning indicates that elites gained access to the most favored locations closest to the path along which the image of the deity travelled. An often-overlooked element of the iconography of the monuments is the depiction of a small container of standardized shape that was used to hold many different kinds of offerings, including incense, food, and drink. Significant quantities of such vessels have been unearthed in the course of archaeological investigations of temples and tombs in Egypt, although they have generally not been studied systematically. In both the archaeological and inscriptional contexts the vessels function as a signifier for sacrifices of perishable materials that were provided to the deities in return for benefits for both the living and the dead.


Anglo-Saxon non-funerary weapon depositions: a consideration of purpose and meaning

Andrew Reynolds (University College London)

This paper will consider the purpose and meaning of Anglo-Saxon non-funerary weapon depositions between the 5th an 11th centuries AD. While it has long been recognised that the majority of such finds are from so-called ‘watery’ contexts, there has been no detailed study of the material from either a chronological or contextual perspective, and nor has any attempt been made to relate these finds to patterns of deposition observable in a prehistoric or Romano-British setting. The approach taken in the present paper will be to first review the range of situations from which weapons are recovered, and then to explore a series of case studies of war-gear finds from non-funerary contexts. The paper then moves on to consider a range of possible motivations for depositing weapons in ‘watery’ and other places with reference to early medieval written and pictorial evidence before widening the interpretative approach by discussing earlier periods in the British Isles, and yet further by bringing cross-cultural and cross-chronological archaeological and anthropological material into the discussion.
In 5th to 7th century England, weapons are recovered almost exclusively from furnished inhumation graves of a Germanic character. Such material is commonly interpreted as preparation for an ‘afterlife’. A very small number of weapons is known from other contexts during this period, but include finds from hillforts of Iron Age origin. During the 7th century – the period of the conversion of the pagan English to Christianity – the contextual pattern of weapon deposition changes radically to a situation whereby the mass of examples – mostly swords – are found in rivers. Although not from a ‘watery’ setting, the recently discovered later 7th century Staffordshire hoard belongs to the transition period in depositional patterns. There is a marked increase in the practice of placing weapons in rivers from the first Viking Age onwards (i.e. from the late 9th century), while the terminal date for such practice remains to be satisfactorily determined.
How should weapon finds from non-funerary contexts be interpreted? Do they represent sacrificial deposits? Were weapons imbued with personality and thus life histories? Why was water deemed a suitable context for deposition? How were rivers interpreted in early medieval cosmologies? In order to address these questions, a wider comparative approach will be taken which draws upon contemporary and earlier archaeological evidence and on modern anthropology in an attempt to understand the social, ideological and cultural role of weapon ‘sacrifice’ in Anglo-Saxon England and it’s relationship to religious change.


The mythology of Carthaginian child sacrifice: A physical anthropological perspective

Jeffrey H. Schwartz (University of Pittsburgh)

The claims of Kleitarchos and Diodorus of the Carthaginians engaging in ruthless and systematic sacrifice gave rise to the popular saga – as captured in Flaubert’s epic poem, Salammbo – that not only the occasional animal, but also hundreds upon hundreds of young humans met this fate until the end of the Punic Wars in 146 B.C.E. More recently the consonants “mlk”, which are sometimes inscribed on stelae, have been reinterpreted from reference to “God (Malech or Molech)” to “sacrifice”. I challenge this portrayal of the Carthaginians on the basis of study of the largest sample ever of cremated bone-containing urns (348) from the Tophet at Punic Carthage. I demonstrate that c. 50% of the 540 human individuals identified were either prenatal (“unborn”) or did not survive perhaps more than a few postnatal days. Even without considering pathogenic insults to mother or newborn due to poor sanitary conditions, the pre- and post-natal mortality of profile of this sample closely parallels that of modern societies. If we also embrace the likely cultural practice of not recognizing a child as a member society until it reaches a certain minimum age, we might better interpret the Tophet at Carthage, and those at Carthaginian settlements, as a cemetery for the unborn and very young, regardless of cause of death.


The Art of Ancient Greek Sacrifice: HIERA KALA Revisited

Tyler Jo Smith (University of Virginia)

The publication of Folkert Van Straten’s HIERA KALA: Images of Animal Sacrifice in Archaic and Classical Greek in 1995 opened up a new chapter in the study of ancient Greek religion. Cataloguing and discussing some 674 artefacts, the author assembled his vases into ‘broad iconographical groups’ and his votive reliefs ‘according to recipient deities and sanctuaries of provenance’ (193). Using Van Straten as a starting point, this paper revisits the evidence he collected and the manner in which he approached it. It poses an obvious question: twenty-five years on, what has changed with regard to our understanding of the subject? In light of new evidence and alternative methodologies, how has our thinking about the iconography of sacrifice during the 6th-5th centuries BC evolved? The chapters of HIERA KALA are structured both temporally and thematically with regard to the practice of animal sacrifice (there is minimal artistic evidence for human sacrifice). Rather than dividing the material by technique or painter (i.e. for vases), the author carries the reader through three ritual stages: pre-kill, killing, and post-kill. In the case of the first, he is able to further subdivide the archaeological evidence into categories of ‘vase paintings’ and ‘votive offerings’ (pinakes, reliefs, etc), thus following his catalogued data. Though fully integrating abundant textual and epigraphical evidence, the imposed layout of the book calls for careful, sometimes literal, readings of the images themselves. There are frequent attempts to match the written record with the visual one, and to contextualize the images in an ancient mindset: “…it is not wise to try to identify the object by establishing what is looks like to us. We should try to recognize it, taking the visible world as we know it as our frame of reference. The Greek vase painters painted these scenes with their contemporary compatriots in mind. It is their frame of reference we must try to reconstruct” (120). As a result, there are several very clear problems that remain to be addressed. The first concerns the relationship between mythological setting or story and actual real-life cult practice. The second pertains to analysing visual materials relegated to a specific time period or periods in relation to descriptive textual accounts belonging to distant ones. And finally, the difficulty, even impossibility, of matching scenes on vases or reliefs with known contemporary events or documented cults is both problematic and tenuous. It will be suggested here that the time is ripe for a discussion of Greek sacrificial iconography within its broader cultural context. The archaeological setting of votive reliefs and dedications, including those with relevant imagery, might supplement our knowledge of the rites and rituals. The painted vases should also be discussed in light of their shapes, places of manufacture, and archaeological find-spots. In a number of instances, their unified iconographic programs place ‘the art of ancient Greek sacrifice’ directly in conversation with the festival and performance cultures of Archaic and Classical Greece.


The Anthropology of Sacrifice

Phillips Stevens, Jr. (University at Buffalo, SUNY)

As “Sacrifice” is the theme of the 2011 IEMA conference, this is an ideal occasion for a summary overview of what the field of cultural anthropology has had to say about the subject. In the late 19th and early 20th century sacrifice was a popular topic, but in the later 20th century interest in the subject was sporadic, and in the 21st century many discussions of the anthropology of religion omit it entirely. A critical survey of anthropological views on the subject reveals it as a rich source of insight into human psychology and behavior.
“Sacrifice” is considered in its broadest sense, to indicate giving up something valuable, and this discussion will include all offerings from people to any supernatural agencies. This paper briefly reviews and summarizes the main points of many of the various scholars who have made original statements about sacrifice including (in rough chronological order) Robertson Smith, E.B. Tylor, L.H. Morgan, James G. Frazer, Sigmund Freud, Waldemar Jochelson, Emile Durkheim, Henri Hubert and Marcel Mauss, Karl Meuli, Robert Lowie, Max Weber, Kalervo Oberg, E.E. Evans-Pritchard, John Middleton, Melville Herskovits, Raymond Firth, Godfrey Lienhardt, Luc de Huesch, Valerio Valeri, Adolf Jensen, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Jack Glazier, and perhaps others.
The paper considers previously suggested anthropological approaches, such as meaning and purpose. This category includes three perspectives identified by Tylor, all which look at sacrifice as economic exchange: indemnifying gift, homage, and abnegation. Other theoretical categories are social obligation, as in kinship; expiation; communication between people and supernatural agencies; correction of the composition or disposition of the supernatural, or its distance from people; or realignment of the natural order. Sacrifice has been explained by function, similar to standard functions of religion and ritual — like Durkheim’s means of elevating profane to sacred, the social function of the communal meal identified by Smith and many others, the psychological function of relief, and giving participants a sense of control. Focusing on the object being offered, anthropologists have identified apparent symbolism – e.g. of blood — and breadth of representation; and have seen correlation between the offered material and aspects of subsistence. Studies of sacrifice have focused on role and status of the performer, and the ritual as means of negotiating status.
The paper also includes discussion of other less widely-recognized aspects of sacrifice, including various instances of self-sacrifice, from severing a finger joint among vision seekers of the Plains, to Semai throwing their own blood into a raging thunderstorm, to the Crucifixion and Eucharist of Christianity. The paper concludes with three observations which the author suggests have been overlooked: 1) sacrifice is both a ritual and part of larger ritual; and “first fruits” offerings must be included in the discussion, especially as they can contradict general statements about what is sacrificed by whom (e.g., wild animals are not selected for offerings). 2) The ideology of human sacrifice needs deeper examination, which will reveal that it has been subject to the same sort of assumptions about “primitive” society as cannibalism — it is far less common than assumed, and even striking cases like the Aztecs were exaggerated by Spanish reporters. The idea of human sacrifice is culturally very widespread, as it logically represents the ultimate gift available to people. Ethnology reveals that it may be frequent in myth, but that divine intervention similar to the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis (22) put an end to it. The idea lives on in the element of “ritual murder,” especially ritual infanticide, ascribed to witches and other dangerous beings, and feared Others, both real and imagined, right up to Satanists of the late 20th century. And 3) it is perhaps universal in traditional society that people are interconnected with everything else in nature; hence an important aspect of ritual, including sacrifice, is people’s sense that they must do their part to keep natural cycles going. Whatever else it is, sacrifice is always a return of life to its source and the resultant regeneration of that source.


