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The Cleveland Archaeological Society 2010-2011 Lectures

The Cleveland Archaeological Society (CAS) is a local chapter of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA). Each year, CAS sponsors a series of lectures, which are held at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in the Museum’s Murch Auditorium on the second Wednesday of the month. A reception with coffee, tea, and cookies follows each talk that affords attendees an opportunity to meet and talk with our speaker. All lectures are free and open to the public. For directions to the Museum, click here and enter the words “Cleveland Museum of Natural History”.

“Aila (‘Aqaba): A Roman Port on the Red Sea.”
Wednesday, September 15, 2010, 7:30 pm
Dr. S. Thomas Parker (North Carolina State University)
AIA Lecture

Various ancient sources mention a city called Aila that was one of the great international ports of the Roman empire. Founded by the Nabataean Arabs in the first century B.C., Aila flourished as a major emporium between the Roman empire and its eastern neighbors. Luxury products such as frankincense, myrrh, and spices were transferred between ships and camel caravans for transport into the Empire. Direct Roman rule began in A.D. 106, when Aila became the southern terminus of the via nova Traiana, a major road connecting Syria with the Red Sea. About A.D. 300 the famous X Fretensis Legion was transferred from Jerusalem to Aila, suggesting the strategic importance of the city. Aila continued to flourish through the Byzantine period (4th-6th centuries), then surrendered to Muslim forces in 630. Although various sources located Aila near the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea, its exact location remained a mystery.

In 1994 an archaeological project directed by the speaker rediscovered ancient Aila, now within the modern city of Aqaba in southern Jordan. Above all, the project aims to reconstruct the economy of Aila through both excavation of the city and a regional survey of its hinterland. Excavations between 1994 and 2003 revealed major portions of the ancient city, including domestic complexes, cemeteries, the city wall, and an apparently early Christian church. This putative church, erected ca. A.D. 300, could be the oldest purpose-built church in the world. A wide array of artifacts recovered by the project is suggestive of the international trade that passed through the port and of several local industries. Faunal and botanical remains also reveal much about the ancient urban economy. Finally, the surface survey recorded other archaeological sites that place the city in a broader regional context.

 

“Rediscovering Ohio’s Small Earthwork Sites Using Geophysical Survey and LiDAR Mapping: the Wow!”
Wednesday, October 13, 2010, 7:30 pm
Jarrod Burks (Ohio Valley Archaeological Consultants)

Ohio is home to hundreds of earthwork sites, including some of the largest earthwork complexes ever documented. A few of these large sites, like the Newark Earthworks, are known around the world. But for every large earthwork complex, some covering more than 100 acres, there is probably another 20 small sites, most consisting of small circular and some rectangular enclosures. What has come of these small sites and what might we learn from them? Over the last five years I have had the opportunity to survey a number of small earthwork sites using geophysical survey instruments (especially a magnetometer) and have found them to be more complex than previously thought, including having numerous additional geometric enclosures not previously documented. Of course, finding these sites can be a bit of a challenge since most have not been visited or seen by an archaeologist since the late 1800s, if at all. LiDAR, a laser-based technique for mapping the ground’s surface, provides a quick way to locate some of these sites and visualize them in dramatic ways. In this presentation we will explore the LiDAR and geophysical survey maps from a number of sites in southern Ohio and discover that Ohio’s earthwork sites still hold many secrets.

 

“Opening the Door to the Greek House.”
Wednesday, November 10, 2010, 7:30 pm
Dr. Barbara Tsakirgis (Vanderbilt University)

Greek houses, long neglected in favor of the better preserved and well known temples of antiquity, have finally attracted the attention they deserve. As the places where women, children, and slaves spent much of their daily lives, houses provide remarkable evidence for all aspects of Greek life. Religion, social relations, and the economy can all be studied through the material recovered from Greek houses.

As the places where men entertained their guests, Greek houses take their place as the display place for the wealth, status, and aspirations of their owners. Painted plaster walls, floor mosaics, and sculpture were all carefully chosen and arranged within the domestic interior in order to convey an impression of luxury and status, not just in the houses of the elite, but also in the homes of the less well-to-do.

