2015 ASOR Annual Meeting Presentations [VIDEO]

Posted in: Annual Meeting, ASOR, ASORTV


At theASOR Annual Meeting, several of our members graciously volunteered to have their presentations recorded for ASORtv. Some presenters met with our Digital Media Specialist to read their papers, and some volunteers were recorded in session by our Junior Scholar volunteer videographers, Jayd Lewis and Justin Singleton. As the videos are ready, we will continue to update this page. Be sure to check back every week for a new video from the meeting! Also, click here for more information about ourASOR Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas.

Susan E. Alcock (Brown University) – Stepping It Up (Like a Ziggurat): The Place of ASOR in the 21st Century?

Opening night Plenary Address

There can be no doubt that more public attention than ever is being paid today to the archaeology of the Near East, and never for sadder reasons. ASOR rightly invests enormous effort into investigating and educating about the perilous place of heritage in conflict zones. What this lecture will explore are additional ways to fight the battle of our original mission: initiating, encouraging and supporting research into the cultures of the Near East, and helping the public to understand the findings of that research. Do we only want to be about the archaeology of loss?

Sarah Kjelt Costello (University of Houston–Clear Lake) – Discerning Biography, Ancient and Modern

Presented during session: Object Biography for Archaeologists II: The Object As Magnet I (Workshop)


As part of a new partnership between Houston’s Menil Collection and scholars from Rice University and the University of Houston– Clear Lake, I have recently undertaken object research on a museum piece with a challenging story. Its provenance is incomplete; its provenience is not known. This piece, Votive Statue of Eannatum, Prince of Lagash, has an inscription that has been identified as a likely forgery; a prominent scholar has noted in the Menil Collection catalog that “its stylistic analysis presents some interesting problems” and proposes a complex ancient biography to account for those problems. Today, through its earnest gaze and gesture, the work stands as a compelling presence in the Menil Collection’s gallery of antiquities. In taking on this research, I wish to maintain my own ethical standards regarding the treatment of unprovenienced pieces and to avoid adding any commercial value to the work. Yet I also wish to add something to what we know about the object’s biography, both ancient and modern, and to let that story be a part of the visitor’s experience of the object. I would like to see the object’s biography reflected in the viewer’s experience with the piece inside and outside the museum. As we move forward in our collaborative research, we are exploring different possibilities for giving voice to such objects, including public symposia and blogging.

Christina DiFabio (University of Michigan) – Context and Craft Production of Lamps from Roman Sepphoris in the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology Collection


This poster presents new research on an assemblage of lamps from Roman Sepphoris in the collection of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology at the University of Michigan. In 1931, Professor Leroy Waterman conducted excavations at Sepphoris to study the city’s theater, the so-called “basilica,” and the water systems. My research focuses on two aspects of the lamps excavated during Waterman’s study: I attempt to place the assemblage within its greater archaeological context of Sepphoris and within the craft production network of Roman Judaea/Palaestina.

For archaeological context, I first reinterpret the data presented by Waterman and Yeivin in their 1937 archaeological report. The lamp assemblage in question was found in the “basilica,” which has now been reinterpreted as a Roman villa by the University of South Florida excavations from 1983–1989. I then look to more recent excavations of Sepphoris to understand the local lamp distribution. For craft production, I analyze the style of the lamps in the assemblage to similar Roman discus lamp comparanda from the region. I also look to studies of ceramic craft production within the Roman Galilee in order to identify potential production centers for the assemblage and potential trade networks for Sepphoris. Through this study, I offer new insights on where and how the residents of Roman Sepphoris used these objects, how the residents participated within local trade in the Galilee, and how my reinterpretations can be utilized for further research and public education within the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology galleries.

