Bronze Age Monkeys

Bronze Age Monkeys wall paintings

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.
The lectures are free.

2021-22 Lecture Schedule:

Tuesday, April 26, 2022 - in person - Dickinson College, Denny Hall #317 -- 6:30pm

"Bronze Age Monkeys and the Case for Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration"
Lecturer:  Dr. Marie N. Pareja Cummings
Visiting Assistant Professor, Dickinson College
Consulting Scholar, University of Pennsylvania

Bronze Age Aegean wall paintings depicting monkeys from Crete and Thera show the animals in a variety of roles, from wild to possibly trained, to cultic or sacred. These images, while stylistically Aegean, are closely related to—and seem to be descendant from—Egyptian and Mesopotamian monkey and ape iconography. In order to better understand the relationships between the monkeys in Aegean wall paintings and those that live(d) in the Aegean, Mesopotamia, and Egypt, several primatologists were consulted to identify species-specific visual characteristics more accurately. This approach results in the recognition of a new region as a contributing source for monkey iconography: the broader Indus River Valley. Communication and collaboration with Indus and Mesopotamian specialists also prove critical for the art historical and archaeological component of this project, which facilitates the tracing of possible Indus-Aegean trade routes via the movement of iconography, raw materials, goods, people (through DNA analysis), while also considering textual documentation and color theory. With an emphasis on the primatological aspect and the growing corpus of Indus goods found in the Aegean, an image emerges of an even broader iconographic and socio-religious sphere of interaction. In this expanded system, Mesopotamia functions both as an independent source of iconography and as an intermediary that facilitated a dissemination of monkey iconography, related beliefs, and possibly the creatures themselves.

For bio on Dr. Cummings:

Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Pareja, M.N., T. McKinney, J. Mayhew, J.M. Setchell, R. Heaton, and S. Nash. 2019. “A New Identification of the Monkeys Depicted in Bronze Age Wall Paintings from Akrotiri,” Primates (Online First, Dec. 2019).

Pareja, M.N., T. McKinney, and J.M. Setchell. 2020. “Aegean Monkeys and the Importance of Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration in Archaeoprimatology: A Reply to Urbani and Youlatos (2020),” Primates (Online First, Sept. 2020).


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.