Course Descriptions

Professor and students with laptops around table in classromTo enroll in an ISAW course, you must first obtain the permission of the instructor. You may then forward the permission email to to get the registration access code. All classes are held in the 2nd-floor Seminar Room unless indicated otherwise.

Fall 2020: Seminar on the Interconnected Ancient World: Periods

Ancient Eurasia in the Mid-1st Millennium BCE
Antonis Kotsonas & Daniel Potts
ak7509@nyu.edu; daniel.potts@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3031-001
Tuesdays, 2-5pm

Drawing on the expertise of various ISAW faculty members, this seminar will examine the period c. 800-330 BCE (which some call the Axial Age) across Eurasia, with case studies looking at cultural developments in the Mediterranean, Western Asia, Central Asia and China. Without presuming to cover every cultural expression across this vast area, the seminars will look particularly at Archaic and Classical Greece, the Neo-Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian and Elamite states, Western Zhou and the Springs and Autumn period. Equal emphasis will be given to historical and archaeological data.

Permission of the instructors is required.

Fall 2020: Research Seminars

The Sciences of the Stars in Ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean Civilizations
Alexander Jones
aj60@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3002-001
Mondays, 9am-12pm

In this course, we will explore the main lines of development and transmission of the astral sciences (astronomy and astrology) in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Greco-Roman world, loosely from 7th century BCE Nineveh (Assyrian scholars observing and interpreting celestial omens) to 2nd century Alexandria (the works of Claudius Ptolemy). Knowledge of one or more of the relevant languages (Akkadian, Egyptian, Greek, Latin) will be an asset though not a prerequisite.

Permission of the instructor is required.

Textual & Material Approaches to the Roman Body
Claire Bubb & Sebastian Heath
cc148@nyu.edu; sh1933@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3012-001
Tuesdays, 9am-12pm

The core intent of this seminar is to use the concept of "the body" as a lens by which to examine Roman material and written culture. Roman society controlled bodies, created artistic depictions of bodies, and tried to understand the inner workings of bodies and cure them of disease. Roman individuals took care of their own bodies, dressed themselves, and cared about their hairstyles. Bodies were put on violent display in amphitheaters and elsewhere, either because of voluntary service as a gladiator or in the service of exemplary violence and criminal justice. Bodies were auctioned as part of the institution of slavery and paraded in triumphs as proofs of Rome's imperial power. Human bodies were also directly used as power in industrial processes. The gendered body was an object of some rhetorical anxiety in some Roman circles, while others were more tolerant of depictions of human sexuality, which is fundamentally a bodily behavior. Over the course of the semester, these and other approaches will be brought together in an effort to understand the many ways in which the body can be considered a central aspect of Roman experience. Readings will range across the subdisciplines of Roman studies and also incorporate theoretical and practical approaches from other domains. Consideration of primary sources in translation and close looking at Roman Art will play a role. Students will be expected to define their own area of research within the broad scope of this course and to produce a final paper that overlaps with its themes as those develop during the semester.

Permission of the instructors is required. Familiarity with Latin and/or Greek will be put to good use, but is not a prerequisite.

Economic Archaeology
Roderick Campbell
rbc2@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3012-002
Fridays, 2-5pm

The study of ancient economies has been an important topic in archaeology since at least V. Gordon Childe. But what is an economy and how does one study it archaeologically? Is it the system by which scarce resources are allocated, or is it the total production, circulation and transformation of social energy? Scholars have long debated whether economies are embedded in social matrices and cultural context or operate on principles independent of time and place. Archaeology has seen all of the both approaches and many things in-between while attempting to interpret the material cultural correlates of past practices. This seminar will be a survey of archaeological approaches to economy beginning with substantivist/formalist debates before proceeding with anthropological archaeology’s long, Marxian, interest in political economy. This will then frame an exploration of the large literature on production, before moving on to the less developed topic of the archaeology of exchange. General attempts to model economic or political economic systems based on archaeological data will be reviewed before switching to formalist approaches adapted from more recent economic theorists such as North and Picketty. Finally we will end with a discussion of relatively recent substantivist themes, such as the archaeology of value, and theorists such as Graeber and Bourdieu.

Students will take turns presenting on the readings and write a final paper.

Permission of the instructors is required.

Current Debates in the Art History & Archaeology of the Ancient Mediterranean
Hallie Franks
hmf2@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3013-001
Mondays, 2-5pm

Rather than working around a theme or set of sources, this course aims to delineate some of the major current debates around and approaches to the study of ancient material culture in the Mediterranean. What kinds of questions are presently being asked of monuments and visual sources, both those recently discovered and long known? What theoretical approaches are being newly brought to bear on this material, and to what ends? What, in other words, are the kinds of issues that concern ancient art historians and archaeologists today, and how are they moving the study of ancient art in new directions? In looking to these questions, we will also look back and forward, situating recent studies in relationship to the scholarly history on which they depend.

