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Happy New Year! 4 January 2010

Posted by Troels in : General, Late Antiquity , add a comment

newyears
Mosaic depicting an old woman in the Barcelona Archaeological Museum. Photo: TMK, December 2009.

Here’s wishing all the best for the New Year to all readers out there! Next week, I’m off to Rome for our “Using Images in Late Antiquity” conference at the Danish Academy. It should be very interesting and I also hope to catch a few exhibitions while in Rome. Both programme and abstracts for the conference are available from the link.

Some professional highlights for me in 2009:

  • - Successfully defending my PhD dissertation “Archaeology of Response. Early Christian Destruction, Mutilation and Transformation of Pagan Sculpture in Late Antiquity” on 16 December.
  • - Seeing the publication of two articles: “Embodied Images: Christian Response and Destruction in Late Antique Egypt” in Journal of Late Antiquity, and “Religious Conflict in Late Antique Alexandria: Christian Responses to ‘Pagan’ Statues in the Fourth and Fifth Centuries AD” in a new anthology on Alexandria.

    - Spending eight very productive and inspiring months in Cambridge.

    A Break 25 June 2009

    Posted by Troels in : General, Quick Notes, Thesis Rant , 1 comment so far

    Caesarea Maritima
    The “Byzantine Esplanade” at Caesarea Maritima, Israel, discussed in one of the articles below. Photo: TMK, June 2009.

    Things have been slow on this blog, not only recently, but for a while. This will not change in the near future (although posts may randomly appear), due to a little thing called Dissertation. Instead, I will would like to point to the following forthcoming publications of mine that may be of interest to readers of this blog:

    “Embodied Images: Christian Response and Destruction in Late Antique Egypt”, Journal of Late Antiquity 2 (2), autumn 2009.

    “Religious Conflict in Late Antique Alexandria: Christian Responses to ’Pagan’ Statues in the Fourth and Fifth Centuries AD”, Alexandria – A Religious and Cultural Melting Pot, eds. G. Hinge & J. Krasilnikoff, pp. 158-176. Aarhus Studies in Mediterranean Antiquity vol. 9. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press.

    ”The Display of Statues in the Late Antique Cities of the Eastern Mediterranean: Reflections on Memory, Meaning, and Aesthetics”, Debating Late Antique Urbanism: Within and Beyond the Walls, eds. G. Speed & D. Sami. Leicester Monographs in Archaeology. Leicester: School of Archaeology and Ancient History.

    University Branding in the 21st Century 16 September 2008

    Posted by Troels in : General , 1 comment so far

    My university’s website has for as long as I remember been a rather poor affair, run on the inflexible and altmodisch CMS known as ‘SIAB’ (Site-in-a-Box). Besides the logo itself, the only graphic element has always consisted of a banner image with very poor pixel quality… In short, it looks horribly outdated. That is apparently about to change as the rector revealed a new ‘visual identity’ for the university on Friday. I found this to be a very worthwhile development, but when one sees the results, there will always be divided opinions. So, to begin with the logo:

    I guess university logos should signify profundity and expertise, but this, I do believe, is the epitome of blandness and anonymity. I also think that the AU-part looks like a wave which in addition to the blue colour of the logo itself gives me some maritime associations that have nothing to do with the university. However, what really got me going was the introduction of a brand new University of Aarhus alphabet, cunningly entitled ‘the fifth element’. The ‘fifth element’ consists of some rather awkward-looking letters and numbers that can be put together in a ‘visually appealing way’.

    Yes, all very clear and useful….Here’s one example of the ‘fifth element’ in action in a pair of advertisements for ‘Find en Forsker’ (‘Locate a Researcher’) where the letters have been superimposed over each other:

    Let me think. The university wants to appeal to ‘common people’, and then they introduce an alphabet that may as well have been hieroglyphs to most people, only to create an ‘interesting’ visual effect. To me, the ‘fifth element’ suggests a dusty old place where one studies superfluous dead alphabets that have as little to do with reality as possible. Are they going to introduce courses where people learn to read ‘the fifth element’? Who ever thought this was a good idea? And what happened to simple and effective design without any cheap (or perhaps, as is more likely in this case, very expensive) tricks?

    Thesis Status and Things to Come 20 December 2005

    Posted by Troels in : General, Thesis Rant , add a comment

    As I’m about to leave Winnipeg (a place so cold that the bus stops have heating!), I thought it would be a good time for an update on my thesis work. I have just recently completed very advanced drafts of two chapters (2 and 4 – check the outline here). Chapter 2 deals with the extensive literary sources, and it has been a challenge to dig deep into the late antique literature, but also very rewarding. The chapter is now way too long, and needs a lot of editing and tweaking before I will be happy with it. But the core material is more or less there.

    Chapter 4 is a far-reaching survey of various kinds of damage to statuary other than iconoclasm: earthquakes, weathering, spoliation, etc. I’ll try to get some posts up with some of the main issues in the near future. It’s been a fun chapter to write, but the material is basically endless and difficult to work with, because there is no consensus on terminology and interpretation. This is, of course, also what it makes so much fun to work with!

