Past Events

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February 15, 2019
4:00pm to 6:00pm

Dr. Stacie King

Associate Professor of Anthropology
Associate Faculty for the Center for
Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Indiana University Bloomington


This talk explores the challenges that ethnonyms create when trying to reconstruct
histories of multiethnic landscapes in the ancient world. My larger project in the Nejapa
region of Oaxaca, Mexico addresses various aspects of conquest and colonialism along
interegional trade routes, including identifying fortresses in mountain landscapes, the
meaning of unoccupied land, the relationships entailed by trade and exchange, and
reconciling archival documents, oral history, and archaeology. In this talk, I use my work
to demonstrate how ethnonyms have pervaded interpretations of the past, archaeological
reconstructions, and Colonial period registers, such that it remains difficult to envision a
different kind of thriving, multiethnic world. Taken together, archaeological data, archival
information, and oral history from rural multiethnic Nejapa, Oaxaca show us that
different indigenous communities across this landscape experienced Aztec, Zapotec, and
Spanish conquests and colonialisms differently between the years A.D. 1350 and 1650, and
that these differences do not fit well with traditional reconstructions of Nejapa’s
indigenous ethnic groups (Mixe, Chontal, and Zapotec). Instead, the data complicate
entrenched notions of ethnicity and challenge their basic formulation. The long-standing
multiethnic past of ancient Nejapa set the stage for a different form of indigeneity that
Nejapa’s resident experience in the present.

Fowler A222 (Seminar Room)
Sumiji Takahashi 310-825-4169
February 13, 2019
12:00pm to 1:00pm

Dr. Leigh Lieberman

Department of History

Claremont McKenna College          


In recent years, the study of ancient artifacts has moved beyond straightforward typologies, descriptions, and quantifications. New approaches to the analysis of material culture -  including methods of geospatial referencing, artifact agency, object biography, and statistical analysis of large datasets - have drawn attention to the myriad ways in which objects could be used and reused, deposited and redeposited in the ancient world. These new approaches have consequently given new life to materials that have been long overlooked in busy storerooms, from iron nails to loom weights, from ceramic wasters to unidentifiable coins. However, no matter the classification method, scholars still by and large fail to situate all the artifacts from a site fully within their archaeological contexts, a term that is frequently discussed in published reports but often thoroughly misunderstood. In both excavation publications and museum displays, the intended use of an object is almost always prioritized when in fact a contextual approach to the study and presentation of artifacts and assemblages can better illustrate the multiple, varied roles that objects served in the ancient world.

As the Manager of Data and Information Resources for the University of Cincinnati's Pompeii Archaeological Research Project: Porta Stabia (PARP:PS), the Data Supervisor for the American Excavations at Morgantina: Contrada Agnese Project (AEM:CAP), and the Head of Materials for the University of Cincinnati’s Tharros Archaeological Research Project (TARP), I have facilitated the development of a robust data organizational scheme that guides our innovative approach to material culture. I argue that by prioritizing context in the analysis of artifacts and assemblages, we can come to a more nuanced interpretation of how everyday objects were used, discarded, and recycled in urban spaces in antiquity. In my presentation, I’ll be highlighting some of the important lessons that I have learned along the way.

Fowler A222 (Seminar Room) 310-825-4169
February 12, 2019
6:00pm to 8:30pm

The Lower Pecos Canyonlands of southwest Texas and Coahuila, Mexico house some of the most spectacularly complex rock art of the ancient world. Approximately 4000 years ago, hunter-gatherers began transforming this region into a painted landscape. Perhaps the greatest of these masterpieces is the White Shaman mural, an intricate Pecos River style painting that spans twenty-six feet in length and thirteen feet in height. Drawing on twenty-five years of archaeological research, as well as insight from ethnohistory and art history, Carolyn Boyd identifies patterns in the art that relate, in stunning detail, to the mythologies of Uto-Aztecan speaking peoples, including the Aztec and the contemporary Huichol. Analysis of these patterns led to the identification of the White Shaman mural as an ancient visual narrative relating a story of the birth of the sun and the beginning of time.

California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA
570 Westwood Plaza Building 114
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Reception on Tuesday, February 12, 2019 at 6:00pm with the program at 7:00pm

RSVP here 

Carolyn E. Boyd, Ph.D.

