HackDigs: A High School Dig at a High School in Westchester

Speaker
Adrianne E. Pierce
Location
Hackley School, 293 Benedict Ave, Tarrytown, NY
Date
September 22, 2019
Time
2:00 pm  to  3:15 pm  

HackDigs

After having completed a professional development workshop at the State Museum of New York in Albany entitled “Archaeology in the Classroom” in the summer of 2013, Adrianne Pierce, Head of Classics at Hackley School, began to incorporate archaeological practica and curriculum into her Middle and Upper School classes.  Students excavated chocolate chips from cookies, tracked their household trash, and catalogued “unknown artifacts” from a fictional dig site.  Not content with in-class archaeology, Dr. Pierce and her Latin 4 high school sophomore and junior students petitioned the administration to allow them to open a small trench on the school’s campus in the spring of 2015.  Armed with a rudimentary skill set and a lot of enthusiasm, HackDigs was born, down by the tennis courts at the edge of the woods.  In the five digging seasons since then, our victories have been small but exciting – lots of glass, pottery, a couple of coins, and other refuse – until this spring, when we discovered our first bones!  The history of Hackley, as we are uncovering it, is still evolving, and we are thrilled to be playing a role in telling the story of the school.

Dr. Adrianne E. Pierce

Dr. Pierce has been on the faculty of Hackley School since 1995 and Head of the Classics Department since 2003.  She received her B.A. in Classics from Swarthmore College and her M.A. and PhD from Johns Hopkins University specializing in Latin epic poetry.  Forever an armchair archaeologist, Dr. Pierce has enjoyed the learning opportunities archaeology has brought to her students, whether through digging at the campus site, watching episodes of the BBC’s “Time Team”, curating the finds, or working interdisciplinarily and inter-divisionally with other students and faculty.  Thinking of the texts the students read as artifacts has provided them with a new lens through which to interpret their Classics studies.

Mari and the Minoans

Speaker
Karen Foster, Yale University
Location
Rye Free Reading Room, 1061 Boston Post Rd, Rye, NY 10580
Date
October 20, 2019
Time
2:00 pm  to  3:15 pm  

The 20,000 cuneiform tablets found in the ruins of the palace at Mari, located on the Middle Euphrates, provide a wealth of evidence for social, political, and economic history, international relations, and the arts and religion in the 18th century B.C.E.  This paper focuses on the documents that shed light on the connections between Mari and Minoan Crete.  Thanks to recent editions incorporating updated readings and joins, the corpus of relevant texts has nearly tripled since the last time Aegean specialists considered them.

The texts include inventories of Minoan gold and silver vessels, ceremonial weapons, and leather and textile goods, many of which were obtained when King Zimri-Lim of Mari journeyed to Ugarit, on the Mediterranean coast.  There, he admired a Cretan boat in the harbor and met Minoan merchants and their interpreter. Back home at Mari, he commissioned a small boat to be made in Minoan style, for which his head of stores obtained a sizable quantity of lapis lazuli for its decoration.

The Mari material opens a unique window onto the Aegean world of the day, largely because Linear A, the Minoan script, remains undeciphered.  Two historical nuggets of considerable significance for Aegeanists emerge from my present study.  The first gives us a glimpse of who sat upon the throne at Knossos when Zimri-Lim was king at Mari.  Often dubbed by Aegeanists the “missing ruler” owing to the absence in Minoan iconography of unambiguously royal imagery, the appearance of this person on a Mari tablet is an exciting development.   My second gleaning from the Mari texts offers fresh insight into the nature of the Minoan language, still unidentified.

In addition, this paper asks for the first time what the Mariote scribes might have been looking at and attempting to describe when they made their inventories of Cretan goods. I suggest artifactual analogues for the Mariote mentions of items from Crete, based as closely as possible on contemporaneous examples.

As a specialist in the art and archaeology of the Bronze Age Aegean and ancient Near East, Karen Polinger Foster (Yale University) has published widely in these areas over the course of a long career. One of her many books, Civilizations of Ancient Iraq (co-authored), won the 2010 Felicia Holton Book Award from the AIA. “Mari and the Minoans” brings together for the first time the textual evidence for Minoan items at the royal court of Mari with the artifactual evidence for what the king of Mari may have fancied. The objects include gold and silver vessels, fancy leather shoes, and elaborate weapons. The king was even inspired to have a small boat made in Cretan style.