David Gurevich (Harvard University) – Jerusalem and Mecca: New Perspective on Archaeology of Pilgrimage


Jerusalem and Mecca are probably the most famous holy cities of the ancient Near East. Both cities have been birth sites of new religions. They both were destinations of large-scale pilgrimage in antiquity. Jews made pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem three times a year until its destruction in 70 C.E. Muslims embarked for the journeys to Mecca for the Hajj from the dawn of Islam. The motivating power behind the pilgrimage movement derives from spiritual perception, which impels masses of believers to depart from distant places to the sacred site. As a unique phenomenon for Jerusalem and Mecca, one would expect the pilgrimage to have an impact on the urban landscape. However, how can one recognize the pilgrimage in the archaeological record? In the past, archaeologists laid a stress on small findings that testify to the pilgrimage movement: cultic artifacts, pilgrims’ souvenirs, foreign coins, and imported pottery vessels that were brought to the sites. Nevertheless, it seems that there are more recognizable landmarks in the Holy Cities. The analysis which is offered in this paper is based on Jerusalem of the Late Second Temple period, and Mecca of the 19th century, that is, before the introduction of modern technology. This paper suggests a way to recognize a more obvious trace of pilgrimage movement: big unroofed water pools which have never received scholarly attention as a unique phenomenon bearing a cultural explanation.

Kyra Kaercher (University of Pennsylvania Museum) and William Hafford (University of Pennsylvania) – Ur Digitization Project: Designing and Testing a Digital Research Tool


The British Museum and the University of Pennsylvania Museum jointly excavated the site of Ur in modern Iraq from 1922–1934. Under laws of the time, finds were divided, with half remaining in Iraq and the other half split between the excavating institutions. Sincethe two museums have been digitally reuniting the finds with the field records in an effort to create an open source online research tool. The core of that tool is now in its initial testing phase. This talk explains the approach and the challenges encountered in developing it. It also demonstrates the research potential and discusses continued testing and future additions to the site.

All of Sir Leonard Woolley’s catalogue cards have been scanned and transcribed into the core database and modern information on the artifacts is continually being added. More than 3,000 artifacts at the Penn Museum have been documented and photographed with equally great numbers from the British Museum. More important are the interconnections among the data. Field notes are being transcribed and when an artifact is mentioned it links directly to the object record. Field photographs are being tagged for people, objects, and locations. Artifacts of particular types, materials, or locations can quickly be sorted, and the terminology is linked to major ontologies to aid interaction with other archaeological datasets. Together these and many other connections can lead to more productive and informative research into the ancient city of Ur and its excavation process.

Pedro Azara (ETSAB-UPC, Spain), Marc Marin (ETSAB-UPC, Spain), and Joan Borrell (ETSAB-UPC, Spain) – Do Archaeological Exhibitions Exist, or What Do We Really Show at Archaeological Exhibitions? ‘Past and Present: Archaeology and Aesthetics’ Exhibition (ISAW, New York) Case Study


The closed exhibition “Past and Present: Archaeology and Aesthetics,” curated by Jennifer Y. Chi and Pedro Azara (assistant curator: Marc Marín), shown at the Institute for the Study of Ancient World in New York until June, dedicated to the promotion and reception of Sumerian artifacts from North American archaeological Missions in Iraq, in the 1920s and 1930s, has inquired about the status or condition of the exhibited items. Ancient, modern, and contemporary material was shown together in the same space. Some were made to be looked upon and to make the viewer think. Others, on the contrary, were not even made for human beings. Was it logical or reasonable to show what was not conceived and made to be shown? What had happened—to the items and to us—for the exhibition to be possible? The paper will deal with theoretical questions and problems that appeared when organizing exhibitions of items that should not be exhibited—unless a modern interpretation transforms them into objects to be looked upon, as modern and contemporary art.