Discussion topics may involve the use of new technologies, the construction of ancient “social imaginaries”, historiographical treatments of race, ethnicity, and gender, and environmental change. That said, topics for many of our classes will be determined on students’ fields, interests, and on research exercises. In addition to exposing students to a variety of approaches to ancient material culture, the hope is that this class will help each student to form a picture of their field as a whole and to practice positioning their research—present or future—in relationship to contemporary scholarship.

Permission of the instructor is required.

Palace to Polis: The Aegean ca. 1400-600 BCE
Antonis Kotsonas
ak7509@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3013-002
Thursdays, 9am-12pm 

The seminar engages a range of important discourses on political, social and economic history and material culture in the Aegean from the Late Bronze Age to the end of the Early Iron Age (14th to 7th centuries BCE). In adopting this chronological scope, the seminar brings together two key periods of Aegean archaeology which are typically treated separately. We will be comparing and contrasting the textual and material culture of the palace-centered polities of the Late Bronze Age with the culture of the communities of the Early Iron Age, many of which became Archaic Greek poleis. Inspired by discussions over continuity and change, and over internal development and external influence, we will examine: socio-political complexity, including its collapse and re-emergence; economy and trade; migration, colonization and relations with the Eastern and the Central Mediterranean; religion and cult practice; death, burial and the role of the past; script, literacy and the Homeric epic. Particular emphasis will be placed on the meaning of temporal and spatial variation in material culture and patterns of deposition, which is important for the seminar’s major aim of enriching and deconstructing the linear narrative embedded in the traditional concept of “Palace to Polis." 

Permission of the instructor is required.

Hittite Civilization: History, Archaeology, Language
Lorenzo d'Alfonso
lda5@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3018-001
Wednesdays, 2-5pm

Permission of the instructor is required.

Dynamics of Human-Environment Interactions across Ancient Near Eastern Landscapes
Mitra Panahipour
mitra.panahipour@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3018-002
Thursdays, 2-5pm

Understanding the dynamic nature of human-environment interactions has been one of the primary goals of archaeological studies in recent decades. In this seminar, we explore the intertwined relations between the natural environment and social processes in the formation and transformation of past landscapes. We will investigate diverse environmental as well as microenvironmental zones, including alluvial, desert, highland, frontier, and transitional regions, and will further discuss the significance and longer-term views on development, adaptation, sustainability, productivity, and collapse in ancient societies.

With an interdisciplinary approach and through hands-on training, students will learn Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and satellite-based remote sensing techniques. They will also gain familiarity with geospatial analyses in the documentation, visualization, and interpretation of landscapes. While learning these techniques, students will review the theoretical concepts in anthropological and landscape archaeology. We will conclude the course by discussing how enhanced tools are addressing some of the enduring questions about past economic, social and political systems and how these methods, along with theoretical underpinnings, will create new research avenues and shape the future of this field. 

This course combines lectures, in-class exercise and lab activities, as well as discussion of weekly readings.

Permission of the instructor is required.

Fall 2020: Other Courses

Advanced Ancient Egyptian I
Marc J. LeBlanc
marc.leblanc@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 1002-001
Fridays, 10am-1pm

This course will focus on reading Middle Egyptian texts in a variety of genres. Special consideration will be given to the grammar, as well as the materiality and historical, cultural, and archaeological context, of the texts.

Prerequisites: ISAW-GA 1000, "Intro to Ancient Egyptian I," and ISAW-GA 1001, "Intro to Ancient Egyptian II" (or equivalent coursework).

Permission of the instructor is required.

Spring 2021: Seminar on the Interconnected Ancient World: Themes

Historiography of the Ancient World
Roderick Campbell & Robert Hoyland
rbc2@nyu.edu; rgh2@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3030-001
Tuesdays, 2-5pm

Historiography is fundamental to what we do as historians, art historians, or archaeologists. Broadly, and interdisciplinarily, understood, it references the method and theory of the study of the past. This seminar will investigate both modern approaches to the study of antiquity as well as the historiographies of ancient writers. We will also call upon diverse faculty both in ISAW and outside it, who work on the ancient world, to discuss historiographical debates in their field and to present their own methodology for engaging with the past. This will help students to appreciate the degree to which historiographical strategies vary according to region, culture and period, reflecting the different ways in which academic fields have developed (e.g. Egyptology versus Sinology), and according to the different materials available for study (literary, documentary, epigraphic, archaeological, etc). 

Assessment: Oral presentation: 25%; contribution to class discussion: 25%; Final paper: 50%

Permission of the instructors is required.