Sacrificing the Sign: The Alphabet as an Offering in Ancient Israel

Roger Woodard (University at Buffalo, SUNY)



Human sacrifices as crisis management? The case of the early Neolithic site of Herxheim, Palatinate, Germany

Andrea Zeeb-Lanz (Generaldirektion Kulturelles Erbe Rheinland-Pfalz, Speyer)

The pit enclosure of Herxheim in the South of Germany has yielded the shattered remains of more than 500 human individuals which obviously must have been sacrificed here in a very special way. The site presents a unique situation for the whole of the Bandkeramik culture which spread between 5600 and 4950 BC from the Paris Basin to the Black Sea. The skeletons of the dead are mostly smashed into rather small fragments whereas the heads received a special treatment leaving only the skull caps intact. The number of individuals can only be estimated by counting the skulls and skull caps, as reconstructions of whole skeletons are out of the question not least due to many missing parts of the bodies. The remains of the dead were mixed with high quality decorated pottery, which was also deposited in the pits of the enclosure after having been smashed intentionally, as well as shattered stone tools and grinding stones. The concentrations of human bones, pottery, stone tools and grinding stones were replenished with animal bones, bone tools and jewelry made from teeth, shells and limestone.
Following the pottery chronology the rituals in which the individuals were killed, systematically butchered and their bones then destroyed must have taken place in a very short time span in the last phase of the Bandkeramik culture (between 5000 and 4950 BC). The large number of individuals and the variation in age and sex forbids the idea of natural deaths – these people must have been sacrificed, which can also be inferred from the nature of the artefacts included with the human remains. The normative and systematic treatment of the bodies suggests cannibalism as a possible part of the ritual, albeit this can not be proved definitely.
The decorated pottery, which is abundant and of extraordinary quality concerning the workmanship as well as ornamentation, also plays an important role in the interpretation of the whole scenery. The vases belong to at least nine different regional decorative styles, some of them originating as far away as 400 km from Herxheim. This seems to hint to either many different communities which took part in the strange rituals or it may indicate that prisoners were taken in long distance raids.
The site of Herxheim dates to the very end of the Bandkeramik culture which disappears suddenly – at least in its southwest distribution area. This fact leads to the hypothesis that the dead of Herxheim were intentionally killed, in very violent ceremonies which also included the smashing and destroying of artefacts, as part of a sacrifice attempting to perhaps pacify the gods and change the impending doom of the whole culture. This theory involves different variations concerning the nature of these sacrifices – the killed persons may have been prisoners of war as well as slaves or perhaps even selected volunteers from each of the communities that may have participated in these strange and miraculous rituals which seem to be unique in European Prehistory.

The Third IEMA Visiting Scholar Spring Conference

IEMA Visiting Scholar Conference Schedule

April 24 and 25, 2010


 The history of childhood is a nightmare from which we have only recently begun to awaken.” (Lloyd De Mause)

Children existed in ancient times as active participants in societies they lived and cultures they belonged to. Hence, without any question they are represented in archaeological contexts whether archaeologists can explore them or not. However, in many current archaeological discourses children are almost completely missing despite their various roles in their cultures and in spite of their large percentage in the demographic composition of ancient societies. Possibly because the notion of childhood is commonly a biological and social construct and because of specializations in disciplines children have been either studied from a mere biological perspective in archaeology or from a social perspective in anthropology. Social and biological approaches were combined only within a few studies. To remedy this, the IEMA Conference herewith proposing an interdisciplinary platform focusing on the notion of childhood from an archaeological perspective.  Whatever the real reason(s) for missing children in archaeology we need to move beyond the present situation by “materializing” children in prehistory, and we should discuss how we can address this lacuna and fill it in. As a matter of fact, archaeological records provide substantial material to explore childhood in some degree so that archaeologists are encouraged to use this opportunity and create a think-tank altogether.

This conference aims to instigate inter-disciplinary dialogues on notion of childhood and children and to develop theoretical and methodological approaches to analyze the archaeological record in order to explore and understand children and their role in formation of past cultures.  Speakers and discussants will consider how notion of childhood can be expressed in artifacts and material record and examine how it is described in literary and historical sources of people from different regions and cultures. A mutual benefit will result from collaboration of archaeologists with scholars from other disciplines, more specifically those from in the field of cultural and physical anthropology, ethnography, history, psychology, art history, geoarchaeology, genetic studies, and isotope analysis. Perhaps we never will be able to reconstruct what childhood was really like in the past but we can certainly bring abandoned children back into archaeological thinking and research, and correct archaeologists’ erroneous and gender-biased interpretations.


Conference Speakers

Where Are the Children? Using Geoarchaeology to Explore Childhood and Family Life

Trina Arpin, Boston University

Part of integrating children into the archaeological record is identifying not only who they were and what they did but also where they did it. This requires a much firmer understanding of the use of space in and around houses (and indeed throughout the entire site/village and the surrounding area). While geoarchaeology has been used to address broad landscape issues, it can also address much finer-scale questions of site formation, including the anthropogenic contributions/components to both different areas and specific layers. Multiple lines of inquiry have been employed in these fine-grained site formation studies: microartifacts, chemical analysis, phytoliths, micromorphology, etc. Underlying all such studies is a need to understand the deposit (both its formation and alteration) and a need to link the characteristics of the deposits (from grain-size distribution to phytolith types and counts). These studies have identified activities/activity areas such as cooking, grain preparation and grinding, garbage disposal, woodworking, sweeping, and sleeping. But the results are of limited applicability both because cultures engage in different activities and because changes in the geology, and thus the sedimentology, of different areas can affect the signal activities produce. Numerous studies have approached the problem of linking the characteristics of deposits to activities through both ethnoarchaeological and experimental means, including by studying deposits from living history museums.

The results as well as the possibilities and limits of this approach are reviewed in this paper. Also presented are the results of work undertaken at several sites in and around the Jordan River Valley. Analysis of sediment samples from both provide an example of the possibilities of this approach for understanding domestic deposits at other village sites. By sampling deposits from both interior and exterior deposits, this research aims to identify (or at least explore) the links between activities and their geoarchaeological signatures. By better understanding the formation of specific deposits within residential sites, we can hope to better identify the activities of all family members, both children and adults.

Children of the Ice Age

Paul G. Bahn, London

In studying children during the last Ice Age around the world — but primarily in Eurasia, where the evidence is most plentiful and varied — there are four major categories of evidence to consider:  firstly, their burials and skeletal remains, as well as accompanying grave goods; for example, it is ironic that the oily Ice Age burial we have for the whole of the Iberian peninsula is that of a small child, at Lagar Velho, Portugal. Secondly, the traces they have left in caves such as hand stencils, fingermarkings and footprints — a great deal of research has been done on this in recent years. Thirdly, certain artifacts which could conceivably be interpreted as toys, or drawings made by children — although it is, of course, difficult to decide between children or untalented adults as the makers of such images. And finally, of course, actual depictions of recognisable children.  The latter category is rare but does exist, although the interpretation of some images is debatable. The paper will assess each of these categories in turn, and show that the wealth associated with some children suggests status that was inherited rather than achieved.

The Devil’s Advocate or Our Worst Case Scenario: The Archaeology of Childhood without any Children

Jane Eva Baxter, DePaul University

The question of the archaeological (in)visibility of children is very much tied to the ways we as scholars choose situate our understanding of children and childhood in our research.  Scholarship on the archaeology of children and childhood has made some of its greatest inroads into archaeological conversations through the broader conduits of gender and identity.  Engaging with these broader themes and interests has shaped much of the current research on children and the archaeological record.  Research on particular cultural constructions of children and childhood and the resulting material expressions of these identities is a marked departure from some of the earliest work on children and the archaeological record, which emphasized the archaeological visibility of children through material markers of physiological and cognitive development.  The purpose of this paper is not to offer yet another discussion around nature versus nurture, nor is it to rehash critiques of western perspectives of a universal, biological childhood, but rather it is to explore the varying ways we as archaeologists may move fluidly between multiple understandings of children and childhood to increase the likelihood of their archaeological visibility.  The case study of 17th century New England will be used to enrich this discussion, as this period is well documented and researched as a period where children and childhood “did not exist” as cultural categories of identity.

Children in the Anthropomorphic Imagery of the European and Near Eastern Neolithic

Peter F. Biehl, SUNY Buffalo

 This paper discusses how studying visual representations of the human body can aid us in understanding identity and personhood in the past. The paper looks at anthropomorphism and miniaturization as well as embodiment in order to better understand why images of children were so rare in the anthropomorphic imagery of the European and Near Eastern Neolithic. It will scrutinize corporeal, ideational and symbolic attributes of the visual body and contextualize anthropomorphic imagery with other materializations of identity and personhood in the archaeological record.

Where Have all the Children Gone in Hunter-gatherers’ Cosmologies? A Relational Perspective on Hunter-gatherers’ “Children” as Phenomena and Concept

Nurit Bird-David, Haifa University

In my presentation, I seek to redress and complicate the child-focused hunter-gatherer research that has come to age since Lillehammer’s landmark article “A Child is Born” (1989). Scholarship over the last two decades has contributed to making children visible in the ethnographic and archeological fields, conceptually and methodologically, both by studying them in their own right, and by cautioning against modernist Euro-centric biases that had previously contributed to their neglect. In this presentation, I point to the limits of addressing hunter-gatherers’ children as a separate category and class, drawing attention to the large-scale biases which are involved in studying children in very small-scale hunter-gatherer societies in this way. Instead, continuing from my early work (Bird-David 2005, 2008), I promote a relational perspective that focuses on how children engage and live together with other members of their community. This perspective, I suggest, is in closer harmony with their own indigenous cultural parent-child notions. Observing that, by and large, only adult male- and female- beings figure in hunter-gatherers’ cosmologies, I ask (paraphrasing Kamp 2001): Where have all the children gone in hunter-gatherers’ cosmologies? Rather than arguing that hunter-gatherers themselves are oblivious to children in the supernatural realm, I show how a relational parent-child perspective can explain this riddle.