Aaron Demsky (Bar-Ilan University) – Three-Tier-Names from the End of the Judean Monarchy


There is epigraphic and biblical evidence from the end of the Monarchy (sixth century B.C.E.) for the custom of identifying people by both their patronymic and their grandfather’s name, creating a three-tier identity. The epigraphic material has been gathered by Dr Mitka Golub and includes a number of poorly preserved seals and sealings in addition to several contemporary ostraca from Judah. This onomastic phenomenon also appears in II Kings 22:3 (Shaphan ben Azaliahu ben Meshulam Hassofer), and particularly in the book of Jeremiah, e.g., Baruch and Seraiah sons of Neriah ben Mahsaiah (Jer 32:12; 51:59); Yiriah ben Shlemiah ben Hananiah (Jer 37:13); Gedaliah ben Ahiqam ben Shaphan (39:14), and others. In this paper, I will suggest possible reasons for this practice based on theories of cultural fashion, increase of certain popular names and literary criteria. I will also note the rabbinic practice called meshulashim, i.e., adding a three- tier-name to confirm the identity of litigants (Mish. Baba Batra 10:7).

Pamela Koulianos (North Carolina State University) – The Chronology of the Petra Garden and Pool Complex through Coarse Wares


Petra has long been the focus of intensive archaeological research. One excavation project in particular, the Petra Garden and Pool Complex (PGPC), offers great insight into the historic, social, and economic timeline of Petra’s urban city center. The Pool and Garden Complex sits immediately to the east of the Great Temple and directly below the hilltop domestic structures of ez-Zantur. This paper will review the chronology of the PGPC and use the typology I have created that supports this chronological phasing. The ceramic material recovered from PGPC aided in supporting the chronological ranges of phases that have been distinguished as “Pregarden” (late first century B.C.), “The Monumental Garden” (late first century B.C. to early first century A.D.) “Roman Renovation” (early second century A.D.), and a “Second Destruction Layer.” As of yet this “Second Destruction Layer” is thought to be associated with a destruction at the end of the sixth/ early seventh century A.D. Having worked with the pottery from two other sites in southern Jordan, Aila and ʿAyn Gharandal, I have been able to use that material as comparanda for chronological and morphological similarities in the coarse-wares present throughout the PGPC site. This study utilizes the coarse-wares to corroborate the chronological conclusions of the excavators, which were based largely upon numismatic and literary sources.

Matthew Howland (University of California, San Diego), Mohammed Najjar (UCSD Levantine and Cyber- Archaeology Laboratory) and Thomas Levy (University of California, San Diego) – Mapping with Low-Altitude Photography and Structure from Motion: A Comparative Case Study from Faynan, Jordan


Archaeologists over the last several years have increasingly adopted Structure from Motion (SfM) for archaeological field recording. SfM, a method of creating 3D models from photographs, has the advantages of being cheap, simple, and effective, making it a useful tool for field researchers on a limited budget. Low-altitude aerial photography (LAAP) is a tool with a longer history in archaeology, and has also proven itself to be an effective tool in recording sites from a new perspective. The combined application of these techniques represents an innovative approach to the recording of archaeological features in the field with unmatched efficiency. However, the accuracy of the combined LAAP-SfM recording approach has hardly been quantifiably tested against traditional techniques of archaeological survey and recording. This paper aims to analyze the comprehensiveness, accuracy, and precision of recorded feature datasets resulting from the LAAP/SfM workflow in comparison to similar datasets acquired using total station-based survey. The datasets in question relate to the sites of Khirbet en-Nahas and Khirbet al-Jariya, two Iron Age sites in southern Jordan’s Faynan region, investigated as part of the UC San Diego Edom Lowlands Regional Archaeology Project, directed by Prof. Thomas E. Levy.

A special thanks to Jesica “Jayd” Lewis, ASOR Junior Scholar Videographer.

Giorgos Bourogiannis (Medelhavsmuseet, Sweden) – Cypriote Evidence in the Early Iron Age Aegean: An Alternative View from the Cyclades


The discussion of Cypro-Aegean interaction during the Early Iron Age usually focuses on certain areas of the Aegean where Cypriote evidence is more abundant, namely Crete, Euboea, and the Dodecanese. However, recent research has considerably enhanced our knowledge of contacts between the Aegean and the East, aspects of which are now better understood. The combination of new fieldwork and publications has shown that the impact of Cyprus during the Early Iron Age was actually greater than initially thought and that it had encompassed a larger part of the Aegean world.

