Pasts Imperfect (1.12.23)
Greek & Roman Prosthetics, Textiles along the Silk Roads, Distracted Monks & More
This week, a new book within ancient disability studies looks at Greco-Roman prostheses and assistive technologies. Then, an open access book on textiles and clothing along the ancient and medieval Silk Roads, the durability of Roman concrete, the craze by museums to collect human remains of Andean origin in the late 19th and 20th centuries, an exploration of how medieval monks got distracted, and more.
Exploring the History of Prosthetics and Assistive Technologies
During a winter excavation in 1884 to 1885, a Roman-era tomb dating to 300 BCE not far from the southern Italian town of Santa Maria Capua Vetere revealed a prosthetic leg near to a skeleton buried within. Although the so-called “Capua Leg” was later destroyed in an air raid during World War II, a copy was made at the turn of the century which survives today at the Science Museum in London. But questions linger. What was the perception and reality of such prostheses in Greek and Roman Culture?How were they made? When were they used?
A new book by ancient historian Jane Draycott, Prosthetics and Assistive Technology in Ancient Greece and Rome, presents the first comprehensive study of prostheses and assistive technology within the Greco-Roman world. As she notes, “To date, assistive technology of all kinds has been severely underrepresented in ancient historical scholarship, including (and especially) that which focuses specifically on impairment and disability” (see her article in The Conversation on the topic as well). The focus of the study is on Greco-Roman prostheses and Draycott works to amend this lacuna by contextualizing the long history of such technologies in the Mediterranean and elsewhere, bringing in comparanda such as the recently unearthed ancient Chinese Turpan Leg (300-200 BCE).
Key issues such as mutilation, warfare, amputation, scars, social perceptions, visual impairment (and the lack of evidence for Classical era prosthetic eyes), and corporal punishment are handled deftly. Broad categories such as dental appliances, facial and hair prostheses are detailed in depth. May this be one of many new studies and interventions into the medical and cultural histories of these technologies and the people who used them in antiquity.
Public Writing and a Global Antiquity
A new, open access book via UNESCO on Textiles and Clothing Along the Silk Roads edited by Zhao Feng and Marie-Louise Nosch has 21 chapters that explore numerous aspects of the maritime and overland routes that made up the historical Silk Roads, from ancient craftspeople and merchants to the origins of silk to the ways in which textiles advertised status and power within the ancient and medieval world. Of particular interest is a chapter on the African exchange of cotton, silk, and palm leaves called raffia (Chapter 19) and another on Greek and Roman imagery on Silk Road textiles (Chapter 13).
Researchers at MIT have published their findings on why Roman concrete was so durable. The durability of ancient concrete has long been attributed to the use of pozzolanic material such as ash from Mount Vesuvius around the Bay of Naples; however, the civil and environmental engineers also found unique “white chunks, often referred to as ‘lime clasts,’ [that] originate from lime, another key component of the ancient concrete mix.” They also found evidence for the use of ancient quicklime rather than slaked lime. The reverse engineering of Roman concrete is cool, historically speaking, but also may provide for improved “3D-printed concrete formulations” and a reduction in the environmental impact of concrete altogether. The MIT team is looking to recreate and then sell their version of the ancient mix in the future.
A new, open access article at the The American Historical Review by Christopher Heaney, “Skull Walls: The Peruvian Dead and the Remains of Entanglement” looks at the disturbing American museum craze in collecting Peruvian human remains in the 19th and 20th centuries:
This essay argues that Americanist anthropological collectors between 1820 and 1920 acquired more human remains of Andean origin than those of any other single population worldwide because Peru’s own history mattered. That this is at all a novel claim suggests how race science’s archives and museums orient even critical histories toward the Global North…In arguing that Peru’s own history mattered, this article therefore scales a problem whose temporalities go beyond those of the United States. It argues that Peru became Americanist anthropology’s quarry because it was home to Andean mortuary cultures already targeted by three centuries of disinterment and textualization.
