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Public PhD Defense 16 December 3 December 2009

Posted by Troels in : Archaeology, Late Antiquity, Thesis Rant , 8 comments

Just a brief announcement that I will be defending my dissertation on 16 December, more here and here. The examiners at a PhD defense are in Denmark (and in Sweden and Norway as well, I think) called “opponents” which gives certain connotations to boxing matches or the like. We’ll see how it goes…

Troels Myrup Kristensen will defend his PhD dissertation “Archaeology of Response: Christian Destruction, Mutilation and Transformation of Pagan Sculpture in Late Antiquity” on Wednesday 16 December 1-4 pm.

The official opponents are:
Dr. Peter Stewart, Reader in Classical Art and its Heritage, Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK.

Dr. Eric Varner, Associate Professor, Departments of Classics and Art History, Emory University, Atlanta, USA.

Mag. art. Birte Poulsen, Associate Professor, Institute of Anthropology, Archaeology and Linguistics, Aarhus University (chair)

Aarhus University Conference Centre, Byg. 1421, Mødelokale 2

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.

Oxford Seminar 23 January 2009

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

If you find yourself in Oxford in early March, here’s your chance to hear something of what I’ve been doing lately (instead of blogging, that is…):

The Roman Discussion Forum
Faculty of Classics, University of Oxford

Week 7, 04 March 2009
Troels Myrup Kristensen (Aarhus) “Archaeology of Response: Christian destruction of sculpture in Late Antiquity”

Sculpture in the Roman Near East 26 August 2008

Posted by Troels in : Archaeology, Thesis Rant , 3 comments

As Jason notes, there is a new, very important book out on Roman sculpture in the Near East, “The Sculptural Environment of the Roman Near East. Reflections on Culture, Ideology, and Power” (Leuven 2008), edited by Yaron Z. Eliav, Elise Friedland and Sharon Herbert. It contains numerous interesting papers, and several that are of primary importance to my dissertation (a preliminary outline is now available here). I haven’t had my copy of the book for very long and thus only managed to read one paper in full so far, Kenneth Holum on the (re)display of ‘pagan’ statues in Byzantine Caesarea Maritima, a topic that I will be talking about in Leicester in November. I also look forward to reading papers by Frank Trombley, John Pollini, Yoram Tsafrir, and David Frankfurter on various aspects of the use of images in the Roman Near East and Egypt.

The Sphinx’s Nose 9 July 2007

Posted by Troels in : Making of the Archaeological Record, Thesis Rant , 1 comment so far

Sphinx at Giza
The Sphinx at Giza, Egypt. Photo: TMK, May 2007.

I have previously written about the ever present problem of dating the destruction and mutilation of monuments. Naturally, this is a big concern to me when writing a dissertation on Christian iconoclasm in Late Antiquity. I found a further, useful reminder of this at Giza in Egypt as the famous Sphinx is sadly missing its nose! While both Asterix and Napoleon have sometimes been blamed for this misdeed, there is good evidence to suggest that Islamic clerics in the 14th century were in fact responsible. It was good to be reminded that not all damage of ancient monuments can be attributed to early Christians!

Breaking the Forma Aedificii Gatesensis 21 July 2006

Posted by Troels in : Making of the Archaeological Record, Thesis Rant , 2 comments

To state that almost all extant Roman sculpture is fragmented in one way or another is fairly banal. To answer why, when and how it was broken is anything but. Differentiating between the many different ways that fragmentation of sculpture occurs has been one of the main challenges of my thesis work. There are several ways to approach this problem, and one of them is to closely interpret the archaeological context of sculptural finds. A much more expensive approach involves what we could call ‘experimental archaeology’. This involves reconstructing sculptures using the right materials, and then breaking them by different methods of destruction. Preferably, one should also try to understand the impact different surfaces make on the fragmentation of the sculptures.

One of the few, if not only, academic experiments to understand how marble breaks was done as part of Stanford’s Forma Urbis project. The paper “Carving and breaking the Forma Aedificii Gatesensis” by Marc Levoy presents their project, and has some small videos of the destruction. Another paper, “Analyzing the fragments of the Forma Aedificii Gatesensis” by Natasha Gelfand, presents an interpretation of the marble slab’s fragmentation and how this contributes to the understanding of the Forma Urbis. All very interesting. Don’t try this in your local arts museum though!

A Mutilated Aphrodite in Istanbul 24 May 2006

Posted by Troels in : Case Studies, Thesis Rant , 1 comment so far

I have previously mentioned the mutilated statue group of the Three Graces, now in the Antalya Museum, that is going to form part of the core argument of my chapter 5 “Before the Fig Leaf: Body & Society in Late Roman Perge.” The statue group is only one of several statues from Perge’s South Baths that have been mutilated in various ways.

I have also found some interesting comparanda to the Perge material. One of them is a statue of Aphrodite/Venus, found in a niche in the frigidarium of the Baths of Faustina at Miletus. It is now in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. The mutilation is wonderfully noted by Fritz Krischen in the 1928 publication: “Die Brüste und der mons Veneris sind verstümmelt”.

Mutilated statue of Aphrodite from Miletus in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Photo: TMK, May 2006. Larger version here.

Krischen also notes the mutilation of a statue group of Bacchus and a satyr, found in the same baths’ tepidarium. I have previously discussed similar material from Scythopolis here and here.

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.

Scythopolis I: A Mutilated Statue of Venus 7 November 2005

Posted by Troels in : Case Studies, Thesis Rant , 4 comments

I have been looking for parallels to the mutilated sculptures at Perge, since they will be at the centre of a chapter on the body and society in late antiquity. One group of material comes from Scythopolis in modern Israel, where the excavations of the Eastern Bathhouse revealed a series of sculptures. I will be discussing this material and other pieces from Scythopolis today and over the next few days.

One of the most important things about the excavations of the Eastern Bathhouse is that the sculptures were found in a sealed layer, datable to 515/516 CE. This gives a terminus ante quem for the deposition of the statuary found in the baths. Among the finds was this nude statue of Venus, that had been mutilated before it was dumped in the hypocaust, when the baths were abandoned. The head has so far not been found.

The headless statue of Venus as found in the Eastern Batthouse, Scythopolis. From Tsafrir & Foerster 1997: fig. 37. The statue is now on view in the Israel Museum.

In the case of this mutilated and discarded statue of Venus, it is appropriate to consider an episode in the Life of Porphyry (Chapter 59). Porphyry became bishop of Gaza in the late 4th century, and one of his main tasks was to tackle the large pagan community that was active in the city. His biography tells us about his destruction of the great temple of Marnas in 402, but the same bout of violence also resulted in the destruction of a nude statue of Venus, that the attackers deemed to be unseemly. We can also remember Theodoret’s condemnation of Venus’ nudity as “more shameless than that of any prostitute standing in front of a brothel” (3.79-84).


The Erechtheion and the Process of Christianization 14 September 2005

Posted by Troels in : Case Studies, Thesis Rant , add a comment

I have previously talked about the Parthenon and the possibility that its metopes were damaged by early Christians. Just this week Bill Caraher (thanks!) put me on to the work of Alexandra Lesk, whose PhD dissertation was on the Erechteion and its reception over 2500 years. I was, of course, especially happy to read her chapter on the the Erechteion in the late antique and Byzantine periods. It’s an excellent piece of scholarship, that will hopefully see full publication to gain a wider readership.

The Erechteion on the Acropolis of Athens (and in the foreground the remains of the Archaic Temple of Athena). Photo: TMK, October 2004.