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Institute for the Study of the Ancient World



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Research at ISAW

ISAW was founded to support research in the ancient world. This page describes some of the research projects in which our faculty, staff, students, and scholars are engaged. The results of this research are communicated in a variety of ways—in print, online, and in person—to a range of audiences including both scholars and the general public. As outlined in the faculty statement on assessment of research (PDF), we aim for quality and long-term accessibility in all our research outputs, regardless of medium, while embracing collaboration and both traditional and new forms of review and assessment.

Antikythera Mechanism Research Project

The Antikythera Mechanism was a bronze gearwork device displaying chronological cycles and motions and phenomena of the heavenly bodies, made somewhere in the Hellenistic world in the second or early first century B.C. ISAW's Alexander Jones is involved in a collaborative research project addressing unanswered questions about this fascinating object.

Archaeological Excavations at Kınık Höyük

Kınık Höyük is located in Southern Cappadocia, in the province of Niğde. Current excavations are led for ISAW by Lorenzo d'Alfonso jointly with the University of Pavia, and with the participation of the Universities of Niğde and Erzurum (Turkey), and of the Laboratoire de Géographie physique, CNRS France. Current work includes historical and environmental reconstruction, investigation of ceramic production and micro-climate,  and conservation in situ of major architectural remains dating to the first Millennium BC.

Archaeology of "Long Walls" in Western Central Asia

Territorial barrier-walls are a widespread phenomenon in many micro-regions of Western Central Asia where they take the shape of large-scale oasis walls or linear barriers, similar to "long walls" known from other parts of the Old World. ISAW's Sören Stark is co-directing with Djamal Mirzaakhmedov from the Institute of Archaeology at the Uzbek Academy of Sciences an archaeological field project to investigate one of these features: the Dīvār-i Kanpirak (the long wall of Bukhārā).

Digitizing Numismatics

Continuing work begun while a Research Scientist at the American Numismatic Society, Sebastian Heath is working with colleagues there and at other institutions to provide a digital infrastructure for the discipline of numismatics. One result of this work is the site, which publishes stable URIs (web addresses) for concepts in numismatics, frequently alongside relevant data.

Excavations at Amheida

The excavations undertaken at the ancient city of Amheida (known as Trimithis in the Roman period) are  a modern, multidisciplinary excavation. Graduate students from ISAW and other institutions take part in the excavations. The Amheida team makes its ongoing work available internationally to both scholarly and public audiences via the web as well as through printed work.  Further information on the Amheida project is available at: The Amheida excavations are directed by Roger Bagnall.

Reception of Chinese Antiquity

Interested in the reception of antiquity, Lillian Tseng is currently working on a book tentatively entitled Inspecting Steles: Cultural Agents and Visual Production in 18th-century China. It investigates why stone monuments erected in the past emerged as a major scholarly concern and how the scholarly pursuit of ancient monuments affected the production of contemporary visual works that range from painting, calligraphy to illustrated catalogues. It articulates different dynamics in agents and mediums. It also addresses issues surrounding historical memory and social communication.

Research in Digital Antiquity

ISAW's online resources embrace a number of research components bridging the study of the human past and the development of new media and new methods. Overseen by Tom Elliott, these resources are a collaborative effort of ISAW's Digital Projects Team and a number of extramural colleagues.

Roman Pottery at Troy

Since 1996, Sebastian Heath has been working on the publication of Roman pottery from the Lower City at Ilion in Turkey, a site better known as Troy and famous as the setting for Homer's Iliad. Along with his colleagues, C. Brian Rose of the University of Pennsylvania and Billur Tekkök of the Baskent University, Sebastian has been engaged in close study of the architecture and stratigraphy of a series of trenches that provide evidence for essentially continuous occupation from the mid-first century to the early sixth centuries AD.