Founder of Shumla Archaeological Research & Education Center

Research Professor at Texas State

California NanoSystems Institute Auditorium
Michelle Jacobson
February 6, 2019
12:00pm to 1:00pm

Gregson Schachner & Reuven Sinensky


Ancestral Pueblo communities in the American Southwest underwent dramatic transformations in the mid-1st millennium AD, including rapid population growth and the widespread adoption of social structures that remained in place over the next millennium. We explore to two key moments in this process: the widespread adoption of sedentary agriculture in the mid-6th century and the founding of the earliest aggregated villages during the 8th century. While the former transition is marked by abrupt changes in architecture, storage facilities, and technological traditions region-wide, the latter displays remarkable diversity. Drawing on recent excavations and high quality chronometric and paleoclimate data, we suggest that a severe climatic downturn brought about by a series of massive volcanic eruptions is in part responsible for the abrupt changes associated with the onset of the Neolithic Demographic Transition in the northern Southwest during the mid-AD 500s, while a myriad of entangled economic and social factors contributed to the formation of early population aggregates a little over a century later.

Fowler A222 (Seminar Room)
Sumiji Takahashi 310-825-4169
January 30, 2019
12:00pm to 1:00pm

Savino di Lernia

Director, The Archaeological Mission in the Sahara

Director, The Archaeological Mission in the Kenyan Rift Valley

Sapienza University of Rome, Italy


Climate changes are a serious threat to cultural and natural heritage. Although many contexts are today seriously endangered, recent studies highlight how “archaeology and cultural heritage threatened by anthropogenic climate change are not just victims but part of the solution” (Hambrecht & Rockman, 2017. American Antiquity). Long-term archaeological projects could provide evidence to better understand the nature of the relations between climatically driven environmental changes and social trajectories. Aim of this talk is to present a synthesis of the main Holocene climate and environmental variations from a privileged geographical context – the central Sahara, where the magnitude of these changes was huge –, with a special focus on the Tadrart Acacus and Messak region (SW Libya). Here, cultural and social trajectories go together with resilient mechanisms of adaptations. Archaeological evidence reveals that social strategies were pivotal in coping with environmental changes. Although it is certainly true that climate changes are in fact central elements in cultural trajectories, in the past as today, this is even truer for marginal ecosystems such as the changing landscapes of the Holocene central Sahara. However, the continuity of many cultural practices until historical times and even later shows how the Saharan tradition is indeed an extraordinary way of life that deserves specific attention.

Fowler A222 (Seminar Room)
Sumiji Takahashi 310-825-4169
January 23, 2019
12:00pm to 1:00pm

Jonathan Winnerman

Lecturer, UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures 


Begun in 2012, the goal of the Block Yard Project at Tell Edfu is to organize, conserve, and document the wealth of epigraphic material discovered in the settlement site to the west of the well-known Ptolemaic temple. Prior to the present study, many of the objects were simply abandoned at the base of the site, deemed unworthy for inclusion in a museum by early excavators. Yet, these objects reveal a great deal about Egyptian religious practices, especially in the community outside of the temple itself. This talk first discusses epigraphic methodology and the options available for the documentation of this or other, similar material. It next provides an overview of some of the most interesting results, focusing specifically on the remains of a distinctive structure of unknown design and purpose. 

Fowler A222 (Seminar Room)
Sumiji Takahashi 310-825-4169
January 16, 2019
12:00pm to 1:00pm

Early globalization? Isotopic evidence of food practices in Prehistoric Italy

Mary Anne Tafuri

Department of Environmental Biology, Sapienza University of Rome

The cultural and social importance of food goes far beyond the mere necessity of nutrition, yet archaeologists have been slow to tackle issues of the sociality of food in prehistory. This is a great loss particularly as the economic transformations, which structured human diet took place in prehistory. One reason for lack of attention to this question has been limited methodologies for investigating not only what foods were produced but also exactly what foods people consumed.

The increasing application of biomolecular investigations of skeletal tissues offers an exceptionally valuable approach for directly assessing aspects of an individual’s life, including their diet, geographical origin as well as the climate they inhabited.