Placing Children in Society: Using Ancient DNA to Identify Sex and Kinship of Child Skeletal Remains, and Implications for Gender and Social Organisation

Keri Brown, University of Manchester

Child skeletal remains, where they survive, can be aged via their dentition, but little else of interest to archaeologists can be ascertained. The biological sex of child skeletons is notoriously difficult to identify, as these individuals have not passed through puberty when the diagnostic changes to the adult skeleton take place. It is also impossible to identify kinship from skeletal remains, as the genetic inheritance of non-metric traits are not clear cut, and in any case some of these traits may have environmental or adaptive origins. So archaeological children have no biological sex and no kin – they are indeed orphans of the archaeological record. Yet biological sex is of huge importance in gender construction and gender roles in society, as gender and sex have a very high correlation with each other (although not one to one). Kinship can determine status, inheritance of wealth, and therefore one’s place in a society. Can this vital information be retrieved from child skeletons at all?

For the last 25 years, ancient DNA recovered from archaeological material, animal, plant and human, has been making a steadily increasing contribution to our understanding of the past. It is now possible to use ancient DNA from human skeletal material to identify sex and kinship within a burial group, and hence gain insights into that particular society. However the problems of ancient DNA survival and the constant threat of contamination with modern human DNA (not to mention the cost of analysis) means that ancient DNA is not yet routinely applied to all ancient human remains. It is also now known that the identification of biological sex via DNA is not straightforward, as many intermediate conditions exist, which may have given rise to ‘third genders’ in tolerant societies. There are not just two biological sexes in humans – so how would this affect children in the past and their categorisation at birth, when even today 1 in 4000 live births in the UK cannot be categorised due to ambiguous genitalia?

In my paper I wish to illustrate the potential for ancient DNA to add to our knowledge of children in the past. Case studies will involve the identification of biological sex, sex selective infanticide and social organisation of prehistoric burial groups. If ancient DNA is to become routine in archaeology, excavators should become aware of sampling strategies in the field and take precautions against contamination, and I will discuss these also. New technology means that the potential of ancient DNA in archaeology is at a crucial stage, but the input of archaeologists will be vital in maintaining the archaeological context of biomolecular research.

“Tophets”: The Problem of Phoenician Infant Cremation Cemeteries in the Ancient Mediterranean

Joseph Greene, Semitic Museum, Harvard University

Phoenician infant cremation cemeteries, well known from Carthage and other Phoenician settlements in the Mediterranean, are often referred to as “tophets,” (following Biblical usage) in accord with the interpretation that these cemeteries are evidence that the Phoenicians practiced child sacrifice.

The archaeological and epigraphic evidence adduced to support these accusations is, however, open to interpretation.  Phoenician urn burial cemeteries have been excavated at Carthage and at Phoenician settlement on Sicily and Sardinia.  Tophets are also known from Amathus on Cyprus and Tyre in the Phoenician homeland.  In these locations tophet urns have been found to contain the charred remains of children apparently cremated as described in the written sources, but nothing about the bones betrays how or why the victims died.  Typically the urns contain a rich assortment of amulets in a variety of materials—glass, amber, ivory, precious metals, faience, etc..  Elaborate inscribed funerary stelae often set up to mark the burials mention vows to Phoenician deities, Tanit and Baal Hammon; but none of the inscriptions explicitly mention child sacrifice.  Lacking also is any connected account of Phoenician religion from the Phoenicians themselves, a Phoenician “Bible,” so to speak.  On the other hand, ancient authors—the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah, Graeco-Roman historians like Kleitarchos, Diodorus, and Plutarch, and, later, Church Fathers like Tertullian—all condemn the Phoenicians for the practice of child sacrifice.  But the modern interpretation of the historical and archaeological evidence is sharply debated.

What is not debated is the highly specialized nature of these Phoenician infant cremation cemeteries.  They represent concentrated deposits of valuable resources devoted to the internment of infants, quite surprisingly in light of the comparative evidence from contemporary cultures, where infant burials are rare and rarely lavish.  The Phoenician practice therefore requires explanation, even if the charge of human sacrifice cannot be sustained.

Going Blind: A Sightless Approach for Young Subjects

Scott Hutson, University of Kentucky

The question of whether children are visible or invisible follows previous questions about whether women, kinship systems or even sexuality are archaeologically visible. Indeed, visibility is the central metaphor for considering the archaeological record. However, the notion of visibility often brings with it an undesired ontological position in which the agent that sees is an active subject and that which is seen becomes a passive object. “Seeing” children therefore runs the risk of rendering them as static objects. Alternative senses, such as hearing (for example: “can we hear the voices of ancient children?”), introduce some of their own problems. In this paper, I approach young people in the ancient past from a relational perspective that blends objectivity and subjectivity. In this approach, children incorporate built environments into their sense of self by dwelling in them and creating their place in the world through them. Winston Churchill stated that “we shape our buildings and they shape us.” In this process of mutual construction, childhood is critical. Lived space shapes children’s sensibilities and, roughly following these sensibilities, children will later grow up to produce and reproduce these spaces and the social conventions surrounding them. To undertake an analysis of this in the past, we do not need to “see” direct signatures of children in the past. However, the process of becoming a subject can in fact be most visible in children’s art. In this paper, I take these approaches, which I first deployed in the Maya area, and demonstrate their usefulness at in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic in the Levant.

Object Lessons:  Theory and Application for an Archaeology of Children’s Play

Karen Johnson, Detroit

Play is a protean concept with a deep evolutionary history and it is an activity emblematic of childhood.  Thus in the endeavor of understanding children in the past, it is worth examining the material culture of play activities in the attempt to understand how evidence for play may be borne out archaeologically.  The discussion here will be focused on objects of play, but the categorization of artifacts is a notoriously difficult task.  Often the most secure identifications have been built upon a convergence of evidence; such as with objects also described in texts, representations of children also depicting the accoutrements of childhood, or artifacts found in the context of child burials.  Artifacts of children’s play stemming from urban and domestic settings—sometimes without this corroborating evidence—remain, however, understudied.

This paper focuses on the site of Karanis, a town in the Fayum oasis of Egypt whose Roman occupation spanned the first through fourth centuries C.E.  University of Michigan archaeologists excavating the site in the 1920s and 1930s uncovered a settlement supporting perhaps 2500 inhabitants at its largest, as well as thousands of artifacts attesting to daily life.  The analysis here concentrates on approximately 100 of these artifacts commonly perceived to be items designed for children’s play activities, such as wooden pull-toys and tops.  Such objects can be said to speak to a distinct notion of childhood; namely, childhood as a time of leisure.  By mapping out the frequency and distributions of these artifacts across the different occupation horizons, it is possible to discuss how widespread this particular concept of childhood was at Karanis and how such a concept likely represents just one among many shared by the inhabitants of the town.  Furthermore, it is possible to examine the physical features of the playthings and to link them up with cognitive developmental patterns and milestones.  All of this demonstrates that children’s play, while remaining a fluid activity, offers material correlates that can avail themselves to archaeological study and interpretation.

Making Children Legitimate: Negotiating the Place of Children and Childhoods in Archaeological Theory

Kathryn Kamp, Grinnell College

Until the 1970s with the rise of interest in individual artisans and the advent of gender archaeology, archaeologists tended not to attempt to identify the personal characteristics of the actors responsible for the archaeological remains they studied. However, they often implicitly assumed that adult males were the primary actors. Today, gender is seen as a legitimate, even necessary, focus of discussion, but adult is still the default and children are neglected.  Nevertheless, given the high proportion of sub-adults in many of the societies studied by archaeologists and the proficiency of children at many tasks, it is really no more speculative to posit that children were responsible for many artifacts or artifact distributions than to say that adults were.  For the archaeology of children to fully come of age as necessary and legitimate, those of us interested in the subject must demonstrate both the centrality of children to the functioning of society and a range of credible methods for studying children.  “Finding” children requires the innovative use of method and theory as well as a reflective consideration of the aspects of children and childhoods being investigated. Archaeologists must consciously differentiate between several possible perspectives, including the possibly idealized views of the society being studied, a description the “average” child’s activities, and variability in the actual life experiences of individual children.   A number of possible methodologies will be evaluated and discussed in light of these issues.

The Ends and Means of Childhood: Methods for an Archaeology of Children in Early Greece

Susan Langdon, University of Missouri

The Early Iron Age in Greece was a period of escalating political and cultural development. Between 1000 and 700 BCE Greek society underwent a major shift from post-palatial recession to incipient classical culture. This transformation is usually viewed through the lens of the changing role of “big men” or chieftains and followers within a culture defined by a warrior ethos. Reconstructing social structures in this period presents the challenges of any prehistoric or “dark age” culture. Material remains are relatively sparse and poorly preserved, archaeological evidence is skewed to the ritual contexts of sanctuaries and cemeteries, settlements are underexplored, and texts are few and problematic. Investigating the construction of childhood boosts the challenge to an even higher level. As our program underscores, only an interdisciplinary approach can provide the strands of evidence that make it possible to investigate not just the presence of children, but the ideologies and realities surrounding their social existence. In this quest early Greece is luckier than many research areas. Not only are graves reasonably well documented at several sites, but there is a growing iconographic tradition in the ninth and eighth centuries BCE of decorated goods used in both funerary and sanctuary settings. The intersecting strands of osteology, mortuary assemblages, and iconography can be woven into a richly nuanced pattern.

