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Shaping Religious Space in Roman and Late Antique Sepphoris
This lecture will focus on the cultic buildings known to date in Sepphoris -- a Roman temple, two churches, and a synagogue -- and will discuss their implications for the study of the architectural development, social structure, religious behavior, and cultural relationships between the Jews and other segments of society in this late antique city.
ARCE Lecture: Middle Kingdom Clappers, Dancers, Birth Magic, and the Reinvention of Ritual
Ellen F. Morris
This talk focuses upon a particularly enigmatic artifact category. Hand-shaped clappers fashioned out of hippo tusk are occasionally found in tombs of Middle Kingdom date. While later equivalents are often decorated with the head of the goddess Hathor on their sleeve or with an inscription naming their owner, Middle Kingdom clappers are unadorned. This talk argues that the archaeological and iconological contexts of these artifacts reveal a great deal. On the basis of studies of archival material from Asasif and Lisht at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and on excavation records from other other sites, three points emerge. First, the findspots of clappers and the artifacts with which they were discovered suggest their employment in Hathoric rituals oriented toward the strengthening of the sun-god and the reviving of the souls posthumously identified with this god. Second, clappers are also strongly associated with birth magic and especially with the entities that protected the sun-god and all those about to be born or reborn. Finally, it is argued that, like many Middle Kingdom grave goods, clappers had been ‘rediscovered’ and religiously re-envisioned by sacral authorities who encountered Protodynastic and Early Dynastic votive material during temple renovations and perhaps also during work at the pilgrimage site of Umm el-Qa’ab.
Material Worlds: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Contacts and Exchange in the Ancient Near East
Workshop organized by Arnulf Hausleiter (ISAW Visiting Research Scholar)
Based on most recently obtained late 3rd/early 2nd millennium BC evidence from excavations on the Arabian Peninsula, a number of distinguished scholars will discuss the interdependencies between and different views on material culture, contacts and exchange in the Middle East. The workshop, focusing on selected data sets will tackle interdisciplinary questions of archaeological-historical as well as socio-economic significance in one of the most dynamic contact zones of the ancient world. Chronologically covering the Middle Bronze to Iron Age periods (20th to 7th century BC) the following case studies are the subject of lectures, responses, and discussions: Economic framework(s) of the Ancient Near East; textual records as evidence for contacts; Egyptian sea trade; economic and cultural exchange from the Middle to Late Bronze Ages in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Levant and Arabia; material culture and technology at the margins of the Neo-Assyrian empire.
Through the Looking Glass
An Evolving Perspective on Northern Zhou Dynasty (557-581) Buddhist Art
Northern Zhou Buddhist art has long been exiled to a dark corner of the scholarly world. Its contribution to the development of early Buddhist art (4th to 7th centuries) in China has too often been minimized, stereotyped and, at times, dismissed in favor of work produced by the rival Northern Qi dynasty (550-577), the bitter contemporary rival to the Northern Zhou. However, the cumulative effect of recent discoveries of Northern Zhou Buddhist sculpture and painting calls for a reassessment.
Rostovtzeff Lecture Series: Silk Roads and Steppe Roads of Medieval China: History Unearthed from Tombs, I
Settlers and Merchants on the Silk Roads: Sogdians at Turfan
Jonathan K. Skaff
This lecture, the first in a series of four Rostovtzeff Lectures during spring 2016, introduces the Silk Roads through a case study of Sogdians living as a minority at the Chinese oasis city of Turfan in the six and seventh centuries. The Sogdians were early inhabitants of modern Uzbekistan and Tajikistan who spoke an Iranian dialect, and began to migrate eastward by the fourth century CE to settle in cities and towns on the Silk Roads. The lecture will update Skaff’s previous publications on Sogdian farmers and merchants at Turfan by considering recently-discovered paper documents and epitaphs.
Rostovtzeff Lecture Series: Silk Roads and Steppe Roads of Medieval China: History Unearthed from Tombs, II
Sogdians or Borderlanders?, Part I: Lives Revealed in Epitaphs
Jonathan K. Skaff
This lecture, the second in a series of four Rostovtzeff Lectures during spring 2016, will return to the topic of immigrants, but in this case two lineages with the same surname of Shi who settled at Guyuan in China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region where the Silk Roads and Steppe Roads intersect. These people were locally powerful elites serving a succession of China-based dynasties as military officers, imperial bodyguards, horse breeders and translators in the sixth and seventh centuries. Their existence literally came to light when archaeologists excavated six tombs at Guyuan in the 1980s and 1990s containing burial goods and seven engraved stone epitaphs written in Chinese. A scholarly consensus has developed that both lineages had Sogdian origins, but this lecture along with the third lecture in the Rostovtzeff series will challenge and complicate this conclusion.
The Formation of Cultural Memory: Ancient Mesopotamian Libraries and Schools and Their Contribution to the Shaping of Tradition and Identity
Workshop organized by Beate Pongratz-Leisten (ISAW)
Ancient disputation and dialogue literature reveals that there was a tradition of competition between ancient centers of learning in Mesopotamia. Knowledge of important Babylonian cultural centers can still be detected in the writings of Strabo. So far, scholarship has occupied itself primarily with publishing the contents of libraries, and often—due to the quantity of texts and particular research questions—such effort has focused on particular genres rather than on entire collections. Much effort has gone into the reconstruction of school curricula. Less attention has been paid to what particular texts or genres were collected and for what potential purposes in one particular place. The workshop intends to approach Mesopotamian libraries holistically, by taking a closer look at their content, situating them in their sociopolitical context, and exploring who owned them. This approach will probe the possibility that Mesopotamian libraries can be defined as much as places for the acquisition and transmission of knowledge as for its construction and production. Further, the workshop will attempt to map a geography of knowledge and to test whether we can identify traditional centers of knowledge as well as staging posts in the flow of knowledge.