Pasts Imperfect (11.17.22)
Writing Food Histories, Dubious Homer Papyri, Ancient Lice Combs, and More
This week, Stephanie Wong discusses how and why we write food histories. Then, a dubious Homer papyrus is sold, the ancient Mesoamerican influences on Wakanda Forever, new research into the late Roman colonate and the spaces between enslaved and free in Late Antiquity, a Canaanite lice comb with a lot to say, a podcast on Early Christian healthcare, an open data institute, and much more.
The Poetics of Food History by Stephanie Wong
If you’re anything like me, you hunger for three things: food, history, and food history. Whenever I would visit my maternal grandparents in Singapore, my grandmother would gaze at me wolfing down samosas or crab bee hoon or pandan cake and say, “她很会吃.” (“She’s a good eater.”) But in addition to having the stomach of a good eater, I have the brain of a historian.
Why is reading, writing, and learning about food history important? I’ll give you a personal example. As a historian of early modern Mexico, I marvel every day at the influence of the Americas on 21st-century cooking. What would modern Korean food be without gochu? Without corn? What would Belgium be without chocolate? In addition to carrying rich cultural histories, food is also deeply personal, inextricable from the self and from the body. Below, I have curated a brief roundup of recent culinary-historical news from the internet’s foodie vanguard. I hope you enjoy, and drop me a line if you ever want to chat about food, history, or a combination of both.
Over at Smithsonian Magazine, Matti Friedman writes about the humble but influential history of the date.
I grew up in the part of the world that doesn’t care (in my case, Canada), where supermarkets banish this queen of fruit to remote corners of the health-food aisle with the lowly prune and the most obscure nuts. But I’ve spent the last three decades living and writing in Israel, part of the world where the date reigns. Now when I visit North America and see these fruits languishing on their remote shelves, it feels like climbing into an Uber with that Washington, D.C. driver who was once finance minister of Afghanistan. You can almost hear them whispering: Don’t you know who I am?
A geography close to my heart: New York Times columnist Ligaya Mishan paints a nuanced portrait of Peranakan food culture for T Magazine.
If you find yourself in Los Angeles, check out LA Plaza Cocina, the first museum dedicated to Mexican food. In addition to traditional museum exhibits, the museum also hosts cooking classes in its teaching kitchen.
And for a palate cleanser (post Election Day and pre-Thanksgiving): Beloved culinary personality Sohla El-Waylly has discussed food histories with popular audiences for a long time. Her History Channel series “Ancient Recipes” is a great way to introduce anyone to a) food history and b) experimental archaeology as it relates to food. Her biryani episode is one of my favorites.
Finally, an exciting update from Public Books: I am now a contributing editor, so please submit pitches about culture and history to me at this link. I look forward to hearing your ideas!
Global Antiquity and Public Humanities on the Web
At Faces & Voices, Roberta Mazza discusses a dubious Homer papyrus with lines from the start of the Iliad, which sold this week for 35,000 €.
[I]t is linked with Dr Scott Carroll, Director of the Green Collection from 2009 to 2012, and now CEO of his own business, the Manuscripts Research Group, and connected with various other entities…
At Smithsonian Magazine, Nili Blanck discusses the Mesoamerican influences on the creation of Namor, “a Maya-inspired antihero played by Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta” in the new movie Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
While the comic versions of Namor and Atlantis take their cue from Greek mythology, Wakanda Forever draws on a different source of inspiration: Mesoamerica, a historic region spanning modern-day Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Mesoamerican Indigenous groups include the Maya, the Olmec, the Aztecs (or Mexica), and the Toltec.
As Julian C. Chambliss also writes about in The Conversation, Namor continues the commitment of the Black Panther series to recovering lost cultures.
In an article in the continuously developing The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Slaveries, Noel Lenski has a new chapter exploring the “The Late Roman Colonate: A New Status between Slave and Free.” As he argues,
A survey of the evidence confirms that the bound colonate grew out of fiscal registration in the late third century but then took on a life of its own as a third status of semi-servility in the following century. It had become fully articulated by the early fifth century such that the many peasants enmeshed in it were compelled to live as permanent tenants bound to the land on which they were born and burdened with numerous impediments to their freedom.