Spring 2021: Research Seminars

Remembering and Forgetting: Theory and Applications of Memory Studies
Odette Boivin
odette.boivin@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3012-001
Mondays, 9am-12pm

Human experience is largely shaped by the past, individual and collective, including what we remember of it and how we remember it. Memory Studies have developed rapidly in the past few decades, penetrating several academic disciplines, including Sociology, Anthropology, History, and various areas of Cultural Studies. Remembering and forgetting takes many shapes and guises: as historians—in a broad sense—we find aspects of memory hiding behind any instance of continuity or innovation, archaizing features, memorialization, intentional destruction or damnatio memoriae that we encounter in our sources.

This seminar takes an interdisciplinary approach to explore theories of Memory Studies and case studies from the Ancient World. We will first review foundational and more recent scholarship in Memory Studies by reading and discussing works by scholars in various fields of research. Topics covered include: individual memory, generational memory, collective/cultural Memory, memory and history, memory and historiography, lieux de mémoire, commemoration/memorialization/instrumentalization of the past, memory and identity, remembering and forgetting, memory and religion, concepts of time.

In the second half of the semester, the emphasis will be on case studies based on textual and archaeological sources from various ancient cultures.

Permission of the instructor is required.

Galen: The "Canonical" Works
Claire Bubb
cc148@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3012-002
Tuesdays, 9am-12pm

This seminar will provide an intensive study of the medical oeuvre of Galen of Pergamon. The vast corpus of this second century physician allows an unparalleled window into medicine in Greco-Roman antiquity. Due to Galen’s antiquarian interests and his prominent place in imperial Rome, his writings offer particularly valuable insights not just into medicine as it was practiced in the first two centuries CE, but also into both the socio-intellectual culture of the Roman empire and the now largely lost worlds of Hellenistic medicine and philosophy. In reaction to the size of the corpus, late antique teachers of medicine soon found it desirable to create a navigable selection of core works for students to read. We will follow this Alexandrian canon of the so-called “Sixteen Books,” some of which are among his most famous, others of which have received limited attention from modern scholarship. We will begin the course by reading the relevant sections of Hunain ibn Ishaq’s Risala, which describes the late antique curriculum, and Galen’s On my Own Books and On the Order of my Own Books, which offer his own views on how to conceive of his output. We will then proceed through the following works: On the Sects for Beginners, The Art of Medicine, On the Pulse, Method of Healing to Glaucon, the minor anatomical works, On Temperaments, On the Natural Faculties, On the Elements according to Hippocrates, the books of causes/differentiae, On the Affected Parts, the collected books on the pulse, On Critical Days, On the Differences of Fevers, On Crises, and the latter half of On the Method of Healing. Students will come out of the class with a comprehensive understanding of Galenic medicine, as well as a solid familiarity with the themes of ancient medicine writ large. Because of the large scope of the reading list, the readings will be assigned in English translation and there is therefore no language requirement; however, students with Greek will be asked to read some key passages of each week’s reading in the original.

Permission of the instructor is required.

Writing History – Experimentally
Roderick Campbell
rbc2@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3013-001
Fridays, 2-5pm

Historians, anthropologists and archaeologists all communicate through writing. We re-construct, imagine, present, narrate, tell stories, but seldom do we reflect seriously on this process. Even less do we actively play in the creative field that is manifestly the ground of all writing, historical or otherwise. Nor is taking writing seriously (or joyously!) merely about the aesthetics of good form or the craft of persuasive rhetoric but rather the very structuring, embodying, even worlding of thought. What then might history, anthropology or archaeology look like if we reconfigured the parameters of its constitution? This seminar will explore the craft of historical writing including its experimental borders with counter-factuals, fictioning, narration/anti-narration, weird realism, and even speculative fiction.

In addition to weekly readings, students will have weekly short writing assignments ranging from response papers to creative writing. There will be a final, creative writing, paper.

Permission of the instructor is required.

Eastern Aspects of Maritime Trade in the Era of the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea
Daniel Potts
daniel.potts@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3013-002
Thursdays, 2-5pm

This seminar will examine selected problems arising from the maritime trade, principally during the 1st century AD, that linked the Indian sub-continent with Babylonia, the Persian Gulf and the Arabian peninsula. The products traded and their sources, the ports, imports and exports, and interactions between Arabians, Greeks, Mesopotamians, Palmyrenes and others will all be examined. Archaeological evidence from newer investigations in the UAE, Oman and Bahrain will be investigated as well.

Permission of the instructor is required.

