Course Descriptions

Professor and students with laptops around table in classrom ©Kahn: Courtesy of NYU Photo Bureau To 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. During fall 2020, all in-person classes will be held in the 2nd-floor Lecture Hall unless indicated otherwise.

Spring 2021: Seminar on the Interconnected Ancient World: Themes

Historiography of the Ancient World
Roderick Campbell & Robert Hoyland;
ISAW-GA 3030-001
Tuesdays, 2-5pm
Mode of Instruction: Online

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
ISAW-GA 3012-005
Mondays, 9am-12pm
Mode of Instruction: Online

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
ISAW-GA 3012-006
Tuesdays, 9am-12pm
Mode of Instruction: Online

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.

Curatorial Studies: How to Curate Cross-Cultural Thematic Exhibitions
Hsueh-man Shen & Clare Fitzgerald;
ISAW-GA 3012-007 (cross-listed as FINH-GA 3041-001) 
Thursdays, 12:30-2:30pm
Mode of Instruction: In Person
Location: Institute of Fine Arts, 1 East 78th Street, Lecture Hall

This seminar, co-taught by Professors Hsueh-man Shen (IFA) and Clare Fitzgerald (ISAW), aims to provide students with an overview of curatorial practices and challenges observed in museum settings. Special attention is paid to cross-cultural thematic exhibitions. After initial lectures from both professors and after considering a few case studies drawn from their own curatorial experiences, enrolled students will work in groups to develop ideas, strategies, narratives, and plans for exhibitions (virtual) on topics of their choice.

Permission of the instructors is required.

Archaeologies of the Athenian Acropolis: Myth, Cult, Monuments, and
Joan Connelly
ISAW-GA 3012-008 (cross-listed as FINH-GA 3023-001) 
Tuesday, 10:30am-12:30pm
Mode of Instruction: Online

This course investigates the archaeologies of the Athenian Acropolis through its transformations from early settlement, to Mycenaean citadel, to sacred precinct of Athena, to Late Antique town with Parthenon as Church of the Virgin Mary, to administrative center of Latin Duchy of Athens with Parthenon as the Cathedral Notre Dame D'Athènes, to Ottoman garrison with Parthenon as mosque and Erechtheion as Governor's harem, to world famous ruin, to archaeological site, to iconic epicenter Western Art and Culture.

We will examine the geology, landscape, archaeoastronomy, topography, and topology of the Athenian Acropolis with an eye toward understanding the interrelation of landscape, myth, cult, and ritual. Topics include: the architectural phases of the Acropolis buildings and monuments, their programs of sculptural decoration, their relationships to one another, the foundation myths that lie behind their meanings, and the cult rituals celebrated within the sacred precinct. Issues of reception, projection, and appropriation will be examined as will the history of the conservation and reconstruction of Acropolis buildings. Longstanding efforts to secure the reunification of the Parthenon sculptures will be reviewed within the broader context of global cultural heritage law and the opening of the New Acropolis Museum.

Permission of the instructor is required.

Writing History – Experimentally
Roderick Campbell
ISAW-GA 3013-005
Fridays, 2-5pm
Mode of Instruction: Online

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
ISAW-GA 3013-006
Thursdays, 2:45-5:45pm
Mode of Instruction: Online

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.

Fifth Century Central Eurasia and the Formation of a 'Eurasian Late Antiquity'
Sören Stark
ISAW-GA 3013-007
Thursdays, 9am-12pm
Mode of Instruction: Online

The fifth century CE saw a remarkable revival of cultural connectivity across large parts of Eastern and Central Eurasia with a series of new political actors, new religious and cultural dynamics, and new economic networks. The Tuoba Xianbei/Northern Wei Dynasty unified northern China and forcefully restarted diplomatic exchanges with the various 'Western Regions.' On the Korean peninsula we observe the appearance of a spectacular ensemble of monumental elite tombs associated with the elites of the state of Silla. In the Mongolian steppes – for the first time since more than 300 years – a new imperial power emerged in the form of the Rouran/Avar Qaghanate, while Buddhist monastic communities started to blossom in oases like Kucha in the Tarim basin. Further west, Sogdiana transformed by way of an internal urban and rural colonization into one of Eurasia's economic and cultural powerhouses, while Bactria/Tokharistan became the center of Hephthalite rule over the wider region. At the same time, south of the Hindukush, Gandhara saw a late blossoming of its Buddhist communities.

