University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Eighth Annual Kolb Senior Scholars Colloquium


New Discoveries in Old World Archaeology

October 18, 2013

Welcome: Dr. C. Brian Rose, Senior Fellow, Kolb Society Faculty Coordinator

Dr. Christopher P. Thornton, Fellow
Program Officer, Committee for Research and Exploration, National Geographic Society
Domestic Archaeology at Bat: Past and Not-So-Past

The UNESCO World Heritage site of Bat in northern Oman was once a major Bronze Age center of ancient "Magan‚" between 3000–2000 B.C. Unfortunately, the people of Magan did not use writing or glyptic arts to record their history or organize their societies, so we know very little about their way of life. Since 2007, the Bat Archaeological Project (BAP) of the University of Pennsylvania Museum has been exploring the well-preserved 3rd millennium B.C. remains at this site, combining GIS-assisted surveys with stratigraphic excavations, radiocarbon dating, and other specialized methodologies (e.g., geomorphology; archaeobotany; geophysical prospection) in order to better understand the social history of this region.

Domestic architecture at Bat (courtesy of Christopher P. Thornton)

After six seasons targeting the monumental "towers" of Bat (2007–2012), the Bat Archaeological Project has shifted its focus to the domestic archaeology of central Oman. Bat is unusual in eastern Arabia for its relatively deep stratigraphic sequence (1–3 meters), in which earlier houses are overlain by later houses. While common in other regions of the world, Bat has the potential to provide the first radiocarbon-dated stratigraphic sequence of the 3rd millennium B.C. on the Omani Peninsula, and our first glimpse of settlement evolution in the Bronze Age of this area. In 2013, excavations of Bronze Age houses were conducted at Bat, focusing on a critical transitional period in the late 3rd millennium B.C. At the same time, a new initiative—the Bat Oasis Heritage Project—was launched with the University of Leicester to study the late 2nd millennium A.D. mudbrick village in Bat, working with the local community to understand how the abandoned village spaces were used. We hope to combine the results of the ethno-historic project with the archaeological data to look at similarities in the use of space and the construction of villages in the Bat oasis.

Dr. Dawn McCormack, Fellow
Assistant Professor, Department of History, Middle Tennessee State University
Under the Old Spoil Heap: New Excavations at S9 (South Abydos, Egypt)

The 13th dynasty of ancient Egypt is a period in which more than fifty kings ruled during a span of only 150–170 years (c. 1800–1630 B.C.). While one of these rulers, Merneferre Ay, may have reigned for twenty-three years, most seemed to have held the throne for around two years. With such an unstable royal situation, there are many questions related to this much understudied era. Such issues include changes in the status of the king within society, the nature of the relationship between the king and the elite, and adaptations in the means of legitimizing rulers.

Cult structure at Abydos (courtesy of Dawn McCormack)

In 2011, Middle Tennessee State University, with the support of the Penn-Yale-IFA Expedition, completed a second season of excavations at South Abydos. Though unrecognized until relatively recently, S9 and S10 belong to the corpus of 13th dynasty royal tombs, even though the identities of the rulers entombed inside remain unknown. Though Arthur Weigall excavated S9 and S10 in the winter of 1901–1902, it has become clear that many deposits at the site remain in situ, providing for exciting opportunities to obtain new information using modern excavation techniques. In 2011, the excavation team began to remove a large spoil heap from the top of the local eastern enclosure wall. Here, excavators discovered a relatively well-preserved mudbrick building, likely a cult structure. The team has now excavated two small rooms of this building, which contains about 0.50 m of intact fill and has thus far included over 70 seal impressions, fabric, resin, and ceramics. The material is providing clues concerning the date of this tomb and the officials who participated in activities associated with it.

Dr. Stephan Zink, Fellow
Research Fellow, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich
Reconsidering Roman Architectural Polychromy – The Case of the Temple of Castor and Pollux

Stephan Zink at the Kolb colloquium

In 1834, the German architect Gottfried Semper stated: “All monuments of Rome that are made of white marble or of other, more common stone, carry traces of coloring.” Most scholars would still generally agree to this, despite the fact that our factual evidence on Roman architectural polychromy is not profoundly better (or even worse) than it was in the 19th century, when the topic was first substantially explored. For Roman architecture, we still lack reliable data that would allow us to understand architectural polychromy or other surface treatments such as polishing, waxing, or gilding. I will present the preliminary results of an ongoing field project, which aims at advancing our knowledge on the surface treatments of monumental marble architecture in Rome. An analytical documentation of the architectural members of the temple of Castor and Pollux in the Roman Forum (dedicated 6 A.D.) provides fragmentary but revealing insights into the complexity of architectural surface rendering. It also is the point of departure for some reflections on different surface treatments and their significance for design, construction technique, visual effects, as well as the symbolic meanings of architectural materiality. The new evidence opens up a fresh look on the old debate on Roman architectural polychromy—a debate that still has not lost its potential to change our view on ancient architecture and its modern reception.

Dr. Cemal Pulak, Guest Speaker
Frederick R. Mayer Faculty Professor of Nautical Archaeology, Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA) at Texas A&M University
Shipwreck Excavations at the Byzantine Port of Theodosius (Yenikapi, Istanbul)

Cemal Pulak at the Kolb colloquium
Byzantine ship at Yenikapi, Istanbul (courtesy of Cemal Pulak)

At the site of a new Turkish State rail link between Europe and Asia, pre-construction salvage excavations by the Istanbul Archaeological Museums have revealed one of the greatest ship graveyards ever found. At Yenikapı, along the Old City’s Marmara Sea shore, one of the world’s largest archaeological excavations has exposed the remnants of the Byzantine Theodosian Harbor of Constantinople. A major trade center from its founding in the fourth century until river silting rendered it mostly unusable by ships probably by the late 10th or 11th century, the harbor, its stone walls and quays, and amazingly well-preserved remnants of the port’s activities had lain forgotten for centuries. Chief among the discoveries at Yenikapı are some 38 shipwrecks ranging in date from the fifth century A.D. until the late 10th century, shortly after which a severe storm or series of storms sank many of the ships seeking refuge in the harbor. The diverse collection of ships include the first Byzantine naval light galleys (galea), merchantman of various sizes, some still with extant cargoes, a stone carrier, and smaller fishing and all-purpose craft, all amazingly preserved due to the rapid burial of the ships in the harbor sediment. The excavation of the shipwrecks allows for a rare opportunity to work with a diverse group of purpose-built hulls from this period. Their careful documentation and analysis is greatly enhancing our knowledge of Byzantine shipbuilding, development and change in shipbuilding technology, as well as the role of maritime trade in the history of Constantinople and the later Roman Empire.