What can Archaeology Teach us? Tales of Cavalry Warfare and Erotic Vases

January 26, 2016

Talks about clever Athenian potters and great Persian kings: 
1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6, and 7 p.m, Thursday, March 10


TACOMA, Wash.
– For most of us “archaeology” immediately calls to mind the golden death mask of Egypt’s King Tut, or an image of Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, with a bullwhip.

But archaeology can teach us about more than religious or royal artifacts. It can, for instance, give us an insight into the lives of ancient Greek artisans and their sometimes erotic wares, or reveal the harsh combat conditions of a Persian soldier in the 5th century B.C.

To share these stories with the South Sound public, University of Puget Sound is hosting two lectures sponsored by the Puget Sound Society of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA).

The lecture series is the result of a new role that the classics departments of University of Puget Sound and University of Washington have taken as co-leaders of the regional society of the AIA. Each year the Puget Sound campus will host two free public lectures, while University of Washington will host two free lectures in Seattle.

“It is our hope that by bringing lectures to the South Sound, we can help spread the love of archaeology and an appreciation of its treasures,” said Aislinn Melchior, chair of Puget Sound’s Department of Classics. “We aim to introduce students and the wider public to the kinds of things that archaeology can teach us about the past.”

The two lectures this year at University of Puget Sound will be:

“Sex and Other Things Sell: Athenian Potters and their Foreign Consumers”
1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6
Kathleen Lynch, associate professor of classics, University of Cincinnati
Tahoma Room, Commencement Hall
Caskey Lecture
Note: The lecture will include images of explicit sexual scenes

“Warfare in Ancient Persia, 550–330 BC”
7 p.m. Thursday, March 10
John W.I. Lee, associate professor of history, University of California, Santa Barbara
Room 109, Wyatt Hall
Ridgway Lecture

The February lecture, “Sex and Other Things Sell: Athenian Potters and their Foreign Consumers,” will explore how the foreign market for Greek vases influenced the art choices of Athenian potters. To provide a vivid example of the problem, Lynch will first examine erotic images of heterosexual couples on Athenian black-figure and red-figure vases, produced about 525–450 B.C. These Athenian-made pots have been found only in Etruria, the region today known as central Italy.

Lynch will consider why the Athenians chose to market these images to the Etruscans, and, in turn, why the Etruscans may have appreciated them. Lynch will show the very different pottery found in genuine Athenian houses. She will then use comparative material to try to understand how and why the potters may have been aiming to create an “exotic” image of Athenians for their foreign customers.

The March lecture, “Warfare in Ancient Persia, 550–330 B.C.,” will look at the Achaemenid Persian Empire, founded by Cyrus the Great. Stretching from the Aegean Sea to the Indus valley, the empire was the first to exercise global power. To defend their realm the great kings of Persia mustered a diverse array of professional and part-time soldiers, including Iranian cavalrymen, Babylonian archers, and even Greek mercenaries. Lee will explore warfare in ancient Persia using evidence from royal inscriptions, excavated documents, tomb paintings, sculpture, and other sources, with particular attention to the equipment, training, and martial values of the empire’s warriors.  

Kathleen Lynch is the author of The Symposium in Context: Pottery from a Late Archaic House near the Athenian Agora, which won the AIA Wiseman Book Award in 2013. She was co-editor on the volume, The Italic People of Ancient Apulia: New Evidence from Pottery for Workshops, Markets, and Customs. She also has authored chapters and articles on subjects ranging from the drinking vessels used at ancient Greek symposia, to excavations at the Athenian agora.

John W.I. Lee is the author of A Greek Army on the March: Soldiers and Survival in Xenophon’s Anabasis (Cambridge University Press, 2008), which was nominated for the Runciman Award. He also has written articles on the Greek experience of battle, and a series of lectures on the Persian Empire for The Great Courses audio and video series. He currently serves as the faculty advisor for the Student Veterans Organization at University of California, Santa Barbara.

For directions and a map of the University of Puget Sound campus:pugetsound.edu/directions
For accessibility information please contact accessibility@pugetsound.edu or 253.879.3236, or visit pugetsound.edu/accessibility.

Press photos of Kathleen Lynch and John W.I. Lee are available upon request.
Photos on page: From top right: Two ancient rock engravings of Persian warriors; Kathleen Lynch; John W. I. Lee.

Tweet this: Athenian exotica? Persian valor? @univpugetsound hear Kathleen Lynch @uofcincy; John Lee @themistogenes Feb 6, Mar 10 http://bit.ly/1ONXd6f

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