Advanced Archaeology Course Explores “Time and Cosmos” Exhibit in NYC

March 7th, 2017 by tjoseph

By Kelsey Littlefield ‘17

On Saturday, February 25, fourteen students from Professor Neel Smith’s “Archaeology and Time” course explored the “Time and Cosmos in Greco-Roman Antiquity” exhibit, curated by the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, an affiliate of New York University (NYU).

Christine Roughan ’14 (front left) welcomes the class to the “Time and Kosmos” exhibit.

Christine Roughan ’14, a Classics major and physics minor while at the College and currently a Ph.D. candidate at NYU, gave Prof. Smith’s class a private docent tour upon arrival. The exhibit allowed students to connect their previous knowledge of timekeeping methods garnered from the course with practical, technologically advanced possessions from antiquity. Some featured objects in the exhibit included numerous public and portable sundials (a way for the ancients to calculate the passage of time by observing the shadows cast by the sun); the Roman calendar, or fasti, carved in marble; surveying instruments; and other tools for timekeeping.

On the tour Roughan highlighted the importance of astrology and the zodiac symbols that we know in modernity as a way for ancient Greeks and Romans to reflect on time and the universe’s dual partnership that had the power to shape the environment and destiny.

“Archaeology and Time” is an advanced archaeology course that aims to understand what kinds of evidence and reasoning lie behind chronological claims about events, such as Xerxes invading Greece in 480 B.C. and Mount Vesuvius erupting precisely on Aug. 24, A.D. 79, by means of literary/historical sources and other dating methods. In addition, the course allows students to blend theoretical reasoning with hands-on research that will culminate in a research project that assesses and seeks to explain a chronological problem through the use of primary evidence.

Maureen Lamb ’07 named Connecticut Language Teacher of the Year

March 7th, 2017 by tjoseph

We extend congratulations to Maureen (Gassert) Lamb ’07, who was named the 2016–17 Connecticut Language Teacher of the Year. Maureen has been teaching Latin at the Westminster School in Simsbury, CT, for eight years and is currently serving as the Language Department Head. While at Holy Cross Maureen was a double major in Classics and Music.

Maureen on a recent trip to the Colosseum.

Maureen was also recently awarded the 2017 Dr. Elizabeth Watkins Award from the American Classical League, as well as a Mead Fellowship from the New England Council of Foreign Language Teachers to create a website with resources for beginning Latin and Ancient Greek teachers in New England.

For more on Maureen’s honor as Connecticut Language Teacher of the Year, click here for the story in the Hartford Courant.

Hanna Seariac ’20 dishes up food for thought at Mass. JCL Classics Day

January 4th, 2017 by tjoseph

By Hanna Seariac ’20

On December 1 I presented at Boston University for the Massachusetts Junior Classical League Classics Day, attended by over 850 high school students and teachers. I was there as one of a handful of college undergraduates, known as Senior Classical Leaguers. My presentation, titled “Wine and Dine in Ancient Rome,” considered the culinary and dining customs in ancient Greece and, especially, ancient Rome.

In the presentation I moved from sharing what would happen at a convivium, symposium, and every day dining to representations of food in literature, using Plautus, Horace, Juvenal, Catullus, and Plato as key examples. I discussed how certain literary features originate from ancient uses of different foods, citing, for example, Emily Gowers’ interpretation of the Atellan farce character “Maccus” as being connected to the name of a mashed cereal dish.

Hanna at the podium at Boston University

Hanna at the podium at Boston University

Furthering this point, I began to discuss my own interpretation of “false Epicureanism” in Juvenal and Horace, asserting that the idea of luxury that they each bring up in their satires by including Falernian wine and other expensive dining items parallels the attitude of real Epicureans, despite the fact that it conflicts with their own ideals.

Moving forward to Catullus’ thirteenth poem, I discussed the cena, or dinner party, as a way to advance politically, but also in a metaphorical sense. I considered how the modern film interpretation of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby portrays a dinner scene between Tom and Daisy where no food is eaten. In Catullus 13, Catullus invites Fabullus over for dinner without having any food on the table. Furthermore, at the dinner scene in The Great Gatsby, Tom and Daisy spend their time “conspiring” as Tom promises to make Daisy happy. Catullus wants to spend his time “conspiring” as he promises to give Fabullus true friendship. Cena and convivium in both instances come to represent more than just a meal, but also the idea of a communion – or conspiring – over food.

My presentation was followed by a brief question and answer session, mostly focused on what I thought about the use of words such as sal as having a double meaning, “salt” and “wit.” To this I said “Well, look at our use of the word ‘salty.’”