In the Central Mediterranean a number of important economic questions can be addressed through isotopic investigations: we can explore the balance between plant and animal sources of food in the diet of prehistoric people and how this change between the onset of the Neolithic (ca. 6000 BC) and the end of the Bronze Age (ca. 900 BC). We can assess the relative contribution of marine resources to diet the Central Mediterranean and, further, we can identify mode and tempo for the use of new foods.

This talk will present new isotopic data on a large set of sites from prehistoric Italy that span from the earliest phases of the Neolithic to the later Bronze Age. A pattern of great complexity emerges, showing profound differences between the northern and southern regions of the Peninsula, which can be associated with environmental aspects but mostly should be interpreted as different cultural practices across space and time.

Fowler A222 (Seminar Room)
Sumiji Takahashi 310-825-4169
January 9, 2019
12:00pm to 1:00pm

Felipe Rojas Silva
Assistant Professor of Archaeology and the Ancient World and Egyptology and Assyriology
Brown University

Fowler A222 (Seminar Room) 310-825-4169
December 7, 2018
4:00pm to 6:00pm

Dr. Chip Colwell

Senior Curator of Anthropology, Denver Museum of Natural Science


Five decades ago, Native American leaders launched a crusade against museums to reclaim their sacred objects and to rebury their kin. This controversy has exploded in recent years as hundreds of tribes have used a landmark federal law to recover their heritage from more than one thousand museums across America. Many still question how to balance the religious freedoms of Native Americans with the academic freedoms of American scientists, and the arguments continue on about whether the emptying of museum shelves elevates human rights or destroys humanity’s common heritage.
This talk presents Dr. Colwell’s new book and winner of a 2017 Choice Outstanding Academic Book Title Award, Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits: Inside the Fight to Re claim Native America’s Culture, a personal journey that illuminates how repatriation has transformed both American museums and Native communities. This story reveals why repatriation law has become an imperfect but necessary tool to resolve the collision of worldviews between scientists and Native Americans—to decide the nature of the sacred and the destiny of souls.

Fowler A222 (Seminar Room)
Sumiji Takahashi 310-825-4169
November 30, 2018
4:00pm to 6:00pm


Isabel Rivera-Collazo is Assistant Professor on Biological, Ecological and Human Adaptations to Climate Change at the Department of Anthropology  and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Dr. Rivera-Collazo is an environmental archaeologist specializing on geoarchaeology, archaeomalacology, coastal and marine processes, maritime culture and climate change, with regional interests in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean Basin and the Neotropics (Pan Caribbean region); Israel and the eastern Mediterranean. Her research focuses on the effect that human activity has over island ecosystems through time, as well as how have people responded to climatic and environmental change in the past. Dr. Rivera-Collazo’s work focuses on resilience and adaptation, investigating what decisions enhance or reduce adaptive success. Taking an applied approach, Dr. Rivera-Collazo also works with local communities in the quest for understanding the current and expected impacts of climate change, including threats to coastal heritage.  Dr. Isabel Rivera-Collazo has a MSc degree on Palaeoecology of Human Societies and a PhD on Environmental Archaeology both from the Institute of Archaeology,University College London. She is also Research Fellow of the Center of Tropical Ecology and Conservation (CATEC) and the Laboratory of Environmental Archaeology at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus.


A popular proverb in Puerto Rico warns that “it is not the same thing to call the devil than to see him come”. For many years, scientists have been warning about the potential impacts of climate change. In the last five to ten years archaeologists have been linking those impacts to heritage. These past two years, 2017 and 2018, have demonstrated the real-life meaning of changing weather – which eventually will add up to changed climate – and it is not the same to see the devil come. In the context of rapidly changing weather, heritage is a tool for adaptation, for recovery of lost knowledge, and for communication of locally relevant climate science. But at the same time, this reality puts heritage professionals at the front of a social, physical and cultural disaster that is simply overwhelming. This presentation will share the experiences of working with archaeological heritage and climate change research in Puerto Rico before, during and after a record-breaking catastrophic year of hurricanes and winter storms, and will contextualize the work of archaeology in the practicality of equity and justice from within the communities themselves.

Fowler A222 (Seminar Room)
Sumiji Takahashi 310-825-4169