University of Virginia: Archaeology Brown-Bag Workshop

Archaeology Brown-Bag Workshops provide an informal, interdisciplinary venue for presentations of work in progress by students, faculty, and visiting scholars, and for discussion of developments in the recent archaeological literature. Light refreshments are served. Workshops convene more-or-less tri-weekly on Fridays at 4:00-5:30 in the conference room on the second floor of Brooks Hall, unless otherwise noted below.

Want to volunteer a talk or discussion topic? Email Adria LaViolette, or Fraser Neiman.
Spring 2017
Jan. 27
Late Holocene Resource Exploitation and Settlement in the Velondriake Marine Protected Area, Southwest Madagascar. Kristina G. Douglass, Buck Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History.

Feb. 24
The Facade of Frontages at Ostia. Claire Weiss, McIntire Department of Art, University of Virginia.

Abstract. Ostia presents one of the largest areas of exposed ruins in Italy, making available an extensive, contiguous expanse of Roman urban construction. The city is often lumped together with Pompeii and Herculaneum as one of the handful of well-preserved Roman cities to which scholarship has returned time and again as a source of incomparably complete data. This is a misperception. The example set by the Vesuvian cities, their appearance very similar to that at the moment of their destruction in A.D. 79, has distorted the conceptualization of, approach to, and resulting discussion surrounding Ostia. This paper presents the results of a city-wide frontage and street survey conducted at Ostia in 2014 and 2016, proposing an identification of the portions of the streets that have been disturbed and re-laid, as well as the portions of the streets and sidewalks that are preserved in their original aspect. Without accounting for the degree of reconstruction, conclusions about urban activity at Ostia will remain as fanciful as the structures on which they are based.
March 17
Special Event
American Death, and Being. Shannon Lee Dawdy, Associate Professor of Anthropology and of Social Sciences, University of Chicago. Sponsored by the Department of Anthroplogy, Proseminar Series, and the Interdisciplinary Program in Archaeology. 1:00 p.m., Brooks Hall, 2nd Floor Conference Room. Reception to follow in the Brooks Hall Commons.

AbstractIn the U.S. today, death practices are changing rapidly and creatively. Not only did the cremation rate double between 2000 and 2015, but there has been a proliferation of new things to do with ashes – incorporating them into artificial reefs, making them into synthetic diamonds, or blending them into vinyl records. What do these new styles of death tell us about U.S. cosmology and values? What is the status of the subject/object divide in daily life? What is a ‘person’ before and after death? What does the secular afterlife look like? Using ethnographic interviews with funeral directors, death midwives, and object designers collected as part of a documentary film product, I will attempt to outline what a populist American theory of being might be. In so doing, I argue against some of the current trends in the anthropology of ontology.
March 31
Burial, Landscape, and Memory in Early Iron Age Kavousi, Crete.Leslie Preston Day, Professor of Classics Emerita, Wabash College. Location: Room 215, Fayerweather Hall.

April 7
Special Event
Connected Communities: Undocumented Migration and Material Practices in the West Mediterranean. Peter Van Dommelen, Joukowsky Family Professor of Archaeology and Professor of Anthropology, Brown University. Sponsored by the Department of Anthroplogy, Proseminar Series, and the Interdisciplinary Program in Archaeology. 1:00 p.m., Brooks Hall, 2nd Floor Conference Room. Reception to follow in the Brooks Hall Commons.

Abstract. Migration has long been a major topic in archaeology and as long as culture history has framed archaeological understandings of material culture and past societies, migrations have been seen as the stuff that (pre)history was made of. With the advent of the New, Processual and Post-Processual archaeologies, archaeological explanations and theoretical interests have shied away from migration, but a lack of interest among contemporary archaeologists does not mean that people in the past did not migrate. Migration was in all likelihood as common, recurrent and widespread a phenomenon in the ancient and distant past as it is today—it has indeed been argued that migration is arguably a fundamental part of being human. As new scientific techniques like DNA, isotope analyses and other biometric approaches have become available, migration has come back on the archaeological agenda, and there is widespread interest in tracing and tracking migration. Scientific evidence that certain individuals actually moved from A to B does not necessarily improve our archaeological understanding of migration as a process, however, and it is precisely this question that I intend to tackle in this lecture. Using prehistoric, Classical and recent archaeological and ethnographic evidence from around the West Mediterranean, I intend to take a fresh look at past migration. In doing so, it is not so much my aim to find ‘hard evidence’ for specific migratory movements but rather to examine the contexts and consequences of migration for both migrant and host societies.
April 7
Craftsmanship in the Prehistoric Aegean:Investigating Technological Questions. Nikolas Papadimitriou, Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens Center for Hellenic Studies, Harvard University. Location: TBA.

Abstract Since the birth of Greek archaeology, Aegean artworks of the Bronze Age have been the subject of admiration for their high aesthetics and skilled craftsmanship. Scholars have examined in detail questions of style, establishing stages of evolution, identifying relations with the art of other regions, and proposing possible interpretations for everything from Cycladic figurines to Mycenaean frescoes. By contrast, the technology of Bronze Age artefacts has been less systematically studied, as a rule on the basis of macroscopic observations in the margin of broader stylistic studies. This talk will present the results of two ongoing research projects that focus on the technology of a) Early Cycladic figurines and b) Mycenaean gold jewelry. Discussion will begin with the analytical methodology employed in the investigation of manufacturing processes, stages of production, decorative techniques, and tools used. This will be followed by examples of experimental reconstructions made to test assumptions and provide comparative material for study. In conclusion, the wider implications of the findings for craft organization, movement of artists, and the question of technological transfer in the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC will be discussed.
April 28
Recent archaeological research in Cahokia's West Plaza. Davide Domenici, Department of History and Cultures, University of Bologna.

Abstract This talk present the results of a recent archaeological project, organized jointly by the University of Bologna (Italy) and Washington University in St. Louis (US) located in the so-called Merrell Tract. The tract is an area within one of the four plazas which defined the epicenter of the Mississippian city of Cahokia, in Illinois. The excavation, expanding an area investigated in 1960 during a salvage archeological project, brought to light evidence of human occupation dating from pre-Cahokian, Emergent Mississippian times (10th century AD) to the Late Mississippian Moorehead and Sand Prairie phases (14th century), thus spanning the entire Cahokian sequence. The recovered evidence witnesses changing settlement dynamics that reflect the whole trajectory of Cahokia's history, from its birth to ultimate demise.
Past Semesters
For topics and speakers from past semesters, click here.