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Institute for the Study of the Ancient World



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11/21/2017 06:00 PM ISAW Lecture Hall

NYU Shanghai Lecture: A Tale of Two Tombs

Tang-Turkic Diplomacy and Ritual in Mongolia

Jonathan Skaff

Burial goods and an epitaph recently excavated from two contemporary Tang-style tombs in central Mongolia provide a rich record of political and cultural interactions between Tang and Turkic political elites in the mid-seventh century. One tomb contained the Chinese-language epitaph of a Tang ally, Pugu Yitu (635-678) and the scattered remains of some grave goods left by looters. The other tomb, only eleven kilometers away at Ulaan Khermiin, lacked an epitaph, but was undisturbed, retaining a full complement of rich burial objects. Though the epitaph’s rhetoric provides a conventional Tang-centered narrative of Pugu’s subservience to the dynasty, a careful examination of the epitaph and contents of the two tombs provides evidence of reciprocity and cultural compromises in the political relationship. On one hand, the design of the tombs, funerary ritual described in the epitaph, and many burial goods were typical of the Tang. On the other hand, both funerals have signs of local practices and tastes including cremations, a gold hoard in the coffin of the Ulaan Khermiin tomb, and some unusual wooden and terracotta figurines.
11/28/2017 06:00 PM ISAW Lecture Hall

Monumental Art and Political Change in Ancient Syria

Alessandra Gilibert

In the 12th century BCE, when the dissolution of the Hittite Empire released the Eastern Mediterranean communities into times of profound change, the polities of ancient Syria began experimenting with monumental art on public display. Exploring new communicative practices, local rulers decorated city gates and ceremonial squares with colossal statues and cycles of bas-reliefs with an increasingly manifest political content. In doing so, they initiated a unique tradition of public art that lasted five centuries and exerted a significant influence on neighboring regions. This talk will focus on the city of Carchemish between 1200 and 700 BCE and explore how monumental art was used to reinforce political practices, negotiate power struggles, express changing civic identities, and challenge the status quo.
11/30/2017 06:00 PM ISAW Lecture Hall

The Prehistory of Crete

Malcolm H. Wiener

The lecture will first summarize quickly the history of Crete from the first known settlement in Crete c. 6900/6600 BC at Knossos to the collapse at the end of the Bronze Age c. 1200–1150 BC and the population nadir c. 1025 BC. We will then return to c. 1600 BC in order to focus on the nature and role of Knossian-controlled Minoan Crete and its seaborne empire at its zenith, considering among many other aspects the dependence of Minoan Crete on overseas sources for the copper and tin needed to create the bronze of the Bronze Age, the nature of the colonies, trading stations and ports of call required, and the cultural impact of Minoan Crete on the Mycenaean civilization of mainland Greece. Please note: This lecture is now fully subscribed; we are no longer accepting RSVPs or names for our wait-list.
12/05/2017 06:00 PM ISAW Lecture Hall

The History of Eighth-century Khotan as Seen from Khotanese Documents

Zhan Zhang

Khotan is an oasis on the southern rim of the Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang, China. Viewed as an entrepôt along the “Silk Road,” Khotan is famed as a source of high-quality jade (in China) and musk (in Iran). Apart from sporadic mentioning in Chinese historical sources, however, we know next to nothing about the history of Khotan in pre-Islamic times. Fortunately, explorations and excavations in Xinjiang in the late 19th and early 20th centuries yielded a large number of manuscripts written in Khotanese, an Eastern Iranian language akin to modern Pashto in Afghanistan. These manuscripts, many of which are administrative documents directly from the offices of Khotanese officials, open up for us a rare window into the everyday life in Khotan during the late eighth century, when Chinese, Arabs, Tibetans, and Turks were all vying for supremacy in Central Asia.
12/07/2017 06:00 PM ISAW Lecture Hall

The Silent Fall of an Empire in 1200 BCE

Lorenzo d'Alfonso

The events causing the end of the Hittite empire at the end of the Late Bronze Age in the eastern Mediterranean are still unknown, but while its causes have been widely discussed, little to no attention has been devoted to the lack of memory of it, as well as the lack of a clear attempt by later polities to claim the legacy of the Great Kings of Hatti. The talk will focus on the perceptions of the fall of the empire, and the non-uniform trajectories of its aftermath. The lack of central power allowed local groups to develop several political experiments. By the 9th century these were transformed into regional monarchies. Phrygia and Urartu are widely known to the great public. The talk will present evidence in support of the existence of a third one: the Land of Tuali.
12/14/2017 06:00 PM ISAW Lecture Hall

ARCE Lecture: Tricks of the Trade

Scribal Creativity in Ancient Egypt

Emily Cole

While working in the per-ankh or "house of life" where vast repositories of manuscripts were kept, Egyptian scribes made every effort to transmit ancient knowledge through Egyptian history. Over the course of several millennia, these individuals were confronted with damaged papyri, misinterpreted passages, and language difficulties. In this talk, I will look at the tools that were developed by those ancient intellectuals to overcome those problems and preserve Egyptian cultural materials even in the face of foreign rule in the first millenniums BCE and CE.
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