Situated at the centre of the Aegean Sea, the Cyclades display some strong, albeit not always direct, evidence of contacts with Cyprus, while Cypriote influence has recently been traced in many groups of material from the Cycladic islands. The paper will investigate the Cypriote and Cypriote-related evidence that was found in the Cyclades and dates to the Geometric and Archaic periods. Recent excavations and publications will be considered, while comparisons with other parts of the Aegean world will be made in order to facilitate our understanding of the Cycladic participation in the Cypro-Aegean interaction. The discussion will focus on the islands of Naxos, Delos, Mykonos, and Thera where the majority of this evidence was produced.

Vanessa Juloux (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes) – A Platform for Gender Studies: genderstudies.science.

During the Mentoring Meeting: Initiative on the Status of Women in ASOR at theASOR Annual Meeting, Vanessa Juloux gave a short presentation on the new collaborative effort to support and showcase the work on gender studies.
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Byron R. McCane (Wofford College), Raimo Hakola (University of Helsinki), Stefan Muenger (University of Bern), and Juergen Zangenberg (Universität Leiden) – Shared and Contested Spaces in Late Ancient Galilee: Jews and Christians in Archaeological Context


Five seasons of archaeological work at Horvat Kur in the lower eastern Galilee have exposed the remains of a “broad-house” synagogue from the Byzantine period. Excavations in both the synagogue area and the nearby domestic quarter locate the main occupation phases at Horvat Kur from the late fourth to the seventh century C.E. The Horvat Kur synagogue thus provides additional archaeological evidence for religious diversity in Byzantine Galilee, complementing evidence from other synagogues and challenging the view that, after Constantine, Judaism in the region was in decline and turning inward. On the contrary, it increasingly appears that local rural Jewish communities continued to flourish, despite imperial edicts from the early fifth century onwards that tried to restrict or prohibit the construction of new synagogues. In addition, the Horvat Kur synagogue is located in close proximity to the important Christian pilgrimage sites of Tabgha, where a church was built in the fifth century, and Capernaum, where a church and synagogue are located nearly adjacent to each other. The locations of these structures and villages make it likely that daily contacts between Jewish and Christian communities must have taken place. In this paper, we evaluate whether and how the material evidence for the coexistence of small Galilean communities could supplement (and correct) ancient literary sources that have, in the past, been regarded as evidence for mutual antagonism and alienation. Perhaps the literary sources were advocating for a distance between the communities which did not exist in social and material contexts.

Annelies Van de Ven (University of Melbourne, Australia) – Objects of Displacement: The Affective Journey of the Cyrus Cylinder


The Cyrus Cylinder is a clay, barrel-shaped inscription, which details the Persian conquest of Babylon by Cyrus the Great. Its text carries information about the politics, religions, peoples, and topography of ancient Mesopotamia. Over the years its meaning has come to extend much further, featuring in narratives of colonialism, becoming a beacon of identity in displacement, and embodying conceptions of homeland. The cylinder, and Cyrus himself, have become implicated in the identities of multiple peoples and nations across the globe including the UK, US, Israel, and Iran, four areas that today are caught in a web of strife. The question often asked with regard to the cylinder is “Where and to whom does it belong?” Though significant, this question ignores the agency of the Cyrus Cylinder as well as its multivocality, evident in the object’s widespread cultural appeal. This paper uses object biography to interrogate the Cyrus Cylinder as an emotive object with active valence, not just a representative map of the networks between individuals and cultures across space and time. The purpose of this paper is to conceptualize the relationships created by and embodied within the Cyrus Cylinder and the different narratives and biographies that have become engaged with it. Using the example of the Cyrus Cylinder, the potential role of objects as ambassadors and as hostages will be explored, elucidating their power to either include or exclude a variety of identities.


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