Nick Guarracino ’18 blogs from around the Roman world

December 9th, 2016 by tjoseph
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Nick at the Temple of Hera in Paestum in southern Italy.

Nicholas Guarracino ’18, a double-major in Classics and Italian, is spending the academic year studying at Loyola University’s John Felice Center in Rome. He is also finding time to travel around Italy and Europe — and documenting it all (or a lot of it, at least) on his blog.

Click here to read and see much more on Nick’s blog.

HC students use podcasts to offer a modern take on the ancient environment

November 21st, 2016 by tjoseph

Heroes battling rivers, eagles predicting the future, temples located on spectacular mountain peaks! The natural world played a central role in so many aspects of the lives of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and this semester a group of Holy Cross students in Prof. Aaron Seider’s new course “Nature in the Classical World” will be sharing their ideas on these topics and more in a series of eleven Podcast episodes.

So, if you’re intrigued by the notion of exploring what the Greeks and Romans thought about topics like nature and spirituality, reincarnation and the universe, or humans and animals, then I’d encourage you to subscribe: https://itun.es/i6hC9dB. You’ll be fascinated by what you hear.

Eric Adler speaks on the place of the Classics in American higher education

November 21st, 2016 by tjoseph

On Thursday, October 20, Eric Adler, Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Maryland, delivered at talk at Holy Cross titled “The Transformation of Humanism and the Fate of Classical Studies in America.” The talk was followed by a lively question and answer session, and a group of Classics majors and faculty continued the discussion with Prof. Adler over dinner.

The talk and dinner were sponsored by the McFarland Center for Religion, Ethics, and Culture. The McFarland Center has posted a video of the talk and the Q and A that followed here. And here is the video from YouTube:

Discoveries in the Dirt at Poggio del Molino

October 18th, 2016 by tjoseph

By Allyn Waller ’18

This past summer, I had the privilege and the pleasure of working on an archaeological excavation at Poggio del Molino in central Italy. Along with two other Holy Cross students, Amanda Kondek ’17 and Eric Fox ’18, I spent several weeks kneeling on rocks, scraping dirt off of other dirt, discovering how much rock looks like pottery, and vice-versa.

A Day in the Life

On a typical day, we would get up early in the morning, eat breakfast, pack lunches and head to the dig site. Five minutes down a dirt road in between fields of grapes and we arrived at the site. After digging for a few hours, painstakingly scraping the dirt up one layer at a time, checking each object for archeological significance and brushing up the dust, we took a coffee break. After half an hour or so sitting in the shade, it was back to work again.

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Preparing to dig are (L to R) Alena, a graduate student in archaeology at the University of Arizona; Allyn Waller ’18 (the author of this piece); Martina, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Bologna; and Amber Groves, who recently completed her Master’s in Archaeology at the University of Indiana. (Photo by Amanda Kondek ’17)

When we found something in the layer we were removing, we would carefully remove the dirt around it to determine if it was fully contained in the layer. If it was, we removed it and placed it in a bag for later cleaning and labeling. Unless, of course, it was actually a rock. Determining whether something was a rock or pottery sherd, however, was not always easy. “Is this rock or pottery?” was a constant refrain for the first few days, at least until one of the grad students at the site explained that we could always lick it and find out. (Apparently, since pottery is porous, it will stick to your tongue if you lick it.)

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Probably not rocks. (Photo by Allyn Waller ’18)

Eventually, it was time for lunch. (That is, if you weren’t full from licking rocks all morning.) During lunch, we had the opportunity to talk to the other people who were working on the site with us. Each week, there was a different group working with us on the dig. One week, it was a group of Italian high school students who were spending their summer trying out different jobs a week at a time, getting a feel for what they wanted to do. Another, it was a group of students from all over Europe and North America as part of a summer program in archaeology. For two weeks, we had a group of restoration experts working on the mosaics of the baths and bedrooms.

History

But Poggio del Molino was more than just a rich Roman’s mosaicked country retreat. It began, in fact, with pirates. The earliest structures we have evidence of at Poggio del Molino are three towers designed for defending the nearby Etruscan settlement of Populonia from pirates. Later, after the Roman republic controlled the area and mitigated the threat of piracy, the site became a factory for producing garum, a sauce made from pickling fish intestines.

During the Empire, as it became cheaper to produce garum in newly-acquired territories like North Africa, it was turned into a country villa for some wealthy Roman family. Sometime in Late Antiquity, the bedrooms of the villa were reconstructed into a small church by knocking all interior walls down and walling up the doorways.

