AIA Lecture

AIA Lecture with Laura Gagne

Archaeological Institute of America

Dickinson College is home to the South Pennsylvania Society chapter of the Archaeological Institute of America, and with the support of the AIA, will host two lectures for the 2021-22 semester.

Lectures begin at 6:30pm.  Please email archaeology@dickinson.edu for the virtual link information.
The lectures are free.

2021-22 Lecture Schedule:


Tuesday, October 5, 2021 virtual

"Children at work and play making pottery in ancient Cyprus"
Lecturer:  Dr. Laura Gagné
Carleton University, College of the Humanities, Greek and Roman Studies Program

The contribution of children and novices to the potters’ workshop is understudied in Cypriot archaeology. While pottery-making is best learned during childhood, most scholars do not consider the work of children to have value for study. Crudely made, misshapen little objects end up in the storage room of the museum, while the more “beautiful” objects made by experienced potters are put on display. By examining the “ugly” objects, it is possible to understand many things about how labour was organized in ancient pottery workshops and how children learned how to become proficient potters.

Hand-made pottery facilitates the assessment of the potter’s motor skills in forming vessels, while painted decoration reveals the painter’s ability to plan designs as well as to control tools.  Some potters began to learn their craft at a very young age, perhaps through playing with the raw materials or making toys.  Other potters may have been adults when they started to work with clay and handle paint brushes.  Novices were assimilated into the community of potters by more experienced teachers who sometimes assisted them with more difficult tasks and who may have offered models or verbal instructions to them while they worked.  This lecture looks at the evidence for under-developed motor control and cognitive abilities through vessel construction and brush control as well as planning of decoration to try to determine whether some of the vessels found on Cyprus were made by children.

 



Tuesday, April 26, 2022

"Torches, Fireflies, and Moonlight:  The Brillance of Classic Maya"
Lecturer:  Dr. Nancy Gonlin
Professor of Anthropology, Bellevue College
Editor-in-Chief, Ancient Mesoamerica, Cambridge University Press