Focusing on female children in particular, I organize my discussion in two parts. First, burial patterns among some 600 graves in Athens suggest that graves of infants and children can be connected with patterns of early urban development. Underrepresented in adult cemeteries from the tenth to early eighth centuries, their growing inclusion in community cemeteries suggests the young were gaining new symbolic status as members of the emerging city-state. The grave assemblages of these children relate in a significant way to the phenomenon of the rich female grave in Early Iron Age Attica: not only are the richest female graves more lavish than the wealthiest male graves, but female graves average more goods than male. Female children constitute a discrete subset of these rich burials, with an exclusive set of objects and symbols, including granary models, fine and handmade pottery types, jewelry, and figurines. These special items correlate with the second part of my study, an examination of the iconography on objects from sanctuaries as well as graves that can be connected with young girls. Figural decoration on eighth century pottery and jewelry create a vocabulary of animals, body ornamentation, gendered activities, and mythic reference. Together the symbolic grave goods and figural codes construct a discourse of feminine purity and ideal behavior that prepared female children for their roles in the nascent city-state and set them apart from the ideological constructions surrounding male representation.

Metaphors for Understanding Children and Education

Jack Meacham, SUNY Buffalo

Descriptions and explanations of how children develop and their involvement in the transmission and evolution of cultures have been organized into numerous theories.  These developmental theories commonly include consideration of causes, determinants, factors, or influences in development.  Typically, only two categories of causes are considered:  heredity, nature, biology, or maturation, on the one hand; and environment, nurture, or culture (including socialization and education), on the other.  Parents, teachers, and child development professionals, however, frequently note the importance of children’s actions in furthering their own development.  Accepting the proposition that action, along with heredity and environment, is a third cause of children’s development raises significant questions regarding the nature of children’s actions and their interaction with heredity and environment.  The numerous developmental theories can be organized on the basis of their similarities and differences into a small number of groups or families of theories, each of which implicitly draws upon one of four primary metaphors:  the metaphors of essence, organism, machine, and historical context.  These primary metaphors imply important differences in how heredity, environment, and action influence children’s development.  These four metaphors also lead, respectively, to understanding children in terms of their intrinsic qualities, general properties of living systems, their behavioral repertoires, or their interpretations of events in their lives.  Furthermore, these four metaphors readily align with common descriptions of processes engaged in by parents, teachers, and communities for educating children.  These four approaches to education can be contrasted as, respectively, drawing forth, providing conditions for growth, instructing, and encouraging creativity.  The survival of a culture depends on the faithful assimilation, through education, of its core beliefs and practices by the next generation.  And the adaptive evolution of a culture depends on permitting and even encouraging children, through education, to be open-minded and innovative in constructing solutions to environmental, technological, demographic, and other challenges.  In short, the survival and evolution of cultures requires that they be both stable and flexible, that they both resist change and encourage change.  And so the education of children should provide a balance between cultural transmission, on the one hand, and openness to changes in cultural beliefs and practices, on the other.  Some of the four metaphors direct our attention towards stability and transmission of culture; others direct our attention more towards human creativity and the possibilities for cultural change.  If we fail to distinguish among these four metaphors as we seek to understand children, then we will not be speaking, writing, and communicating clearly.  Our challenge is to know in each instance which metaphor has been adopted and so which meanings of children, action, education, and culture are intended.

The Sacred Nature of Play: Evidence of Children in Household Ritual Performancesat Neolithic Çatalhöyük? A Native American Perspective

Sharon Moses, Cornell University

This paper is an examination of evidence that suggests children may have learned household ritual behaviors through participation, play, or mimicry, of adult ritual behaviors at the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük.  This settlement was located on the Konya Plain in south central Turkey, and dates back to 7400-6200 cal BC; at one time its population is estimated to have been between 3,500-8,000 people (Hodder & Cessford 2004).  The site was discovered in the first half of the 1960s and was labeled a “goddess cult” society based upon initial interpretations of its wall paintings and moldings, intramural burials, and figurines. Since renewed excavations began in the 1990s to present, new evidence has emerged that challenge these earlier interpretations. I argue that children should be considered as more central to concepts of the sacred, in creating and maintaining sacred spaces, and most notably, in an oral tradition community like Çatalhöyük, which presents abundant evidence of ritual in everyday life, children would have been key to perpetuation of these rituals at the household level.

Drawing from Native American ethnographic and historic models and the author’s own Native American cultural background, this paper hopes to show that children would have behaved in ways consistent with a visually-oriented society’s methods for instilling respect and knowledge of sacred myths and beliefs.  In fact, household level ritual participation would have been central to configuring a sense of identity in family members and particularly its children, not only in creating bonds within the immediate family, but also to the wider community with whom they shared a basic ideology.

Furthermore, most indigenous methods of teaching include experiential rather than purely observational ways of learning.  This paper hopes to lend renewed interest in previously overlooked evidence that can be found in similar sites and by doing so, adding a new dimension to interpretation and the importance of considering children in the archaeological record.

Grown up – Adult Height Dimorphism as an Archive of Living Conditions of Boys and Girls in Prehistory

Eva Rosenstock, Free University of Berlin

Children’s burials are an excellent source for both the archaeology and physical anthropology of childhood. The information they provide, however, is only part of the picture: while the biological age can be assessed very precisely, the determination of sex is difficult for infants unless costly aDNA-analyses can be performed. This is why gender- and sex-related questions can so far hardly be solved for prehistoric times. Moreover, children’s burials represent only those individuals who did not survive their childhood and thus are to be regarded as a biased sample.

Adult burials, on the other hand, not only represent the survivors and thus complement our sample. Adult skeletal remains also preserve a variety of physical information on living conditions during childhood and youth, because the growth of bony structures only lasts until the fusion of the dia- and epiphyses at the end of the juvenile age. Some of this information, such as enamel hypoplasia, is precisely datable within an individual’s childhood, while other, such as body height, represents the net nutrition over the whole childhood and youth of an individual.

Drawing on the concepts of biological standard of living and anthropometric history developed in the field of economic history, this paper examines the value of adult skeletons as an archive of prehistoric childhood and youth in a long-term perspective from the Palaeolithic up to ca. 1000 BC using multivariate models. Special attention is paid to the fact that adult skeletons can be easily sexed using morphological criteria, thus enabling to explore possible sex- and gender-differentiations in childcare and –nutrition as reflected in body height dimorphism.

Growing up on a Bronze Age Tell

Joanna Sofaer, University of Southampton

This paper explores what it meant to grow up on the Bronze Age tell of Százhalombatta, Hungary. During the Early and Middle Bronze Age, changes in pottery forms and in the location of pits led to shifts in the use of space in houses on the tell. These changes imply altered developmental experiences for the people of Százhalombatta which can, in turn, be related to shifts in social identity over the life course

The Children’s Cemetery of Lugnano in Teverina, Umbria: Hierarchy, Magic and


David Soren, University of Arizona

Throughout classical antiquity infant cemeteries existed to provide a means of disposing of unwanted children or dealing with victims of disease.  It is therefore important, when archaeologists excavate a children’s cemetery (or any cemetery), to consider whether the cemetery is normal or abnormal in order to understand why the children were buried as they were. A normal cemetery contains bodies placed one at a time or occasionally in paired groups when, perhaps, stillborn twins die. Such a cemetery grows horizontally (the more typical way most cemeteries expand) as more bodies are interred.

But an abnormal cemetery may contain features that are unexpected. These include vertical depositions or placing of bodies in groups one above the other. These cemeteries may take advantage of abandoned areas, filling up pits and disposing of infants in a rapid manner. In order to investigate such cemeteries certain criteria should be developed and certain questions asked.

These include the following questions to which we will posit a number of possible answers. When these questions are asked and answered they can help to determine if the cemetery is normal or abnormal and can also help to identify why the burials were made.  Thus, archaeologists must pay attention to these considerations:

1- What is the stratigraphy of the cemetery and does it have a horizontal

or a vertical emphasis in the depositions of the infants?

2- Is there evidence of mass burials and if so how are the bodies grouped?

3- Is the material culture found consistent with one period of time or with

a lapse of time and what is the nature of the burial goods?

4- What is the palynological evidence and what are its social implications?

5- What conditions do the preserved bones display?

6- What animal bones are present and where and how are they placed?

7- Is there evidence of ritual or magic in the tomb or tomb area?

8-  How does the known history of the area support the archaeological finds?

9- Are their parallels for the evidence found in the cemetery at other sites?

10- Is there evidence of an ancient disease or epidemic?

11- Based on the above, what conclusions may be reached about the nature of

the cemetery?

These conclusions were developed during the excavation of Italy’s largest known infant cemetery, found in 1988 in Lugnano in Teverina, Italy.  Sometime in the mid-fifth century rooms in the northwest area of  the ruins of a large Roman villa were reused as an infant cemetery. In areas sheltered by the remains of fallen vaults on the west side of the villa in rooms which had formerly served as storage magazines, the skeletons of 47 infants were unearthed in 41 single and multiple burials. The infants ranged in age from premature fetuses to two to three years, but most (40) were premature to newborn. Some of the older infants had been buried in reused amphorae, jars once used for the storage of wine or foodstuffs. Others were interred on roof tiles or in simple tombs made of tiles. Skeletons of premature infants found in two southern rooms which overlap a refuse dump were found disarticulated and scattered indicating they had been buried with little ceremony. The site of Lugnano in Teverina became a typesite for forensic and parasitological studies made at the University of Manchester and the University of Arizona, resulting in the extraction of the oldest DNA evidence for an epidemic of Plasmodium falciparum malaria known.

