Past Events

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Lenart Auditorium (Fowler A103B)
Sonali Gupta-Agarwal
February 23, 2018
3:00pm to 5:00pm

Speaker: Dr. Miriam Stark, Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Hawai'i

The Mekong Basin that Angkorian Khmers inhabited was a watery world. Annual monsoon rains dictated their farming and shaped their mobility, and short-term droughts that followed each year’s rainy season drove Khmers to dig household ponds and temple reservoirs. Chinese, Khmer and Cham histories include a Khmer origin story in which a foreign ruler conquers and marries a local serpent princess, and the bride’s father drains the local waters to create farmland for his daughter’s new dynasty. Environmental studies suggest that increasingly severe floods challenged Angkor’s urban engineers, and the decades-long droughts that followed pushed farmers on the Angkor Plain to their limits. Angkorian life revolved around water, and so did the life of its capital, but not simply in response to climate. Water has been intrinsic to Angkorian cosmology since the beginning of Khmer recorded history: simultaneously salubrious, secular and sacred. Water frames my presentation on Angkorian archaeology, which begins with the Khok Thlok origin story, examines the cosmology of water in Angkorian Cambodia, and problematizes Angkor, which BP Groslier described as his “hydraulic city”: from the household level to the urban scale. Archaeological and environmental research offer rich, and occasionally, competing perspectives on how water shaped 9th-15th century Khmers.

Fowler A222
Matthew Swanson
February 21, 2018
12:00pm to 1:00pm

Speaker: Adam DiBattista, PhD Candidate, The Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, UCLA

The early Iron Age was a time of profound social change in Greece in which new ideas about materials like bone and ivory develop. At the same time, textual and iconographic evidence speaks to the importance of animals and animal sacrifice in the Greek world. As the remnants of living animals, objects made from tooth or bone carry special potential for the creation and negotiation of meaning. Beginning in the Early Iron Age, these objects are frequently deposited in votive contexts where they function as a novel form of social behavior and organization based around sanctuary sites. Analysis of the technical aspects of worked animal object production helps reveal the attitudes of producers towards the materials. Additionally, contextual studies of worked animal objects reveal patterns of use and deposition of these objects.

Fowler A222
Matthew Swanson
February 14, 2018
12:00pm to 1:00pm

Speaker: Dr. Kenneth Seligson, Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, USC

Burnt lime was one of the most significant materials in the daily lives of the Prehispanic Maya, and yet archaeologists have uncovered relatively little evidence of production methods or locales prior to the Spanish Conquest. This talk presents the investigation of a series of pit-kilns in and around the Prehispanic site of Kiuic in the Puuc Region of the northern Maya Lowlands and highlights the multiple lines of evidence that identify these structures as lime production features. This sub-regional pit-kiln technology has implications for understanding resource management practices and the socio-economic organization of a significant Prehispanic Maya industry.

Fowler A222
Matthew Swanson 310-825-4169
February 9, 2018
3:00pm to 5:00pm

Speaker: Dr. Justin Walsh, Associate Professor, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Chapman University

The archaeology of human activity in space has been conceptualized since the 1990’s. Early work included definition of the parameters of the field, identification of subject material and sites, development of methodologies, and integration of common terrestrial archaeology activities such as cultural resource management and heritage protection into space archaeology. More rarely, but no less significantly, there have been research projects carried out by academic archaeologists as part of efforts to push the envelope of “the possible” in archaeological practice.This lecture will begin by outlining the history of space archaeology to date and contextualizing it within developments in the field of contemporary archaeology more generally. The author will then describe how they are undertaking the first archaeological investigation of a permanent habitation site in space: the International Space Station. The ISS Archaeological Project (ISSAP; is applying the latest technological tools, including machine learning and crowd sourcing techniques, to classifying data from millions of images depicting life on board the space station during the last 17 years. This information will be used to map patterns of astronaut presence and absence in various locations, and the associations between crew, objects, and spaces on ISS. The results will enable a better understanding of how a society and culture forms on a spacecraft, and improve life during long-duration missions.

Fowler A222
Matthew Swanson
February 7, 2018
12:00pm to 1:00pm

Speaker: Dr. Jennifer Meanwell, Lecturer, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, MIT

Copper and copper alloy artifacts were valued commodities at the Postclassic period (AD 1150-1500) Maya capital of Mayapán, and are found as a variety of luxury items, most commonly small ornamental bells. Due to the lack of ore deposits near Mayapán, metal must have been imported from elsewhere in Mesoamerica, entering as a raw material for shaping into desired objects or as already finished goods. As at other Maya sites, the assemblage of metal objects at Mayapán favors common commodities such as bells, tweezers, rings, and miniature axes, but the high frequency of casting errors and the unusual preference for miniaturized bells suggest local production of desired objects using re-cast metals. The past two decades of excavation at the site has unearthed a small but growing assemblage of ceramic fragments that seem to have served as remelting crucibles and as metallurgical molds for casting.