The lecture takes the audience into Greek houses of the Classical and Hellenistic period and examines houses both in mainland Greece as well as in the Greek East (Asia Minor) and West (Sicily). Both the architecture and interior decoration of Greek houses will be examined as will the material found in the houses. The goal of the lecture is to give the audience a comprehensive view of life in the Greek house.

 

“Phallic-Spouted Vessels of the Peruvian Moche: Sex, Death, and a Question of Humor.”
Wednesday, February 9, 2011, 7:30 pm
Dr. Sue Bergh (Cleveland Museum of Art)

The Pre-Columbian Moche, who lived on Peru’s north coast between about CE 50 and 800, created a vast body of fine ceramics, which they deposited in the tombs of their dead. Within the corpus of Moche ceramics is a sub-group devoted to sexually explicit themes. This talk will explore the potential meanings of one type of sexual representation — phallic-spouted vessels — and relate those meanings to funerary concerns, in part by considering whether the vessels were intended to express humor.

 

“Magic and Religion in Ancient Corinth.”
Wednesday, March 9, 2011, 7:30 pm
Dr. Ronald Stroud (University of California, Berkeley)
AIA Norton Lecture

Located at the narrowest part of the Greek peninsula and controlling land and sea traffic in all four directions, Corinth became famous as one of the greatest commercial centers in the ancient world. Her mighty rock fortress of Acrocorinth also made her almost impervious to attack. She was a prime player in all the important historical events of antiquity, succumbing at one point to destruction by the Roman armies in 146 B.C. and abandonment for roughly a century, but later revived by Julius Caesar to become a provincial capital and once again a thriving center of trade and culture, attracting a large and diverse population of Italians, Egyptians, Jews, Syrians, and many others.

From at least as early as legendary times Corinth also had a reputation as a center for magic and the occult. She was the venue for some of the most striking adventures of the most notorious witch in Greece, Medea. Many tales about ghosts, haunted houses, the supernatural, and monsters were set in Corinth. Excavations by the American School of Classical Studies have revealed a “cell” where black magic was practiced at night high up on the slopes of Acrocorinth in the Sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone. It was established at roughly the same time as St. Paul’s famous Christian mission to Corinth in the middle of the first century after Christ.

My lecture will present some of the special magical equipment used in these secret activities, as well as the texts incised on lead tablets carrying curses that were deposited in this shrine. Named individuals are singled out for destruction and merit special attention because both writers and targets of many are women.

 

“Crafting Empire: The Archaeology of Craft Production in Vijayanagara, South India.”
Wednesday, April 13, 2011, 7:30 pm
Dr. Carla Sinopoli (University of Michigan)
AIA Donald R. Laing, Jr. Lecture of the Cleveland Archaeological Society

The Vijayanagara Empire dominated Southern India from the 14th-17th centuries. During its peak, Vijayanagara was one of the largest cities in the world. Today the ruins of this magnificent city cover some 400 square kilometers. In this talk, I present an overview of Vijayanagara history and archaeology, drawing on more than 20 years of archaeological research in the imperial capital and its hinterlands. I focus particularly on the lives and product of the non-elite craft producers, who manufactured the magnificent monuments, textiles, metal goods and the quotidian crafts of daily life; focusing particularly on how the study of crafts can be used to understand ancient political economies.

 

“A Complete Cosmos: The Tomb of an Egyptian Governor and Its Secrets.”
Wednesday, May 11, 2010, 7:30 pm
Dr. Lawrence Berman (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

In April 1915 the Harvard University-Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition discovered the tomb of Governor Djehutynakht and his wife, also called Djehutynakht, at Deir el-Bersha in Middle Egypt, about 175 miles south of Cairo. The contents of this early Twelfth Dynasty tomb were awarded to the Museum in their entirety by the Egyptian Government and were recently the focus of a special exhibition, “Secrets of Tomb 10A: Egypt 2000 BC,” at the MFA. They include well known masterpieces of Egyptian art like the outer coffin of Governor Djehutynakht (widely regarded as the finest Middle Kingdom coffin in existence) and the group of offering bearers known as the Bersha Procession. They also include the largest collection of wooden models ever found in one tomb, comprising 57 boats and 33 models of daily life, which have been newly conserved and restored especially for this exhibition.

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