The latest volume of the open access translation journal Ancient Exchanges is out, focused on the theme of “Invention.” The editorial team have some beautiful analysis to go with this important issue:
Translation, we are reminded in this issue, does not exist solely to provide a substitute for an original text. In transforming a chilling Middle English rumination on death into accessible modern English, Jenni Nuttall offers not just a mirror, but a resurrection, of the original poem. Victoria Moul’s recasting of two classical Latin poems onto modern landscapes forgoes equivalence in favor of a more generative tension between translation and original.
Submit your own article or translation for consideration here.
A recent feature in the Harvard Gazette looks at the work of Irene Soto Marín, newly appointed Assistant Professor of Classics at Harvard University. Soto Marín is a historian and numismatist interested in the economy and taxation systems of Roman Egypt, but is also an active archaeologist, co-directing excavations at the site of Karanis. Her new co-edited volume is Ancient Taxation: The Mechanics of Extraction in Comparative Perspective.
Feeling like distraction (from, say, finishing your course syllabi) is a modern product of the digital age? Think again. A book review in The New York Times explores the new work by early medievalist Jamie Kreiner, The Wandering Mind: What Medieval Monks Tell Us About Distraction. In it, she discusses how and why monks were committed to mitigating intrusions that might distract from study, prayer, or meditation. But—like those of us who frequently check social media—they weren’t always successful in their quest to engage the mind:
Monks were encouraged to read slowly and methodically, and they engaged with the text by writing notes in the margin. Kreiner says this marginalia helped them “to stay alert” — though she also concedes that sometimes what they scribbled down had nothing to do with the text at hand. An image from a copy of Priscian’s Latin grammar includes a note in Old Irish that reads lathaerit, or “massive hangover.”
New Antiquity Journal Issues (by @YaleClassicsLib)
Journal des Médecines Cunéiformes Vol. 39 (2022) #openaccess
Cahiers des études anciennes Vol. 59 ( 2022) #openaccess Visibilité, lisibilité, efficacité : les inscriptions monumentales en Grèce et à Rome
Peuce Vol. 20 (2022) #openaccess NB Oleksandr Shelekani & Oksana Lifanti, “Swords and swordsmen in Greco-Scythian Art”
Novum Testamentum Vol. 65, No. 1 (2023)
Research Data Journal for the Humanities and Social Sciences Vol. 7, No. 1 (2022) #openaccess NB : Sam Heijnen, et al. “Roman Imperial Portraits Dataset (ripd)”
Ciceroniana on line Vol. 6 No. 2 (2022) #openaccess Cicerone al Digesto: interazioni fra oratoria giudiziaria, retorica e diritto tra l’età repubblicana e imperiale
Cambridge Archaeological Journal Vol. 33, No. 1 (2022) NB Rennan Lemos “Can We Decolonize the Ancient Past? Bridging Postcolonial and Decolonial Theory in Sudanese and Nubian Archaeology.”