Cool Finds

Due to this varied history, there were lots of really interesting things to be found at our site. Several bronze coins, ranging in size and preservation from a small speck just half the size of a pinky nail up to an inch-wide disc with legible writing and a clear profile were found in and around the area we worked in. We found evidence of iron-mongering operations, including leftover iron slag, hematite ore, and the burns left by furnaces on the floor. I found a small block of lead, which I thankfully recognized before anyone licked it. We found both bronze and iron nails, as well as some larger, but mostly unrecognizable, iron pieces.

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When the same site is used for hundreds of years, sometimes you get walls in between other walls. (Photo by Allyn Waller ’18)

We found pottery, of course. Most of it was fairly coarse cooking ware or simple dining or storage pottery, but I did find a fancy painted black-slipware piece from the fourth century BCE. Of course, the excitement from finding it was slightly marred by the fact that it should not have been there. I found it in the uppermost layer of soil, the humus, under the roots of a big pine tree. Chronologically, we should have been finding cassette tapes and floppy disks, not pottery pushing 2500 years.

That strangely located piece, however, has to contend with another for the best find of the summer: The Italian high school students working the room next to ours found a completely intact clay lamp! It looked as if it had just been pulled out from behind the glass in a museum display. It was absolutely incredible, although my expectations might have been slightly lowered by 87,492 things I had found that day that weren’t pottery, much less intact.

Of course, it wasn’t all kneeling on rocks and scraping dirt out of tree roots. On weekends we were free to take trips to various cities around Italy, so we saw a lot of museums (and gelaterias). To me, though, the most exciting museum was the one in the modern-day town of Populonia, where most of the collection came from Poggio del Molino. I like knowing that the things I excavated could end up in a museum someday, informing future Classicists. Increasing our knowledge about the world of around two thousand years ago is worth a little dirt-scraping and root-kneeling. But maybe not rock-licking.

Allyn, from Atlanta, Georgia, is a Classics major with a minor in Computer Science. He is also completing the Teacher Education Program at Holy Cross.

Alex Simrell ’16 blogs from the University of Zagreb in Croatia

October 6th, 2016 by tjoseph

Alex Simrell ’16 is spending 2016-17 at the University of Zagreb in Croatia on a Fulbright Fellowship. Click here for Alex’s blog, which includes an entry that makes the case for the long-term importance of studying Greek and Latin.

Thomas Köntges presents on Petronian puzzles and possibilities

October 4th, 2016 by tjoseph

Thomas Köntges of Leipzig University in Germany visited Holy Cross on September 29 and 30 to speak with students from Prof. Neel Smith’s “Digital Reading and Writing” course and Prof. Tim Joseph’s “Literature in the Age of Nero” course, as well as members of the Manuscripts, Inscriptions, and Documents Club.

In his talk titled “Quid novi: a story of five centuries of Petronius research and me,” Prof. Köntges shared his work on the manuscript tradition of Petronius’ fragmentary first-century CE prosimetric novel Satyrica. He emphasized the new possibilities for research that result from recent access to digital photographs of early manuscripts.

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Students take in the discussion of the elaborate manuscript tradition of the Satyrica. Photo by Prof. Ellen Perry.

 

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Prof. Köntges and Prof. Smith at the outset of the talk. Photo by Prof. Ellen Perry.

 

Prof. Martin in the land of the Helvetii

September 21st, 2016 by tjoseph

Earlier this month Prof. Tom Martin was an invited participant in an international workshop on “Josephus Latinus” held at the University of Bern, Switzerland. He and his co-author Prof. David Levenson of the Dept. of Religion at Florida State University made a presentation on their research on Latin manuscripts of the ancient translations of the original Greek works of Flavius Josephus from the first century CE. Their research concentrates on Josephus’ work The Jewish War, an eyewitness account of the famous story of the rebellion in Judaea against Roman control that led to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Students at Holy Cross and FSU made significant contributions to this scholarship through their work in a joint undergraduate/graduate seminar taught in the fall of 2014 simultaneously at both institutions using video conferencing.

In the photo, Prof. Martin is shown in Bern by the light of the full moon illuminating the House of Parliament of Switzerland, known by its Latin title visible just below the pediment of the building as CURIA CONFOEDERATIONIS HELVETICAE. Calling the Swiss people Helvetii goes back to Julius Caesar’s Gallic War, while curia was the Romans’ designation for their Senate House.