In many ways, the fifth century represents the end of the formative stage of a 'Eurasian Late Antiquity' – itself an era of far-reaching cultural contact that "witnessed the emergence of a new world order with cultural, religious, and political systems markedly different from the so-called Classical Antiquity of the Roman, Chinese, and Iranian worlds that preceded them" (Di Cosmo/Maas 2018, 1).

In our seminar we will focus on the role of Central Eurasia in the formation of this 'Eurasian Late Antiquity.' We will inquire into underlying new economic, cultural, and political/diplomatic networks – how they emerged 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, and how they culminated during the heyday of intercontinental exchanges from the second half of the sixth century CE onwards.

Permission of the instructor is required.

Phrygia Between the East and the West
Lorenzo d'Alfonso
ISAW-GA 3018-005
Wednesdays, 9am-12pm
Mode of Instruction: Online

At the dawn of historiography in the Greco-Roman world, between the sixth and the mid fifth century Phrygia represented the most ancient great power known of Anatolia. For some sources, Phrygia represented the earliest past of Anatolia, a civilization existing form the origins of time. From a west Asian perspective, by the 8th century, under the name of Muški, the Phrygian kingdom represented the easternmost political power that the Mesopotamian world had become aware of during the early 1st millennium. The monograph of AS.M. Wittke of 2004, Phrygier und Mušker, ideally offers a synthesis on the archaeological and textual sources for the reconstruction of this kingdom embodying a borderland between two worlds.

With the new chronology of the Destruction Level of Gordion, the new set of 14C dates for the Early Iron Age occupation at the site, new interpretations of ancient sources and new written sources recently uncovered in central Anatolia, our understanding of the process of formation of the Phrygian kingdom, its early history and its integration within Aegean, north-western and central Anatolia is radically changing. A renewed evaluation is required also by the apogee of the Phrygian kingdom. New hypotheses on dating and modalities of spread of the alphabetic writings has also produced a significant change in the evaluation of the standing of Phrygian as a writing system and a language. The same holds true for dating and meaning of several Phrygian landscape monuments. Moreover, the growing consciousness of the importance but also the differences between the 10th-9th century early political stage and the powerful kingdom of Gordias and Midas, are stimulus for the new evaluation. The question of a later 7th-early 6th century spread of Phrygians and/or Phrygian culture towards the east, and the meaning of the sites of Bağazköy Büyükkale and Karkenes in this new context, completes the set of new evidence.  All these elements encourage a revision on the understanding of the reception and significance of Phrygia and its culture in the Greco-Roman world and in other regions of western Asia.

Permission of the instructor is required.

Ancient Near Eastern Literature: Topics, Issues, Approaches
Beate Pongratz-Leisten
ISAW-GA 3018-006
Tuesdays, 9am-12pm
Mode of Instruction: Online

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
ISAW-GA 3023-001
Wednesdays, 2-5pm
Mode of Instruction: Online

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

Archaic and Classical Greece: Historical and Archaeological Problems
Antonis Kotsonas
ISAW-GA 3003-010
Tuesdays, 9am-12pm
Mode of Instruction: Online

In this tutorial we will explore a range of fundamental issues in the study of Archaic and Classical Greece (ca. 750-300 BCE). The focus will be on the ways in which material culture, and literary and epigraphic evidence shed light on important problems of socio-political and economic history, and on major developments in different parts of the Greek world. Note: this tutorial is worth four credits.

Permission of the instructor is required.

Advanced Akkadian: Neo-Babylonian Royal Inscriptions and Religious Texts
Beate Pongratz-Leisten
ISAW-GA 3018-007
Thursdays, 11am-1pm
Mode of Instruction: Online

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
Yekaterina Barbash
ISAW-GA 1003-001
Fridays, 10am-1pm
Mode of Instruction: Online

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