Anuari de Filologia. Antiqua et Mediaeualia Vol. 12 (2022) #openaccess Cultura escrita medieval hispànica. Homenatge a Gemma Avenoza
Gallia Vol. 91, No. 1 (2022) #openaccess Reims antique, capitale de province
Studia Antiqua et Archaeologica No. 18, No. 2 (Dec. 2022) #openacess
Journal of the Turkish Institute of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage = Türk Arkeoloji ve Kültürel Miras Enstitüsü Dergisi Vol. 2 (2022) #openaccess
Acta Archaeologica Lodziensia Vol. 68 (2022) #openaccess Aρχαιολογία καὶ νομισματικά /Archaeology and numismatics
Fortunatae No. 36 (2022) #openaccess
Mare Nostrum Vol. 13 no. 2 (2022) #openaccess A Antiguidade do Nordeste Africano
Aristotelica No. 2 (2022) #openaccess
Classica Cracoviensia Vol. 25 (2022) #openaccess
Bericht der Römisch-Germanischen Kommission Vol. 100 2019 (2022) #openaccess Digging Bersu. Ein europäischer Archäologe
Boletim de Estudos Clássicos N.º 67 (2022)
ENiM Égypte Nilotique et Méditerranéenne Vol. 15 (2022) #openaccess
Romanitas Vol. 19 (2022) #openaccess Periferias, subalternos e relações de poder no Mundo Antigo
History of Philosophy & Logical Analysis Vol. 25, No. 2 (2022)
Pnyx Vol. 1 No. 2 (2022) #openaccess NB: David Lewis “Attic Deme Harbours, the Rural Economy, and State Oversight of Maritime Trade”
Erga-Logoi Vol. 10, No. 2 (2022) #openaccess
Classical Philology Vol. 118, No. 1 (2023) NB Yukai Li “Pastoral between Words and Things: Theocritus, Ekphrasis, and Ontology”
Phoenix Vol. 75, Nos. 1-2 (2021)
Early Christianity (EC) Vol.14, No. 4 (2022)
Teiresias Journal Online Vol. 1 No. 2 (2022) #openaccess
Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus Vol. 20, No. 3 (2022) Mary Magdalene in Film
EuGeStA: Journal on Gender Studies in Antiquity No. 12 (2022) #openaccess
Dictynna Vol. 19 (2022) #openaccess International Ovidian Society en Europe II
Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology and Heritage Studies Vol. 10, Nos. 3-4 (2022) The Philistines; Gender parity in fieldwork
Collectanea Philologica No. 25 (2022) #openaccess Romanorum hiberumque conexioper saecula firmissima
Mouseion Vol. 19, No. 1 (2022)
Aramaic Studies Vol. 20, No. 2 (2022)
Classical Journal Vol. 118, No. 2 (2022- 2023)
Manuscripta Vol. 65, No. 2 (2022)
Annales: Histoire, Sciences Sociales Vol. 77, No.1 (2022) Histoire environnementale (Antiquité-Moyen Âge)
Revue archéologique Vol. 74, No. 2 (2022)
KNOW: A Journal on the Formation of Knowledge Vol. 6, No. 2 (2022) The Complexities of Inheritance: Contemporary Chinese Readings of Antiquity East and West
Scrinium Vol.18 (2022)
Upcoming Conferences, Lectures, and Workshops
There is a new call for papers for the “Classics and Italian Colonialism / Classici e Colonialismo Italiano” conference June 22-24, 2023 at the Museo delle Civiltà, Rome. The organizers note, “Recent years have seen an increasing awareness of the relationship between constructions of the classical tradition and colonial projects.” For the full call, please see the website and then send your abstract (max. 400 words) with a brief CV to firstname.lastname@example.org by January 15, 2023.
News comes from UCSB that the 15th conference on Shifting Frontiers in Late Antiquity will be held September 21–23, 2023 at the University of California Santa Barbara and the Old Mission Santa Barbara. It is focused on “Romans in New Worlds: Considering ‘Global Late Antiquity.’” The deadline for the submission of panel proposals or paper abstracts (500 words) submitted to email@example.com is March 21, 2023. Presentations in languages other than English are welcome.
There is a new call for abstracts from the Asian and Asian American Classical Caucus for the 2024 Annual Meeting of the SCS:
For [the] 2024 panel at the annual meeting of the Society for Classical Studies (SCS) in Chicago, IL (January 4-7), the Asian and Asian American Classical Caucus invites abstracts for presentations that broadly explore the concept of “stereotypes” as applicable to the study of the ancient Mediterranean.
Please see the full call here: tinyurl.com/AAACC2024
Registration is now open for an academic conference on “Poverty & Vulnerability in Classical Antiquity: Gendered & Life-cycle approaches,” from April 27-28, 2023. Tickets for in-person and online attendance can be found here.