The Age of Consent:  Children and Sexuality in Ancient Greece and Rome

Jeannine Diddle Uzzi, University of Southern Maine

In November 2009, at the Arachne Conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, I showed an image of a captive, non-Roman child from the so-called Clementia Sarcophagus (DAI 93.VAT.13) and asked, among other things, whether that image might have been an object of sexual interest for the Roman viewer.  My question sparked heated discussion, and some members of the audience insisted that such an interpretation was impossible, ridiculous, and informed by what they characterized as the sexual depravity of the modern world.  Indeed, it is troubling for the modern mind to consider a child’s body, rife with its potential for growth and change and so often held innocent and inviolable, an object of sexual interest; however, there is ample evidence, both literary and archaeological, compelling us to ask just such a difficult and uncomfortable question.

In addition to the Clementia Sarcophagus and similar images of conquest from the reign of Marcus Aurelius, there are a number of reliefs from Greece and Rome on which children’s bodies are displayed for the viewer; what is more, the most puzzling of these inhabit the most well-known and oft-studied monuments from Athens and Rome, respectively: the Parthenon and the Ara Pacis.  These images are difficult to reconcile with modern assumptions about sexuality and the concept of consent, to which any notion of childhood, the very thing this conference attempts to unearth, is inextricably linked.  Within their ancient contexts, children inhabit a sexual grey area.  Research into homoeroticism and pederasty in classical Athens blazed the trail for those interested in the age of consent in the ancient world: scholars now accept the fact that young boys were objects of sexual interest for Athenian men. We know that in ancient Greece and Rome girls were often married at or shortly after the onset of puberty.  Cicero and Sallust report that in times of war, the Romans feared the sexual violation of their own children.  Finally, lest we divorce ourselves too comfortably from the conversation, let us remember that not even the United States and Canada agree on the legal age of consent for adolescent males.

Using the work of Michel Foucault, David Halperin, Martha Nussbaum, and John Younger, among others, I will explore the age of consent via sculptural reliefs from the ancient world.  The Column of Marcus Aurelius and sarcophagi of the same period, in particular, invite the Roman audience to view images of non-Roman captives as a modern audience might view the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition or, to give a nod to local culture, the “Bachelor Lobstermen of Maine Calendar.”  Non-Roman children are depicted frontally or with bare buttocks, often with clothing sliding from their shoulders, non-Roman women have bare breasts and billowing hair, and non-Roman men are shown completely nude from both back and front.  Few question whether captive women were objects of sexual interest for the Roman viewer; since the publication of Craig William’s Roman Homosexuality (Oxford 1999), more are beginning to accept that non-Roman men may also have been sexuality interesting for the Roman; to this point the children in these scenes have been absent from the discussion: herein lies my project.

Precedence, Posterity and Population Trends during the Urban Revolution

Patricia Wattenmaker, University of Virginia

The Urban Revolution in Mesopotamia that spanned the fourth and third millennia is defined, in part, by a sharp increase in population levels on both the site-specific and regional level. Theoretical considerations of how and why the first cities arose often attribute these population increases to the relocation of villagers to centers, nomadic groups who traded in mobility for urban life, or migrations from adjacent regions due to the economic opportunities that cities offered. Shifting cultural values regarding kinship, family, children and fertility likely also helped spark population growth during the urban revolution.  However, the relationship between cultural values and demographic patterns remains unexplored.

Children are largely absent from discussions of culture change in the ancient Middle East, in part because of their relatively invisibility in the archaeological record.  Perhaps more significantly, children are not seen as agents of cultural change. Considerations of children in prehistory, when they do occur, generally focus on their economic usefulness in specific contexts. This study of the social roles of children in a third millennium ancient urban society provides a cultural context for the demographic patterns evident during this time.  This paper departs from the exclusive focus of children as economic producers in ancient societies, and explores cultural perspectives on fertility, birth, families and children. Household remains, burials and associated artifacts from archaeological sites, augmented by written records (religious, legal and economic texts), provide the basis of this discussion of the meaning of, and roles of, children in ancient Mesopotamia.  These multiple data sources provide a window into the surprisingly varied lives of children, as well as to the sometimes contradictory values that ancient Mesopotamians placed on children during this time.   Moreover, the combined focus on the social value of children and descendants highlights some of the processes through which families legitimized, enhanced or lost prestige and resources in the urban context. Evidence reveals that urbanism entailed key changes in cultural understanding of kinship, family and children; these changes, in turn, further fueled the growth of ancient cities.


Traci Ardren, University of Miami

Stephen L. Dyson, SUNY Buffalo

Frank Hole, Yale University

Mehmet Özdoğan, Istanbul University

Registration Information

Registration can take place on-site and/or by downloading and completing the Registration Form and returning it to the conference organizer before April 24th. Registration fees can be collected on arrival or sent with the registration form.

Students $10 (N.B. There is no charge for University at Buffalo students)

Waged    $20

Conference Events

Two events will take place over the conference weekend and there is an additional charge for each of these if you wish to attend.

Welcome Reception
Saturday April 24th 2010,
7pm-10 pm
A welcome reception and buffet will be hosted at the Marian E. White Anthropology Research Museum at the Department of Anthropology, University at Buffalo.

Conference Dinner
Sunday 25th April 2010,
pm ($45)
The conference closing dinner will take place at the Jacobs Executive Development Center. Price includes food and drink.


A limited number of rooms have been made available at Holiday Inn – Buffalo Downtown (620 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14202) from Friday 23th April through to Monday 26th April. Reservations can be made by calling the hotel direct (716-886-2121) and quoting the reservation code ‘IEMA’. Rooms are priced at $99.00 (plus taxes) per night.

Please note that Marian E. White Anthropology Research Museum at the Department of Anthropology, University at Buffalo is located at Ellicott Complex at North Campus.

Directions to the Marian E. White Anthropology Research Museum at the Department of Anthropology (aka Totem Pole Room)
1. Follow the Google Maps directions to the University at Buffalo, North Campus
2. Turn left at Frontier Road
3. Turn into the last parking lot on the Right (Spaulding Lot A, Driveway will be after a large campus direction sign)
4. Park in the parking lot on the right
5. Walk into the end of the Tunnel (road that runs underneath the Ellicott Complex)
6. On the Right hand side, about 100 m down the tunnel, there will be a single door that is marked by a sign on the wall reading “Anthropology Museum”. Enter the door that says “261”, walk up one flight of stairs to the Totem Pole Room.There is an elevator for special needs attendances.

*** There is an elevator for special needs attendances.

Further Details

If you have any questions about the conference please contact the conference organizer, Güner Coskunsu (

Second IEMA Visiting Scholar Conference

April 18th – 19th 2009

The Archaeology of Violence:
An integrated approach to the study of violence and conflict

Today, violence is an everyday occurrence and we are always reminded that violent encounters are never that far away. As a result, people have come to expect violence as part of everyday life. Whether experienced at the group or individual level, the ‘emotional, economic, demographic, logistic and political impact of violence reaches well beyond its physical location’ (Shiels et al. 2008).

This conference aims to consider the causes, actions and effects of violence through the study of skeletal remains, identity, literature, iconography, ritual behavior, and landscapes. Violence plays an important role in the development of social-political systems in the past and therefore, its archaeological identification is an essential part of our understanding of social change, both on a micro- as well as the macro-scale. Studying the material remains of violence allows us ‘to consider the importance of violent interaction and its impact upon family and settlement units; and to explore the function, causes and consequences of violent interaction in different groups and societies’ (Shiels et al. 2008).

The interdisciplinary nature of this conference will allow for a variety of research to be presented and will highlight the diversity of approaches to violence and the consequences for understanding social, political and economic relationships between individuals, kin, communities and society as a whole.

Shiels, D., L. Fibiger, W.O. Frazer and C. Murphy. 2008. Abstract for Session at WAC-6 “Changing identities: exploring the materiality of conflict I”.

Conference Details

Conference Program

All are welcome to attend this two-day conference. The conference is taking place from Saturday 18th April to Sunday 19th April and will be held at the historic Jacobs Executive Development Center (672 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14209).


Conference Participants

John Carman

Past War and European Identity:  notes towards a new conception of European-ness

Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity, University of Birmingham, NY
Michael Carter

“Convince the People”: Violence and Roman Spectacle Entertainment in the Greek World

Department of Classics, Brock University , ON
Mike Galaty

 “An offense to honor is never forgiven…”: Violence and Landscape Archaeology in Highland Northern Albania

Department of Anthropology, Millsaps College, MS
Simon James

Facing the sword: confronting the realities of martial violence and other mayhem, present and past

School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester, UK
Eamonn Kelly

An Archaeological Interpretation of Irish Iron Age Bog Bodies

Keeper of Irish Antiquities, National Museum of Ireland, Dublin
John Pollini

The Archaeology of Destruction: Christians, Images of Classical Antiquity, and Some Problems in Interpretation

Department of Art History, University of Southern California, CA
Anne Porter

The State of Sacrifice: Divine Power and Political Aspiration in third millennium Mesopotamia

School of Religion, University of Southern California, CA
Rebecca Redfern

Violence as an aspect of the Durotrige female life course

Centre for Human Bioarchaeology, Centre of Human Bioarchaeology, Museum of London, UK
Werner Riess

Cursing Democracy: The Magic of Binding Spells and Athenian Law Court Procedures

Department of Classics,University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC
Rick Schulting

Lex talionis, ‘an eye for an eye’?: Contexts for Violence in Neolithic Europe

School of Archaeology, University of Oxford, UK
Tina Thurston

Artful Words: the public performance of conflict and resolution in Early Medieval Denmark

SUNY, University at Buffalo , NY
Helle Vankilde

Warfare and pre-state societies: 20th century presentations and recent archaeological research inquiries

Department of Anthropology, Archaeology and Linguistics, Aarhus University, Denmark

Eric Varner

Violent Discourses: Visual Cannibalism and the Portraits of Rome’s ‘Bad’ Emperors

Departments of Art History and Classics, Emory University, GA
Mary Voigt

Ritual Murder and Sacrifice at Galatian Gordion (Turkey)

Department of Anthropology, College of William and Mary, VA

Registration Information

Registration can take place on-site and/or by downloading and completing the ‘Registration Form’ and returning it to the conference organizer before April 15th. Registration fees can be collected on arrival or sent with the registration form.