As far back as Paleolithic times, humans illuminated their world with an ever-increasing diversity and sophistication of lighting devices. We are now at the point in our history where day and night blend, and dark night skies are a rarity for much of humanity. Archaeological knowledge about how ancient nights were illuminated varies widely: while lighting technology is well studied for the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Middle Easterners through the field of lychnology, far less is known about how ancient Mesoamericans lit up dark spaces. Explicit attention to these devices has been minimal. To determine possible lighting technologies created by the Late Classic Mayas (600-900 CE) of the American tropics, my research utilizes the abundant archaeological record, from the remains of humble houses to palaces. Just as critical are the hieroglyphs in which the ancient Maya wrote about their world, the night, and darkness, including glyphs to describe certain objects used for lighting. Utilization of the rich iconography that has persisted on pottery, stone carvings, and other durable media that depict dark doings reveal much. Ethnohistoric observations of chroniclers and religious personnel from more recent times, comparative materials from ethnographically-studied Maya groups, and insights from modern-day Maya peoples themselves add greatly to our understanding of the night and lighting technologies. To integrate these databases, I employ the anthropology of luminosity (Bille and Sørensen 2007), a perspective that regards light as something to be manipulated, a matter that is used in cultural practices. The intentional manipulation of luminosity created varying lightscapes that portrayed power differences and identity, along with intentional ambience. Inequality manifests itself through illumination: the murkiness of the dark was cut through by only those who could afford it, as lychnological studies reveal. The distribution of artifacts and features particular to lighting was not equitable from house to house. From torches to fireflies to moonlight, the array of lighting informs us about material and non-material aspects of society, ranging from the politico-religious sphere to the socio-economic one. Archeologists can substantially add to their understandings and reconstructions of the past by considering illumination practices and how people used them to great effect in creating lightscapes that enlighten us about cultural practices.As far back as Paleolithic times, humans illuminated their world with an ever-increasing diversity and sophistication of lighting devices. We are now at the point in our history where day and night blend, and dark night skies are a rarity for much of humanity. Archaeological knowledge about how ancient nights were illuminated varies widely: while lighting technology is well studied for the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Middle Easterners through the field of lychnology, far less is known about how ancient Mesoamericans lit up dark spaces. Explicit attention to these devices has been minimal. To determine possible lighting technologies created by the Late Classic Mayas (600-900 CE) of the American tropics, my research utilizes the abundant archaeological record, from the remains of humble houses to palaces. Just as critical are the hieroglyphs in which the ancient Maya wrote about their world, the night, and darkness, including glyphs to describe certain objects used for lighting. Utilization of the rich iconography that has persisted on pottery, stone carvings, and other durable media that depict dark doings reveal much. Ethnohistoric observations of chroniclers and religious personnel from more recent times, comparative materials from ethnographically-studied Maya groups, and insights from modern-day Maya peoples themselves add greatly to our understanding of the night and lighting technologies. To integrate these databases, I employ the anthropology of luminosity (Bille and Sørensen 2007), a perspective that regards light as something to be manipulated, a matter that is used in cultural practices. The intentional manipulation of luminosity created varying lightscapes that portrayed power differences and identity, along with intentional ambience. Inequality manifests itself through illumination: the murkiness of the dark was cut through by only those who could afford it, as lychnological studies reveal. The distribution of artifacts and features particular to lighting was not equitable from house to house. From torches to fireflies to moonlight, the array of lighting informs us about material and non-material aspects of society, ranging from the politico-religious sphere to the socio-economic one. Archeologists can substantially add to their understandings and reconstructions of the past by considering illumination practices and how people used them to great effect in creating lightscapes that enlighten us about cultural practices.As far back as Paleolithic times, humans illuminated their world with an ever-increasing diversity and sophistication of lighting devices. We are now at the point in our history where day and night blend, and dark night skies are a rarity for much of humanity. Archaeological knowledge about how ancient nights were illuminated varies widely: while lighting technology is well studied for the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Middle Easterners through the field of lychnology, far less is known about how ancient Mesoamericans lit up dark spaces. Explicit attention to these devices has been minimal. To determine possible lighting technologies created by the Late Classic Mayas (600-900 CE) of the American tropics, my research utilizes the abundant archaeological record, from the remains of humble houses to palaces. Just as critical are the hieroglyphs in which the ancient Maya wrote about their world, the night, and darkness, including glyphs to describe certain objects used for lighting. Utilization of the rich iconography that has persisted on pottery, stone carvings, and other durable media that depict dark doings reveal much. Ethnohistoric observations of chroniclers and religious personnel from more recent times, comparative materials from ethnographically-studied Maya groups, and insights from modern-day Maya peoples themselves add greatly to our understanding of the night and lighting technologies. To integrate these databases, I employ the anthropology of luminosity (Bille and Sørensen 2007), a perspective that regards light as something to be manipulated, a matter that is used in cultural practices. The intentional manipulation of luminosity created varying lightscapes that portrayed power differences and identity, along with intentional ambience. Inequality manifests itself through illumination: the murkiness of the dark was cut through by only those who could afford it, as lychnological studies reveal. The distribution of artifacts and features particular to lighting was not equitable from house to house. From torches to fireflies to moonlight, the array of lighting informs us about material and non-material aspects of society, ranging from the politico-religious sphere to the socio-economic one. Archeologists can substantially add to their understandings and reconstructions of the past by considering illumination practices and how people used them to great effect in creating lightscapes that enlighten us about cultural practices.

Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

 

Blog -- Gonlin, Nancy

2016 “Archaeology of the Night.” The University Press of Colorado Blog, February 2, 2016.  Invited blog.
https://upcolorado.com/about-us/news-features/item/2951-archaeology-of-the-night 
 

TEDx Talk -- Gonlin, Nancy

2017 “Life After Dark in the Ancient World.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpawWr7ZmhM
Bellevue College. April 4.

2021 “Life After Dark in the Ancient World.” TEDx talk selected for TEDx Shorts Podcast. April 1.
 

Online Article -- Gonlin, Nancy and April Nowell
2018 What the Archaeology of Night Reveals. SAPIENS. https://www.sapiens.org/archaeology/night-archaeology/
 

Podcast -- Gonlin, Nancy and April Nowell

2018 “Episode 35: Archaeology of the Night.” Archaeology Podcast Network, Arizona State University. https://www.archaeologypodcastnetwork.com/archaeology/35?rq=night