Cultural Connectivity Across 5th Century Eurasia
Sören Stark
ss5951@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3013-003
Thursdays, 9am-12pm

The 5th century CE saw a remarkable revival of cultural connectivity across large parts of Eastern and Central Eurasia with a series of new political players: The Tuoba Xianbei/Northern Wei Dynasty unified northern China and restarted diplomatic exchanges with the various 'Western Regions;' in the Mongolian steppes –– for the time first since more than 300 years –– a new imperial power emerged in form of the Rouran/'Avar' Qaghanat, and Tokharistan and Sogdiana flourished under Hephthalite rule. Our class will be held in conjunction with ISAW's Xianbei Exhibition. We will inquire into underlying new economic and political/diplomatic networks, as well as their emergence during a time of rapid social change during the preceding 'dark age' after the end of the Han in East and the Kushan in Central and South Asia.

Permission of the instructor is required.

Ancient Near Eastern Literature: Topics, Issues, Approaches
Beate Pongratz-Leisten
bpl2@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3018-002
Tuesdays, 9am-12pm
Large Conference Room, 6th Floor 

In the last decades the category of ‘literature’ in the Ancient Near East has come repeatedly under scrutiny. It included among other topics fierce discussions about how to define the literary corpus, orality and aurality, the notion of genre, the validity of historical references in literary works and the fluid boundaries between ‘literature’ and ‘historiography,’ where to locate literary production - school, temple, or palace, and how far the production process determined functional and pragmatic aspects of literary works. 

To isolate literature from its historical context as l’art pour l’art aesthetics favoring formalistic features over pragmatic and historical concerns certainly does not do justice to ancient literary works. While formalistic features such as the use of literary dialects might operate as a way of categorization, recently, due to the nature of the texts, narratology as well as fictionality have been considered equally important. Literature rather should be defined as a particular medium alongside other media as part of the social and cultural discourse. Moreover, what makes an oeuvre historically significant, is not necessarily established by the qualities of the work or by the author but by its history of reception and its intertextuality and intermediality. The seminar investigates what constituted literary works, how literary works became part of the stream of tradition, were affected by and affected historical conditions, and entered intertextual and intermedial relations.

Permission of the instructor is required. Knowledge of Akkadian is required. The research seminar is open to graduate students, visiting scholars, and faculty. Students are required to do read primary texts in Akkadian and to do short response papers to the readings as well a presentation in combination with a written final paper.

3D Modelling and Related Technologies
Sebastian Heath
sh1933@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3023-001
Wednesdays, 2-5pm

Virtual representations of the ancient world are becoming increasingly important to both research and teaching as the ability to acquire, create, work with, and share these digital resources becomes less expensive and more widely available. Accordingly, this course will combine hands-on experience with creating and using 3D representations of ancient material culture, including objects and architectural spaces, with a review of current practices being employed by museums, archaeologists, and other practitioners. In all aspects of the course, the emphasis is on using these highly visual technologies to tell stories and to communicate and illustrate a wide range of recoverable aspects of ancient societies. Students will use such tools as the introductory 3D modeling software SketchUp, the more capable open-source 3D-suite Blender, game editing software, and tools for making 3D models from photographs. We will explore the acquisition, editing, creation and sharing of richly-textured 3D models of real objects as well as create and explore immersive virtual environments. A focus will be using affordable hardware for creating virtual reality experiences. Readings will include reports of ongoing work as well as discussions of why "3D" is important and how it is being used in teaching and in the field. Students will often be using their own computers and should be willing to apply themselves energetically to learning the digital skills the class introduces. 

Permission of the instructor is required.

Spring 2021: Other Courses

Advanced Akkadian: Neo-Babylonian Royal Inscriptions and Religious Texts
Beate Pongratz-Leisten
bpl2@nyu.edu
ISAW-GA 3018-003
Thursdays, 11am-1pm
Large Conference Room, 6th Floor

In addition to consolidating the knowledge of Akkadian grammar the Advanced Reading of Akkadian Class is designed to introduce into various dialects of Akkadian from a diversity of regions and periods and to familiarize the student with a diversity of paleographies as well as text categories. In particular cases it will include the reading from photos of the originals to provide practice for reading originals of tablet collections in museums.

This class is dedicated to the Neo-Babylonian dialect, grammar and paleography, which will be studied in royal inscriptions of Nabupolassar, Nebuchadnezzar II, and Nabonidus, the Nabupolassar Epic and the Verse Account.

Grading: Reading of the texts (75%); Final (25%)

Requirements: At least one year of Akkadian

Permission of the instructor is required.

Advanced Ancient Egyptian II
Niv Allon
niv.allon@metmuseum.org
ISAW-GA 1003-001
Fridays, 9am-12pm

This course will focus on reading Middle Egyptian texts in a variety of genres. Special consideration will be given to the grammar, as well as the materiality and historical, cultural, and archaeological context, of the texts. 

Prerequisites: ISAW-GA 1000, "Intro to Ancient Egyptian I"; ISAW-GA 1001, "Intro to Ancient Egyptian II"; and ISAW-GA 1002, "Advanced Ancient Egyptian I" (or equivalent coursework).

Permission of the instructor is required.

Past Seminars