Students $10 (N.B. There is no charge for University at Buffalo students)

Waged    $20

Conference Events

Two events will take place over the conference weekend and there is an additional charge for each of these if you wish to attend.

Welcome Reception
Saturday April 18th 2009, 7pm-10pm ($20)
A welcome reception and buffet will be hosted at the Marian E. White Anthropology Research Museum at the Department of Anthropology, University at Buffalo.

Conference Dinner
Sunday 19th April 2009, 7pm-10pm ($45)
The conference closing dinner will take place at the Jacobs Executive Development Center (conference location) following the end of the conference. Price includes food and drink.


A limited number of rooms have been made available at Holiday Inn – Buffalo Downtown (620 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14202) from Friday 17th April through to Monday 20th April. Reservations can be made by calling the hotel direct (716-886-2121) and quoting the reservation code ‘IEMA’. Rooms are priced at $99.00 (plus taxes) per night.

Further Details

If you have any questions about the conference please contact the conference organizer, Sarah Ralph (



John Carman, Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity, University of Birmingham, UK

Past War and European Identity:  notes towards a new conception of European-ness

The content of this paper has its origin in three sources:

  •  An interest (first enunciated in my own contributions to the 1997 edited volume Material Harm) in offering a specifically archaeological contribution to debates about issues of major concern – especially war and violence;
  • Involvement with Belgian and other partners in a project to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Battle of Oudenaarde; and
  • Deriving from the latter, foundation of the group ESTOC (European Studies of Terrains of Conflict) which seeks to promote and develop the study and preservation of sites of past conflict in a way that emphasises the mutual involvement of the peoples of Europe.

The emergence of the European Union has led to European states no longer making war on each other. The long history of war in Europe, however, has had an inevitable impact upon European identities: from the emergence of city-states in Greece and Italy, through the rise of Athenian, Alexandrian and Roman Empires, to medieval feudalism and the modern nation state. However, the new peace that prevails has meant that in formulating a new sense of pan-European identity, past wars are treated as matters best left untouched lest they revive old hostilities.

The emergence of Conflict Archaeology as a sub-discipline has also meant, however, a renewed interest in past conflict among archaeologists in Europe. This has been confirmed by the formation of the ESTOC group which aims to promote the study of past conflict as a pan-European project. Drawing upon the aims and objectives of the ESTOC group, this paper will develop an approach to the archaeological study of conflict in Europe’s past that can contribute to the creation of a sense of identity in Europe that owes nothing to supra-nationalism, but meets the conditions of the era of pan-European concord. At the heart of this work lies the recognition that war creates as well as destroys: and it is by focussing upon the new things that conflict makes, that its study can play a part  in constructing new senses of identity.

Michael Carter, Department of Classics, Brock University, ON

“Convince the People”: Violence and Roman Spectacle Entertainment in the Greek World

About ten years ago, G.W. Bowersock proposed that we should place the origins of the peculiar concept of Christian martyrdom more firmly in the context of Roman imperial society (specifically the period from ca. AD 50 to 150), rather than looking to Jewish (esp. Maccabean literature) or earlier events in the Christian community (Martyrdom and Rome,1995). In particular, Bowersock looks to the cities of Asia Minor where violent, spectacular (Roman) entertainment had come to play a central role in the formation of civic identity and the relationship of the city (and province) to the wider Empire. Bowersock then went on to demonstrate that the Christians and the martyrs themselves conceived of the act of martyrdom as a form of public entertainment offered by God to the world: like a victorious athlete or gladiator, the martyr is the star of the show. More recently, C. Frilingos has also proposed the Roman games, particularly those in the cities of Asia Minor, as a plausible context for reading the Book of Revelation (Spectacles of Empire, 2004).

While these theories have sparked some debate, it has mostly concerned what it means for our understanding of Christian martyrdom and vision. I propose to examine the civic role of violent, spectacular entertainment. These spectacles involved wild beast fights/hunts, executions and gladiatorial combats originated in Italy. Once, scholars believed that the spread of these violent spectacles to the Greek world was imposed by the Romans and considered them a sign of the Romanization of the Greek world. Scholars now view the situation as more complex: the local and provincial Greek elite provided the shows and the proud Greek citizens of the various cites filled the seats to watch. I would especially like to discuss the participation of the crowd as both witnesses of the violent shows and as participants in them. By watching the shows and approving of the violence, they in some senses become participants in it. But more than this, the crowd often played a more active role: it was the crowd who decided whether a gladiator had earned his release or not and the crowd who often decided a condemned man’s fate. I shall examine this phenomenon using a variety of evidence, literary, archaeological (reliefs, mosaics etc) and especially epigraphic.

Michael L. Galaty, Department of Anthropology, Millsaps College, MS

 “An offense to honor is never forgiven…”: Violence and Landscape Archaeology in Highland Northern Albania

Northern Albania is the only place in southern Europe where tribal societies survived intact into the 20th century, including tribal councils and chiefs, an oral customary law code (the Kanuni i Lekë Dukagjini), and blood feuds and warfare.  Since 2004 the Shala Valley Project (SVP) has studied one of these tribes, the Shala, whose tribal territory encompasses the upper reaches of the Shala River.  The SVP supports interdisciplinary programs of archaeological, ethnographic, and ethno- and archival historical research.  In three seasons of fieldwork (2005-2007), 999 fields were subjected to intensive archaeological survey, 580 structures were mapped and fully documented, and 36 heads of household participated in detailed formal interviews.  Three historians accessed documents pertaining to northern Albania housed in Albania, Austria, Italy, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.  Taken together, these data paint an interesting picture of the origins and evolution of the Shala tribe, beginning in the 15th century AD through the present day.  Fully interpreting this picture, however, is almost impossible without considering the effects of violence.  In this paper I consider the various ways Shala’s tribal system and shifting settlement patterns are reflected in the regional landscape, and how these responded to endemic violence, including feud and warfare.  It seems likely that violence worked to relieve demographic and economic pressure, which was critically important given Shala’s harsh environment, but that contests between individuals and clans, for access to social and political power, underpinned most incidents of feud and decisions to go to war.  Our work in Shala helps demonstrate the various impacts violence may have had on settlement and landscape the world over, in periods of prehistory and history, and demonstrates the power of integrated approaches to violence and conflict to inform archaeological data.

Simon James, School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester, UK

Facing the sword: confronting the realities of martial violence and other mayhem, present and past

This gathering is especially welcome, as it offers an opportunity to address a major gap in contemporary archaeology: the failure to establish a mature discourse on violence. Keeley’s War Before Civilization chimed with my own exasperation during the 1980s and 90s that, in mainstream British Iron Age and Roman archaeology, anything relating to violence was either ignored or downplayed. More researchers are now addressing such matters, but archaeological treatments still often betray a lack of clear thinking. We can see this, for example, in frequent equation of violence with war, and its conflation into the latter. Yet in many cultural contexts, even what I term martial violence (i.e. that dealt by soldiers and warriors, at least ostensibly on behalf of a polity) is far from confined to warfare. This is abundantly clear from the history of the profoundly hierarchical, slave-owning Roman world, which equally illustrates on the grandest scale that violence extends far beyond the martial. Such observations should be banalities, but these matters frequently get airbrushed out of our pictures of past cultures. Unlike other key aspects of human history, violence is not fully theorised in archaeology. We need to address this; and to do so we need to understand why such a situation prevails.

The Roman world in the widest sense, including societies which interacted with the evolving Roman polity—republic, empire and early Byzantium—provides an especially valuable and relevant cultural milieu, or group of overlapping cultural contexts. These are at once familiar, but also distant and different, ranging from prehistoric ‘warrior societies’ (in Iron Age Italy and the northern ‘barbarian’ cultures Rome fought and in part absorbed), to fully literate urban states (from Greeks to Sasanian Persians). Not least, it also incorporates a key phase in the history of Judaism, and the birth of Christianity, both transformed by Roman state violence. The Judaeo-Christian and Classical traditions form the two pillars on which modern western civilization and scholarship were built. Rome itself gave us the central term and concept of this conference: the English word ‘violence’ derives from Latin and further, its pejorative connotation from Roman usage.

Violence was central to the creation and continuance of Roman civilization, yet many Roman archaeologists do not discuss it. This is partly due to the paradoxical sparseness and subtlety of material evidence in many regions in most periods, even where texts attest massive or chronic violence. But are researchers alert for it? Many prefer to focus the urban and artistic glories of the ‘Roman Peace’. Even specialist military archaeologists tend to avoid the realities of what they are dealing with, focussing on army organization and infrastructure—anything but bloodshed itself. Why?

It is clear enough that this ‘silence on violence’ relates to modern western cultural abhorrence of bloodshed. In academic fields like archaeology, violence has become the kind of taboo, or elephant in the room, which sex was to Victorians (at least, in public). We are still waking up to the extent to which this relatively recent development has been constraining our discourse and research, not least through fear of what peers and publics might think of our motives.