Our ongoing analysis of an exported sample of metallurgical ceramics investigates the raw materials used in manufacture, the modes of production, and the parameters of their use. We investigate the metallurgical ceramics using a variety of analytical tools, specifically ceramic petrography, electron microscopy, and chemical analyses, to demonstrate that these ceramics were used in metallurgical activities and to gain insight into their production and functionality. These highly specialized ceramic materials seem to have been produced using specific raw materials and pastes required by the intense heat and reducing atmosphere required of metallurgical production. This investigation provides insight into the localized pyrotechnical solutions developed by Mayapán’s metallurgical specialists to meet the demands of high-temperature crafting activity. 

Fowler A222
Matthew Swanson
January 31, 2018
12:00pm to 1:00pm

Speaker: Dr. Sarah Beckmann, Visiting Lecturer, Department of Classics, UCLA

Over the last generation, scholarly attention towards the production of sculpture in the late antique period (ca. 250 – 550 CE) has rekindled interest in the villa of Chiragan (Haute-Garonne, Aquitaine). Since its excavation in the 19th century, Chiragan has been heralded for its statuary collection, which remains the largest extant assemblage of marble sculptures securely associated with a private context. Among the finds are a number of late antique sculptures that were ostensibly made in eastern workshops: several portraits, small scale mythological statuettes, and multiple relief series. My paper focuses on this latter genre and suggests that these under-synthesized reliefs have much to add to our understanding both of the villa of Chiragan and the marble statuary habit of late Roman villas in southern Aquitaine.

Fowler A222
Matthew Swanson 310-825-4169
January 26, 2018
3:00pm to 5:00pm

Speaker: Dr. David Fredrick, Associate Professor, Department of Classical Studies, University of Arkansas

3:00pm -- Panel Discussion on Critical Archaeological Gaming with Chris Johanson, Demetri Terzopoulos, Eddo Stern, and Lisa Snyder

4:00pm -- Reception

5:00pm -- David Fredrick Lecture: Data Games: Cognitive Mapping in Ancient Pompeii

Fowler A222
Matthew Swanson
January 25, 2018
9:00am to 6:00pm

This workshop focuses on the design of archaeological games that entice users to engage with archaeological skills, methods, questions and results. What are possible goals of such games, and how can these be reached through narratives, interactive mechanics and visual, aural and motive stimulants.

Beyond providing exercises in archaeological approaches, can emergent gameplay have a significant heuristic function? If so, what are the requirements for availability and quality of data, player choice and player skill development?

View the workshop program for details on the talks and activities. Guests are invited to join in-person or remotely view and participate in the workshop on Zoom:

Image credit: Screenshot from “Deadfall”

Thursday, January 25

10.00-10.15 Willeke Wendrich -- Welcome and purpose of the workshop

10.15-11.00 Tara Copplestone -- Rethinking Archaeology Through Game Design

11.00-11.15 coffee break

11.15-12.00 Erik Champion -- The Sin of Completeness versus the Lure of Fantasy in Contested Possibility-Spaces

12.00 – 1.00 Lunch Break

1.00-1.45 Willeke Wendrich -- Walking through Empty Buildings, Everybody Wears the Same Shoes

1.45-2.30 Hannah Scates Kettler -- Jumping into the Animus: Revisiting old video games to create new ones

2.30-3.15 David Fredrick -- Secrets in the Garden: Modeling Vulnerability and Information Exchange in the House of Octavius Quartio

3.15-3.30 Coffee break

4.15-5.00 Rosa Tamborrino -- The sense of Time in Videogames: Fragments and Lack of Dynamics in Historical Environment Reconstructions

Friday, January 26

10.00 – 12.00 Demonstrations in the Digital Archaeology Lab (Fowler A163)

12.00 – 1.00 lunch break

1.00- 3.00 Discussion: setting the agenda and follow up (Fowler A222)

3.00 pm Friday Seminar: Panel Discussion on Critical Archaeological Gaming: Chris Johanson, Demetri Terzopoulos, Eddo Stern, Lisa Snyder

4.00 pm Reception

5.00 pm Public Lecture by David Fredrick Data Games: Cognitive Mapping in Ancient Pompeii

Fowler A222
Deidre Whitmore