    The other chapters are in various states of ‘fragmentation’ themselves. Chapter 3 is a very central chapter that deals with methodology and theory, and although I have done a lot of work with it, I suspect that it will take a long time to finish a draft that I’ll be pleased with. The case studies that make up part II are more or less ready to be written up, but I need to do some additional groundwork, especially for chapters 6 and 7.

    Another development is that I’ve decided to leave the material from Greece for later. There are several potential sites, ranging from the obvious cases at Corinth and Athens (that have been dealt with at length by many others) to new interesting cases at Messene, Nikopolis and elsewhere. More importantly, I decided that a ’survey’ approach just wasn’t appropriate for my project. I still use the Greek material as comparanda in the other chapters though.

    From 1 February I will be in residence at the Danish Academy in Rome. I really look forward to focusing entirely on the writing process. I have also been lucky enough to secure some generous funding that will allow me to do extensive field research in Italy, Turkey and Egypt.

    Are Roman Slaves Visible in the Archaeological Record? 10 December 2005

    Posted by Troels in : General , 2 comments

    The latest volume of Journal of Roman Archaeology is out. It has no less than six papers on slavery in the Roman world (five from a 2001 conference in Rome), a topic that previously has been somewhat overlooked in archaeology because of the perceived invisibility of slaves in terms of material culture and purpose-built monuments. However, Jane Webster, building on her previous work that has taken inspiration from North American and Caribbean archaeology, takes issue with this assumption and suggests a number of sites in Britain as linked to slaves. These include several roundhouses found on villa sites (e.g. Redlands Farm, Stanwick). These have in the past been interpreted as animal pens, which might tell us something of the conditions Roman slaves lived under.

    It is assumed that Roman slaves, like their American counterparts, were responsible of building their own accomodations, and round structures on otherwise ‘Romanized’ sites could be characteristic of enslaved native Britons. Webster also discusses the enigmatic round buildings found at the Roman fort Vindolanda just south of Hadrian’s Wall. These buildings are truly fascinating, not only because they are one of the most unlikely finds in a 2nd century CE Roman fort. Why were they there? And who built them?

    Vindolanda
    Slave accommodation at Vindolanda? Stone foundations of three round buildings dated to the 2nd century CE. Photo: TMK, October 2003.

    The circular structures, as they are officially known, have been found over several seasons of work. In the north-eastern part of the fort, six were located in the 1930s excavations and a seventh in 1979. In the late 1990s, an additional two were found underneath the praetorium, and in 2000 six were excavated under the south-western wall of Stone Fort 2. From these latest excavations, it is clear that the buildings extended beyond both the north and south walls of the two stone forts. This means that they were probably built over a clear plateau without defences. It is estimated that there would have been room for 240 of these structures on the site.

    (more…)

    More Archaeological Art? 1 September 2005

    Posted by Troels in : General, Quick Notes , 2 comments

    I have now settled in here in Canada, and blogging will be regular again. Speaking of Canada, the SAS inflight magazine had a small feature on Margaret Nicholson’s project “100 Pieces“. Here’s her own description:

    In April of 2005, I placed 100 pieces of clay sculpture along the coastline of Nova Scotia. Lost or found, they will be left to nature or chance. Hopefully for someone to find. The sculpture is all figurative fragments or small busts. Each piece is fitted with an identity tag directing the finder to this web site which will then describe the origins of the piece that they have found. I put these sculptures in places that would not be inaccessible but not immediately obvious. Many of the pieces are designed to blend into their environment. The project is monitored over time and open ended. There is no precise way to determine the end point.

    Another example of archaeological art?

    Intermission II 23 August 2005

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    As I’m in the middle of a transatlantic move, there will be no updates for the next week and a half or so. As soon as I have settled in, regular updates will return.

    Summer Reading 10 August 2005

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    Well, I’m back from France, and the blog will again be updated regularly. However, this first post after the break is not so much about iconoclasm, but more a short review of some of the books I read while away. Of course, I have also been busy reading up on things for my thesis, and I will give a report on the most interesting stuff in the next couple of days.

    A highlight was probably Richard Hingley’s Globalizing Roman Culture: Unity, diversity and empire (London 2005). Not so much because it’s the final word on the growing debate on the nature of Roman cultural imperialism, nor is it as good as Hingley’s earlier book on (almost) the same topic, Roman Officers and English Gentlemen (London 2000), but it introduces some important new ways forward in the discussion as well as providing a useful summary of the use of social theory in Roman archaeology. He successfully pulls the archaeology of the Roman empire together in all its globalized glory.

    (more…)

    Intermission 18 July 2005

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    I’m off to France for the next three weeks, and there will be no updates before mid-August. Comments are, of course, still welcome, even though I won’t be able to moderate them quickly.

    Preliminary Thesis Outline 14 July 2005

    Posted by Troels in : General , 1 comment so far

    I have added a short (preliminary) outline of my thesis. Some parts will most certainly change as my work progresses. I will add a longer project description sometime in the near future.