University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Sixth Annual Kolb Senior Scholars Colloquium


Recreating the Past in the Present

November 4, 2011

This colloquium looks at how different individuals and communities created and re-created the past in their own present and for what purposes. Rather than examining one class of data in isolation, these lectures bring together different types of evidence and media to create a holistic picture. By analyzing these dynamics over a range of periods, places, and cultures, these three presentations illuminate both culturally specific and more universal strategies for using the past in the present.

Welcome: Dr. Holly Pittman, Senior Fellow, Kolb Society Faculty Coordinator
Introduction to the Colloquium: Dr. Julia Shear, Fellow, conference co-organizer

Dr. Michael Frachetti, Fellow
Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Washington University, St. Louis
Institutional 'Participation' in Ancient Inner Asia

From the Bronze Age forward, Inner Asian mobile pastoralists shaped a complex web of institutional alignments, for which the circuitry is little understood. This paper explores the modes of social, ideological, and economic 'participation' that fostered transregional interactions and shaped the differentiated institutional landscape of Inner Asia throughout antiquity.

Dr. Matthew Rutz, Fellow
Assistant Professor, Department of Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies, Brown University
Making the Past Present for the Future: Models of Mesopotamian Extispicy

Extispicy, the examination of a sacrificial animal’s entrails for divine signs, enjoyed both prestige and longevity as a cultural practice in the Near East during the Bronze Age. Evidence from cuneiform tablets as well as models of the organs themselves have been found in present-day Iraq, Iran, Syria, Palestine, and Anatolia, raising questions about the origins, diffusion, and adaptation of what is commonly construed as a "Mesopotamian" or "Babylonian" system of knowledge. This paper examines both the regional distribution and specific archaeological contexts of the source material to illustrate how certain archaeological, historical, and philological methods and assumptions have permeated the discussion of this formative period in the history of Mesopotamian divination.

Dr. Julia Shear, Fellow
Senior Associate Member, American School of Classical Studies at Athens
Revolutions Past and Present in Early Hellenistic Athens

In 286 B.C., the Athenians revolted from King Demetrios Poliorketes, a process which was also accompanied by civil strife. When the city regained her freedom, the Athenians needed to ask how they were to negotiate their memories of this difficult and period. They remembered the events as the restoration of democracy and as external war, strategies which they borrowed from their ancestors’ responses to the two oligarchic revolutions at the end of the fifth century B.C. In the early third century, the city’s past showed Athenians how to respond to the present and how to remember the difficult events which they had experienced.