At the ancient Canaanite site of Tel Lachish, an ancient ivory lice comb was recently deciphered after being initially discovered in 2016. Madeleine Mumcuoglu, a researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, saw that there were symbols etched into the comb. The inscription is one of the earliest alphabetic sentences now known: “May this tusk root out the lice of the hair and the beard.” It is also the earliest complete sentence in the Canaanite dialect—all to curse a bothersome pest.
An update from the Logeion project, which provides an open-access database of linked Latin and Ancient Greek dictionaries: logeion.uchicago.edu today is now refreshed. “If you are a regular user, be prepared to refresh your browser when you next visit! You'll find some changes: some new data, and a new 'dimension', for those who want to search English > Greek or English > Latin, rather than the other way around.” There is also exciting new content (Λ words) from The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek, the English translation of Franco Montanari’s Vocabolario della Lingua Greca.
Finally, the incomparable Helen Rhee goes on the Infectious Historians podcast to discuss her research on early Christian healthcare and her new book on the subject:
The conversation begins with an overview of medicine in Greco-Roman antiquity, and transitions from there to survey health and illness in the Hebrew Bible before moving on to early Christian times. The topics covered include changes over time in the association between the divine and health (or disease), asceticism, pain, and the new idea of Christian health through hospitals in cities.
Conferences, Workshops, and Lectures:
The Alexandria Archive Institute / Open Context (AAI/OC) is pleased to announce a call for applications for Networking Archaeological Data and Communities (NADAC), an NEH-funded Institute for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities. During virtual and in-person meetings over two years, participants in NADAC will bridge theoretical and practical aspects of data. Participants will have an opportunity to work with mentors from a cohort of expert Faculty, Advisors, and Core Team members as they develop ethical, feasible data management plans; make progress on a data-driven, digital research project for professional communication, public engagement, or instruction; and contribute to a new publication, the Data Literacy for Archaeologists Practice Guide. Applications are due by December 1, 2022. To be considered for selection, please submit a complete application.
New Antiquity Journal Issues (by @YaleClassicsLib)
Papers of the British School at Rome Vol. 90 (2022) NB Mª Ángeles Alonso-Alonso, “The Schola Medicorum that Never Existed in Rome.”
Gephyra Vol. 24 (2022) #openaccess
Journal of Late Antiquity Vol.15, No. 2 (2022) Shaping Christian Politics in Late Antiquity
Augustinian Studies Vol. 53, No. 2 (2022)
Afrique: Archéologie & Arts Vol. 18 (2022) #openaccess
Annual of the British School at Athens Vol. 117 (2022)
Vigiliae Christianae Vol. 76, No. 5 (2022) NB: Phillip Abbott, “The Sound of Silence: Augustine’s Soundscape for the Christian Empire.”
Arion Vol. 30, No. 2 (2022)
Frühmittelalterliche Studien Vol.56 (2022) #openaccess
Archaeological Dialogues Vol. 29, No. 2 (2022) NB Paul Newson& Ruth Young “Post-conflict ethics, archaeology and archaeological heritage”
Phronesis Vol.67, No. 4 (2022)
Illinois Classical Studies Vol. 47, No. 1 (2022)
Cambridge Archaeological Journal Vol. 32, No. 4 (2022)
Auster No. 27 (2022) #openaccess
Anzeiger für die Altertumswissenschaft Vol. 85, No. 2 (2022) #openaccess
Early Christianity Vol. 13, No. 3 (2022) NB Anne Krebs “Ancient Anatomy, Embryology, and the Gestation of Early Christian Heresy”
The Cambridge Classical Journal Vol. 68 (2022)
Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde Vo. 149, No. 2 (2022)
Millennium Vol. 19 (2022) NB Alberto Rigolio, “Towards a History of Syriac Rhetoric in Late Antiquity”
Etruscan and Italic Studies Vol. 25, No. 1-2 (2022)
Antike und Abendland Vol. 68, No. 2 (2022)
Rhetorica Vol. 40, No. 4 (2022)|
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