The Dura Europos Synagogue: A New Look at a Rare Discovery

Speaker
Karen B. Stern, Professor of History, Brooklyn College
Location
Rye Free Reading Room, 1061 Boston Post Rd, Rye, NY
Date
November 10, 2019
Time
3:00 pm  to  4:15 pm  

Archaeological remains of ancient synagogues are often limited to foundation walls, decorated and inscribed mosaic floors, stone inscriptions and bits of painted plaster. But accidents of history assured something remarkable in the case of the synagogue from the Syrian town Dura Europos, whose assembly hall was preserved, nearly intact, from antiquity. This lecture will highlight some of the most unusual features of this synagogue assembly hall, including the elaborate wall paintings that rendered scenes from the Hebrew Bible that once decorated its walls; the fancifully painted tiles that once adorned its ceiling; human teeth found deliberately buried inside its doorways; and graffiti that ancient visitors once applied to its walls and around its doorways. While the Dura synagogue is well known to archaeologists, scholars of ancient Syria and students of ancient Jewish populations, this talk will consider how examinations of these diverse types of evidence, when considered together, can support new interpretations of the synagogue space and its use in antiquity.

Karen B. Stern is Associate Professor of History at Brooklyn College. She conducts research across disciplines of archaeology, history, and religion and teaches courses on Mediterranean cultural history and material culture of Jews in the Greek and Roman worlds. Her publications include the recent Writing on the Wall: Graffiti and the Forgotten Jews of Antiquity (Princeton University Press, 2018); and Inscribing Devotion and Death: Archaeological Evidence for Jewish Populations of North Africa (Brill 2007).

A Garment to Die For -The Archaeology of Fashion in Ancient Egypt: * Clothing, Cosmetics, Coiffures

Speaker
Phyllis Saretta, Metropolitan Museum (ret)
Location
Rye Free Reading Room, 1061 Boston Post Rd, Rye, NY
Date
December 15, 2019
Time
2:00 pm  to  3:15 pm  

The figures in the image represent Yuny seated next to his wife Renenutet. Yuny, lived in the city of Asyut, was a chief royal scribe and holder of many other offices, perhaps including that of physician.  On the center fold of Yuny’s pleated skirt is an inscription that reads: “May everything that comes forth upon the offering table of [the god] . . . and all pure food that comes forth from the Great Enclosure [the temple complex at Heliopolis] be for the chief scribe, royal scribe of letters, Yuny, justified.”

“He who loved clothes lies in the cast-off garments of yesterday.”  So reads an ancient Egyptian funerary lament.

Dress played a major role in the eternal world of the ancient Egyptians. In life and in death, cloth and garments were considered to be one of the most important components of a person’s life. Indeed, the world’s oldest dress comes from a large mastaba of the First Egyptian Dynasty, and King Tutankhamun’s Eighteenth Dynasty tomb, has yielded over 100 garments.

Clothing was not only functional, but was symbolic of a person’s social position. Cloth was highly valued and appeared as a major feature in the list of tomb offerings. Images in tomb paintings, relief and statuary, and the material remains of garments themselves, exhibit a variety of styles which changed over time. Cosmetics, jewelry and other accoutrements were not only ornamental, but were believed to have magical properties attached to them as well.

This presentation will examine transitions in ancient Egyptian fashion from the severe to the flamboyant and the practical to the whimsical.  Excavated objects include garments, sandals, mirrors, kohl tubes, cosmetics, razors, wigs, and hair ornaments, and finely crafted jewelry of exquisite beauty and elegance, from the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and beyond.

Phyllis Saretta received her Ph.D from New York University in Egyptology, and Ancient Near East Archaeology and Languages in 1997.  She was awarded an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship in the Department of Egyptian Art at The  Metropolitan Museum in 1994-95, where she completed the research for her dissertation which focused on the cultural, social and historical interconnections between Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Levant.

Dr. Saretta has conducted independent research in Egypt at the site of Beni Hasan, and has participated in archaeological fieldwork at the ancient Mesopotamian site of Lagash (Tell al-Hiba) in Southern Iraq where she was a Site Supervisor.  She has taught undergraduate courses at The New School University on both Egypt and Mesopotamia, and was a part-time Staff Lecturer and Researcher at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for 19 years. She has published articles in both scholarly journals and popular magazines, such as The Bulletin of the Egyptological Seminar of New York and  KMT. Her book, Asiatics in Middle Kingdom Egypt, Perceptions and Reality, was published by Bloomsbury in 2016.