We would probably all agree on the desirability of developing relations within and between societies which rely on persuasion, consent and collaboration, and elimination of coercion and violence. We might also agree that at least partial establishment of such conditions in much of the modern world represents a significant human achievement. Yet archaeologists also need to face up to the centrality of brutality and bloodshed to most human societies over history. It is a profound error to treat all violence as pathology, or deviation from a peaceful norm. Almost universally, violence has been a standard tool and strategy in social and political relations which, while commonly relying on both coercion and cooperation, tended to place far more emphasis on open force than we do. It is therefore an issue which archaeologists are obliged to confront, if we truly seek holistic understanding of past humanity. The Buffalo meeting promises to be an important step towards this goal.

Eamonn P. Kelly, Keeper of Irish Antiquities, National Museum of Ireland, Dublin

 An Archaeological Interpretation of Irish Iron Age Bog Bodies

Up to one hundred men, women and children, dating to all periods, have been found in Irish peat bogs. Eight bog bodies have been dated to the Early Iron Age and other undated remains may also date to the same period. What characterises Iron Age finds and sets them apart from other bog bodies is the fact that they represent ritual killings.

Two finds made in 2003 have produced important new information. Clonycavan Man had lain in a bog on the Meath county border with Westmeath and although machinery has damaged the body from the waist down and removed the hands, the internal organs are preserved partially and the head is intact with a clearly distinguishable face and a very distinctive hairstyle. On the back of the head the hair was cut to about an inch long with the rest of the hair, which was about a foot long, gathered into a bundle on the top of his head. The hair was held in place by the application of a sort of hair jell made from resin imported from France or Spain. Clonycavan man was of slight build and his stature is estimated to lie in the range from 5 foot 2 inches to five feet nine inches tall. He was killed by a series of blows to his head and chest, probably from an axe and suffered a 40cm long cut to his abdomen, suggesting disembowelment.

By contrast, a powerfully built body found at Oldcroghan, Co. Offaly was estimated at about 6 foot 3 inches tall. The remains consist of a severed torso that had been decapitated, however the surviving part of the body was in remarkable condition with superbly preserved hands and intact internal organs. On the right arm was a plaited leather armband with metal mounts. By contract with his normal meat-rich diet, Oldcroghan Man ate a final meal of cereals and buttermilk. His upper arms had been pierced and withies had been inserted into the holes. Examination of his hands showed that Oldcroghan Man did not undertake manual work and his fingernails were carefully manicured. A stab wound to his chest killed Oldcroghan man and a defence wound on one arm indicates that he tried to fend off the fatal blow. He was then decapitated and his thorax severed from his abdomen. The nipples of both Oldcroghan Man and Clonycavan Man had been cut partially and both have been radiocarbon dated to between 400-200 BC.

The body of an adult male found in Derryvarroge bog, Co, Kildare in 2007 has been dated to between 228-343 AD. The remains were damaged by peat harvesting machinery and investigation of the body is ongoing.  Research suggests that all of the Iron Age bog bodies were placed on ancient tribal boundaries and that the victims were sacrificed as part of a Kingship and Sovereignty ritual. Other categories of votive may also to be connected with the ritual.

John Pollini, Department of Art History, University of Southern California, CA

The Archaeology of Destruction: Christians, Images of Classical Antiquity, and Some Problems in Interpretation

Christian iconoclasm has long been a subject of great interest and scholarly discussion. The term “Christian iconoclasm” has generally been used to characterize Christian destruction of Christian sacred images as a result of the so-called “iconoclastic debate,” a euphemism for the “iconomachy” that raged du ring the eighth and ninth centuries. This “battle over images” was fought by iconophiles, who wanted to keep images of the Christian god and their saints as part of the Church’s tradition, and the iconoclasts, who felt that such sacred images were in violation of the biblical ban on images stated in the Ten Commandments. The iconomachy that ensued resulted in much violence and bloodshed, nearly tearing apart the Eastern Orthodox Church in the process.  A great deal of scholarship has likewise been focused on the Christian iconoclasm that recurred periodically in the modern era, beginning with the Protestant reformation.  However, remarkably little attention has been focused on the considerable amount of Christian destruction and desecration of images of classical antiquity that took place in Late Antique times, roughly from the fourth to at least the sixth century.  Although Christian violence against images of the gods and the polytheists who worshiped or revered them is recorded in  various passages in the histories and hagiographies of the Late Antique period, there has been no comprehensive study of this phenomenon, especially from an archaeological point of view.

In both scholarship and popular culture, Christianity has generally been seen a positive force that was responsible for the preservation of the literature, art, and architecture of the classical past. Rarely acknowledged is the vast amount of literary and visual material that Christians destroyed and desecrated.  In fact, some scholars have even interpreted the Christianization of the Roman Empire as a largely peaceful process. But even though the written and archaeological record tells a very different story, the material evidence for Christian destruction and desecration has often been overlooked or unrecognized even by archaeologists. This paper focuses on the question of the nature of the evidence for Christian violence against images of classical antiquity in the late antique period, a s well as some of the attendant problems in detecting and making sense of this phenomenon.  Based on our evidence for all forms of Christian destruction, the question that ultimately needs to be addressed is whether or to what extent the Christianization of the Roman Empire was a change for the better or worse from what had gone before. This talk is based on Professor Pollini’s present book project, “Christian Destruction and Desecration of Images of Classical Antiquity: A Study in Religious Intolerance and Violence in the Ancient World.”

Anne Porter, School of Religion, University of Southern California, CA

The State of Sacrifice: Divine Power and Political Aspiration in third millennium Mesopotamia

In focusing on the socio-political ramifications of sacrifice, the human manipulations of diverse bodies in the accomplishment of human goals, we ignore to our detriment the power of the divine and the ontological frameworks in which sacrifice is constituted. The two of course are by no means mutually exclusive, but neither is one more real, more important than the other. Recent work shows that the bodies created through practices known as “retainer sacrifice,” traditionally understood as the manifestation of social status and political power by dominant elites who could command the very existence of those beneath them, were critical to the performance of funerary and post-funerary mortuary rituals that included parades, pilgrimages and feasts. But that those rituals were in the first place considered necessary has little to do with only secular concerns because they produced and reproduced proper relationships between the living and the dead, the divine and the mundane, cosmological relationships which for the Mesopotamian constituted daily reality. Living people usually comprised the processual and feasting components of mortuary ritual so the question then is why sometimes were the dead deliberately made in order to fulfill this role? Killing, the essence of discourses where sacrifice is power, seems not to be foregrounded in Mesopotamian practice. It never occurs in iconography or text, nor do we have its archaeological attestation in the form of the loci where it was conducted, or, as in earlier periods, refuse pits where its remains were tossed. This is in contrast to parts of the Americas, for example, where grotesque iconographic representations of killing far exceed its archaeological reality. In Mesopotamia instead, sacrifice exists only as mortuary depositions which are themselves the locus of mediation between planes of existence and kinds of being. That sacrifice is understood as the appropriate means to accomplish Mesopotamian cosmological relationships is I suggest because of that element it entails present in no other form of self-denial, gift-giving, or worship: that is, blood. Blood is significant because it is the basis of kinship, and socially-constructed kinship, itself the basis of much political and social interaction, is frequently made through the spilling of blood (although only a small amount of it is required). Sacrifice is in Mesopotamia therefore the creation of kinship between humans and other worldly beings. Why then is it so rare an occurrence?

Rebecca Redfern, Centre for Human Bioarchaeology, Museum of London, UK

Violence as an aspect of the Durotrige female life course

This research explores the role of violence in the life course of late Iron Age Durotrige females from Dorset, England (4th century B.C. to the 1st century B.C./A.D.).  A life course approach was used, because it provides a social framework with which to understand female lives from birth to death, and the approach recognises the importance of gender and social status in shaping people’s lives and health (World Health Organization 2001, 12-14). The Durotrige female life course has been reconstructed using Hamlin’s (2007) analysis of late Iron Age funerary practices.  This research concluded that age was the determining factor in these rites, and the work provides a framework with which to understand the bioarchaeological evidence for female trauma.

It is considered that the application of a life course approach to the analysis of fractures and weapon injuries in females, provides a more nuanced and holistic understanding of their exposure to and participation in violent acts.  As contemporary social science research has shown that in comparison to males, violence in female lives is more complex as it arises from tensions between female aspirations and proscribed gender roles, it largely occurs in the private social sphere, and for many females it becomes endemic in their daily lives.  This gender difference has created a separate definition of female-directed violence as ‘any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women’ (Watts and Zimmerman 2002).

This paper will discuss how violence affected Durotrige females by examining different age-groups in terms of injury prevalence and mortality risk, trauma patterns and weapon types, and how these results correspond to our understanding of the female life course and gender roles in the late Iron Age of Dorset.


Hamlin, C. 2007. The Material Expression of Social Change: Mortuary in Late Pre-Roman and Roman Dorset. Ph.D thesis, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

Watts, C. and Zimmerman, C. 2002. Violence against women: global scope and magnitude. The Lancet 359.6, 1232-1237.

World Health Organization 2001. Men, ageing and health. Achieving health across the lifespan. Geneva: World Health Organization.

Werner Riess, Department of Classics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC

Cursing Democracy: The Magic of Binding Spells and Athenian Law Court Procedures

This paper challenges the scholarly consensus that the violence inscribed in fourth-century BCE curse tablets is minor. A fresh reading of the sources indicates that at least ten percent of the extant tablets were meant to be lethal, and further investigation suggests that the violence expressed in these curses was more severe than scholars have surmised so far. In addition, this paper will connect binding magic with Athenian democratic principles. It will become clear that binding magic reflects and even is parallel to some cultural practices of Athenian democracy.

