Saturday, January 12, 2008

AIA/APA Chicago Report no. 3

On Saturday I attended the excellent session on Magna Graecia (AIA 4D, January 5, 1:30-4:30 PM).

Opening up,
Johanna Hobratschk put "Apulian Vase-painting in Context: A Reconsideration of Dramatic Scenes." Past scholarship (e.g. Trendall and Webster) has seen a direct representation of South Italian theater on Apulian volute-kraters. Hobratschk argues for the development of architecture in dramatic scenes on vases from naiskoi in funerary contexts. The Iliupersis Painter was the first to paint naiskoi in funerary scenes, and the first to make major use of the volute krater, with some fourteen attributed vases. The buildings in his later dramatic scenes show clear similarities with his earlier funerary naiskoi. By contrast, in Campanian fabric where funerary scenes are very uncommon, the conventions for representing dramatic architecture are different.

Camilla R. Norman presented "The Myth of the Ransom of Hector on the Daunian Stelai." These enigmatic objects (late 7th-mid 5th centuries BCE) were almost single-handedly saved -- and interpreted -- by Silvio Ferri during the 1950's and 60's, coinicident with the introduction of the deep plow in Apulian agriculture. Ferri's Classical training led him to describe many of the figural scenes as illustrations of Greek myths or Homeric episodes rather than on their own terms. His interpretation of a recurring scene as the "Ransom of Hector," based on the identification of the central object as the Lyre of Achilles, required him to assert that the actual body of Hector was implied but not depicted, and that Achilles was painted in, rather than engraved like the rest of the figures! Achilles' lyre is not even described in connection with Priam's recovery of his son's body. Norman posits instead that the scene shows some aspect of women's life, perhaps connected with the production of textiles. The "lyre of Achilles" may in fact be a hand loom, a wool basket, or a hanging cloth, among other possibilities.

Unfortunately, Gianfranco Carollo was not present to give an update on "Burials and Reconstruction of Social and Cultural Contexts. The Unpublished Necropolis of Ripacandida (Potenza, Italy)," a particular shame since, as noted, the material is still unpublished.

After a break, Dante Bartoli read "
Archaeology and Environment in the Sila Mountains (Calabria, Italy). Analysis of the Prehistoric Settlements" for Domenico Marino and Annalisa Zarattini. A lush prehistoric forest stretched across Calabria and there is evidence for occupation by both Homo erectus and Neandertal man. During the Neolithic, new areas were settled in the Sila mountains, based on short-distance transhumance and fishing, and the local obsidian quarries were first used at this time. Excavations between 2005 and 2007 have revealed Neolithic settlements submerged in the Lago di Cecita, dated 3800-3350 BCE, with subsistence based on agriculture, gathering, cattle and fish. Between the Neolithic and Bronze age there was a progressive exapansion of settlements in the hills as termini of transhumance. At Timpone del Gigante there are an Iron Age settlement, Hellenistic defensive walls, and a Roman quarry.

Finally, Sandra Lucore, director of the excavation of the North Baths at Morgantina, shared her thoughts on "
Tradition and Innovation in Western Greek Baths." Despite the lack of full publication of any baths in the Western Greek world, Lucore identifies a clear typology of baths based on heated communal immersion bathing. The earliest evidence of such bathing in Sicily is at late 4th century Gela, including the individual bathing tubs and slightly later tholos-room which both remain standard features of western baths. The typical thermal complex including a double room and tholos adjoined by a hypocaust, as found at Syracuse, Morgantina, and Megara Hyblaea. The dome over the tholos and barrel-vaulted rooms at Morgantina were constructed with interlocking hollow terracotta tubes, which were then covered with a rough mortar compound. These tubular vaults are the earliest known, and the technique betrays a practical knowledge of statics, which may be connected with the work of Archimedes at Syracuse.

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