According to Faraone, early binding spells were merely protective. A re-evaluation of the extant 270 curse tablets, however, reaches different conclusions. Notwithstanding the formulaic texts, some tablets display a more violent language than others. These are not prayers for justice, a category of curses established by Versnel, in which the expression of brutal sentiments was more common than in mainstream binding spells, but ordinary binding curses. Archaeological remains, such as the burying of a figurine in a little coffin or the placing of a tablet into the right hand of the corpse, provide additional evidence of intended violence. A new interpretation of the similia similibus function, the transference of a quality to the victim (“X is to become like lead”), the dedication of a victim to the gods (the Greek verbs used correspond to the devotio in Latin, which was always meant to be lethal), and a more comprehensive translation of the preposition pros, which occurs twenty six times in the corpus and denotes a downward movement toward the gods of the underworld, strongly suggest that the curses were more malevolent than hitherto thought.

Particularly striking are the many analogies between binding magic and the law court system, and thus Athenian democratic practices in general. I shall focus on one example: the semantics of binding and imprisonment are one and the same. The criminals bound in Athens and handed over the Eleven were kakourgoi, mostly killers and robbers. They were either immediately executed or put into prison to face trial and execution. The curse victims awaited trial in a twofold sense. Judicial curses were deposited before real trials took place. Moreover, the victims were bound, metaphorically, to be judged in front of the invoked gods of the underworld. With the curser representing the plaintiff in court, the gods standing for the judges, and the dead symbolizing the subordinate position and functions of the Eleven, the whole process of cursing was analogous to the system of law.

Beneath the seemingly harmless texts on the tablets there are hidden structures of underlying aggression encapsulated within the broad semantics of binding. Since the violence perpetrated through magic was mediated violence, it was acceptable even under the stipulations of the amnesty of 404/3 BCE. Binding spells were safety valves not only for disconcerted individual temperaments, but also for a whole society under the pressure of avoiding open violence. In this sense, the curse tablets were a psychological, social, and political necessity under the refined conditions of post-amnesty democracy.

Rick Schulting, School of Archaeology, University of Oxford, UK

Lex talionis, ‘an eye for an eye’?: Contexts for Violence in Neolithic Europe

Interpersonal violence is a powerful form of social interaction, involved in the creation and maintenance of identity at various levels, from societal to personal. Accessing the myriad ways in which violence is employed and experienced through the archaeological record is a particularly challenging enterprise, one requiring the integration of various lines of evidence, foremost among which is the trauma recorded on human skeletal remains themselves.

Despite the apparent absence of formal and specialized weaponry, there is considerable skeletal evidence for interpersonal violence in the European Neolithic (ca. 5500-2500 BC). The nature and contexts of these episodes of violence can be shown to vary, and at one level seem to have much in common with conflict as seen in small-scale societies ethnographically. This observation, together with Raymond Kelly’s notion of social substitution and the central role of revenge, encapsulated in the expression lex talionis (‘an eye for an eye’), provides a useful way of understanding some aspects of between-group conflict, linking violence to wider social identities. These ideas are developed here, and extended to the changing roles and nature of conflict in the Bronze Age, marked by the first appearance of specialized weaponry and an ideology centered around the image of a male warrior élite.

Tina Thurston, Department of Anthropology, SUNY University at Buffalo, NY

Artful Words: the public performance of conflict and resolution in Early Medieval Denmark

Despite modern notions of cultural homogeneity in southern Scandinavia, substantial ethnic differences characterized its Iron Age and early Medieval populations. Creation of a unified state from earlier social formations ignited rifts leading to social disorder, rebellion, and uprising during a transitional era when upper and lower classes felt these changes most sharply. Ethnohistoric evidence preserves a record of ritualized public performances by state and local leaders, revealing relationships that shifted between fear, negotiation, challenge, and defiance. This is compared against archaeological evidence of widespread, rapid changes in settlement organization in some regions, and relative stability in others, interpreted as outcomes of unsuccessful and successful challenges to state authority. Groups electing to use violent conflict in challenging the state, who also had histories of intergroup interaction, were better able to preserve autonomy then those attempting legalistic arguments and ‘rational’ negotiations. Data are interpreted in light of ethnographic case studies and contemporary social theory.

Helle Vandkilde, Department of Anthropology, Archaeology and Linguistics, Aarhus University, Denmark

Warfare and pre-state societies: 20th century presentations and recent archaeological research inquiries

The objective of this paper is twofold. First, it explores how and why war, warriors and warfare have been omitted, or incorporated, in archaeological discourses of pre-state societies. Second, the archaeological sources are consulted in an attempt to illuminate the actual position and significance of warfare and warriorhood in some prehistoric communities in Europe.

Two opposing myths have long characterised archaeology – one of them regarding prehistory as populated with potentially violent warriors who repeatedly changed society, the other presenting prehistory as populated with peaceful peasants in harmonious and static societies. Interestingly, war and warfare did not become an established area of study until the past decade (from c. 1995), and it must be assumed that the many ethnic wars and genocides of the 1990s as well as the massive media coverage have played a decisive role. The horror and awful chaos of war are now analysed in social anthropological studies, whereas it might be claimed that archaeological studies still do not portray prehistoric war realistically enough, probably because the discourse is still influenced by some myths of heroic warrior elites.

The last part of the paper examines selected archaeological data from a more explicitly theoretical perspective: weaponry in itself, weapon technology, weaponry in burials and votive deposits, fortifications, skeletal trauma, and iconographic presentations. The aim is here to find a more true answer to the question of whether war – and associated identities – was present or absent in temperate Europe before the state. It will here be suggested that both the ideal and real sides of war and warriors in prehistory should be studied, and also that interpretative stereotypes can be avoided through the use of theories that view human agents as interacting both routinely and strategically within societal networks.

Eric R. Varner, Departments of Art History and Classics, Emory University, GA

Violent Discourses: Visual Cannibalism and the Portraits of Rome’s ‘Bad’ Emperors

The mutilated and altered images of Rome’s ‘bad’ emperors vividly narrate the violent political transitions that characterized regime change in ancient Rome. Beginning with Caligula, portraits of overthrown rulers were subjected to anthropomorphic attacks. Eyes, mouths and ears were mutilated in an effort to deprive imperial effigies of any metaphorical ability to see, speak or hear. These attacks were also closely related to the desecration of corpses (poena post mortem) carried out against the remains of capital offenders and others whose status as noxii made their physical bodies especially liable to violation. Similarly, full length statues could be decapitated mirroring another form of corpse abuse as well as capital punishment. Mutilated and headless images remained on public view as potent markers of posthumous denigration.While the desecration of portraits weaves a rather unambiguous narrative of political permutation, their revision into new likenesses recounts more complex negotiations of imperial identity and authority. In the early empire, vast numbers of marble representations of Caligula, Nero, and Domitian were refashioned into new depictions of victorious predecessors or revered predecessors. These new images visually cannibalized the power of the original.

The alteration of portraits, however, was not a simple act of obliteration, as the likeness of one emperor replaced another. Refashioned likenesses often left legible traces of their reconfiguration, which enabled astute viewers to decipher the portrait cannibalism which had occurred. The mutilation and transformation of imperial images constituted a dynamic and lasting corollary to real political violence in an ongoing struggle as living and dead emperors vied for legitimacy.

Mary M. Voigt, Department of Anthropology, College of William and Mary, VA

Ritual Murder and Sacrifice at Galatian Gordion (Turkey)

Much of the evidence for a Celtic presence in central Anatolia during Hellenistic times comes from texts.  Livy clearly places one group of these immigrants (who referred to themselves as Galatians) at Gordion, which he described as an “oppidum” or fortress and a market town in the early second century.  Excavations carried out on the Citadel Mound at Gordion between 1950 and 2002 have exposed large areas of a Later Hellenistic settlement that was founded in the mid-3rd century BCE and finally abandoned in the late second century.  Material remains that can be linked to Iron Age sites in Europe include a La Tene button and iron fibula and sculptures in a style that can be paralleled at La Tene sites in France.  In a low, walled area adjacent to settlement were found deposits of human and animal bone that can only be interpreted as the physical remains of ritual practices.  These practices include decapitation and the display of trophy skulls, decapitation and the careful rearrangement of body parts, incorporation of human remains with those of a large number of domestic animals, and strangulation.  Most of the human remains were left on the surface and were eventually buried by silt washing off the nearby enclosure wall.  The individuals in this group included males and females, and some very young children.  This paper presents the material evidence for ritual at Celtic Gordion, and possible interpretations for this evidence in the light of documentary sources that describe Celtic practices in Europe and Anatolia.

First IEMA Visiting Scholar Conference

Friday and Saturday, April 4 and 5, 2008

Jacobs Executive Development Center, Buffalo, NY

Toward an Eventful Archaeology:
Approaches to Structural Change in the Archaeological Record

Dr. Graeme Barker’s keynote lecture:
Archaeology as History: Revolutions, Transformations, Events

Click here to download the

Organizer: Dr. Douglas J. Bolender

The IEMA 2008 Visiting Scholar conference will focus on the archaeology of sudden social transformations. Papers will examine the identification and interpretation of eventful episodes in the archaeological record and explore their connection to other temporalities and modes of historical process and change.

Conference Participants:

Oscar Aldred, Institute of Archaeology, Iceland
Penelope Allison, University of Leicester, UK
Bettina Arnold, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, WI
Françoise Audouze, René Ginouvès Institute for Archaeology and Anthropology, Nanterre Cedex, France
John Bintliff, University of Leiden, Netherlands
Dušan Boric, University of Cambridge, UK
Pedro Díaz del Río, Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales, Madrid, Spain
Jean-Paul Demoule, Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives, Paris, France
Joan Gero, American University, Washington, DC
John Grattan, University of Wales, UK
Dan Hicks, University of Bristol, UK
Michael Kolb, Northern Illinois University, IL
Christopher Matthews, Hofstra University, NY
Louise Revell, University of Southampton, UK
Timothy Taylor, University of Bradford, UK
Julian Thomas, University of Manchester, UK
Alasdair Whittle, HISAR, Cardiff University, UK