Lecture: Deconstructing the Myth of the Great Mother Goddess

Update, February 10: This lecture has been canceled due to weather. Watch the ISAW Events Page for further information.

February 11: Exhibition Lecture

Speaker: Peter Biehl
Location: 2nd Floor Lecture Hall
Institute for the Study of the Ancient World
15 E 84th St.
New York, NY 10028
Date: Thursday, February 11
Time: 6:00 p.m.
*reception to follow

Deconstructing the Myth of the Great Mother Goddess: Masking and Breaking the Human Body in Old Europe

Dr. Biehl will provide an overview of how the people of Old Europe represented the human body in the form of anthropomorphic figurines made of clay, bone and marble in the 6th and 5th millennium BC and discuss how studying visual representations of the human body can aid us in understanding identity and personhood in the past. One of the main ...

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Temple Treasury Records and Local Politics in Ur III Mesopotamia

February 16: ISAW Visiting Research Scholar Lecture

Speaker: Xiaoli Ouyang
Location: 2nd Floor Lecture Room
Date: Tuesday, February 16
Time: 6:00 p.m.
*reception to follow

Temple Treasury Records and Local Politics in Ur III Mesopotamia

This lecture targets a group of Umma texts dated to the Ur III dynasty (c. 2112-2004 BCE), probably the best documented period in Mesopotamian history. Umma is the province with the largest number of texts, accounting for almost one third of the 90,000 or so records from this period. This group of texts documents the delivery of ...

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A new Concordia term: "where" (needed for linking papyri to Pleiades resources)

In discussions this week with Sean and Hugh, we explored what would be minimally necessary for web feeds describing the papyrological documents now being surfaced via http://papyri.info.

In the long term, we'd like to link not only to descriptive resources (at Pleiades or elsewhere) for their modern places of finding but also any ancient places attested in the texts themselves (having done named-entity analysis on all 50,000+ documents, the first steps in which are now underway by Mark Depauw and the Trismegistos team in Leiden).

In the near term, we can express geographic linkages on the basis of the nome attributions recorded for the papyri by the editors of the Heidelberger Gesamtverzeichnis der griechischen Papyrusurkunden Ägyptens whose records are incorporated into the papyri.info contents.

But none of the terms we had previously defined in our Concordia link-type thesaurus precisely fit this information. We did have several geographic terms (findSpot, origin, observedAt and attestsTo), but we needed to add a more generic one: "where". The nomes as indicated by HGV are geographical classifications, based on the ancient regions, made primarily for facilitating reference and review by modern scholars. They don't necessarily constitute "find spot" or "place of origin" in every case. This "where" term idea followed naturally from Sean's earlier efforts to advocate for a "where" link relation type. A link in a feed entry using this term will simply indicate that the described resource should be treated as being located, in a general way, at the place described by the linked resource.

Hopefully, this term will be useful not only for papyri.info, but also for other pre-existing datasets where the location information recorded about ancient artifacts is similarly less precise than the born-digital epigraphic corpora that guided the minting of our initial thesaurus terms. Hopefully it will also prove useful in contexts such as those that Sebastian has recently been blogging about.

ISAW Exhibitions Musical Performance: Christine & Dinu Ghezzo and Friends

Location: 2nd Floor Lecture Room
Friday, January 22 2010
7:00 p.m.

This special concert will highlight folk and traditional songs from different parts of Romania. Some of the musical traditions included are Colinde (Winter Songs/Carols) , Bocete (Death Laments), Doina (Lyrical Songs) and Wedding Songs. Each song will be presented with sensitivity to traditional methods of interpretation, while bringing in new elements such as sound samples of folk instruments and improvisation by the musicians. The music will express a full spectrum of universal human emotion and experience, while sharing the rich repertoire of Romanian traditional music. Each song will be introduced with a brief description and translation of the words, and time will be set aside for audience questions.

This event is associated with the Lost World of Old Europe exhibition, currently showing at ISAW.

ISAW Lecture: The Late Copper Age in the East Balkans and the Case of Varna

NYU Institute for the Study of the Ancient World Exhibitions Lecture: Vladimir Slavchev
The Late Copper Age in the East Balkans and the Case of Varna

Speaker: Vladimir Slavchev
Location: 2nd Floor Lecture Room
Date: Thursday, January 21 2010
Time: 6:00 p.m.
*reception to follow

The Varna Necropolis, a cemetery that lies in the western industrial zone of Varna, Bulgaria, is one of the premiere archaeological sites in the world for the research of world pre-history. The massive interest in this cemetery is due to the abundance and variety of objects recovered from its graves, namely gold artifacts. Dr. Slavchev will discuss these grave goods (and the necropolis from which they came) in relation to Varna culture as a whole. The presence of artifacts in a wide range of materials at the cemetery, one of the burial sites of the highly-developed local community that inhabited the shore of Varna Bay at the time, suggests that the community was part of a developed network of medium and long range trading, transport and distribution of prestige items. Dr. Slavchev will argue that the local manufacturing of goods was predominantly aimed at the local community and its needs. Therefore, such prestige items could have functioned as gifts for exchange with neighboring cultures or as goods to be sold in the trading network.

This lecture is associated with the Lost World of Old Europe exhibition, currently showing at ISAW.

Living in the Heights: Hilltop settlement and the changing landscape of northern Hispania during late antiquity

NYU Institute for the Study of the Ancient World Visiting Research Scholar Lecture: Damián Fernández

Speaker: Damián Fernández
Location: 2nd Floor Lecture Room
Date: Tuesday, January 19 2010
Time: 6:00 p.m.
*reception to follow

Hilltop settlement was one of the most prominent characteristics in the landscape of the northern Iberian Peninsula until the Roman conquest. With the establishment of Roman rule in the decades around the turn of the era, several of the pre-Roman hilltop forts were abandoned in favor of a developed network of lowland cities that became the backbone of the regional settlement hierarchy. This process was somewhat reversed after the late-third century CE, when archaeologists have dated the beginning of the occupation of hilltops (and, sometimes, the re-occupation of Iron Age sites). The ‘movement towards the highlands’ has traditionally been interpreted either as reemergence of indigenous social structures that had survived the Roman conquest or as the result of the insecurity provoked by the presence of barbarian armies in the third and fifth centuries.

In the last two decades, piecemeal archaeological research in the northern Iberian Peninsula has begun to provide us with new information about these sites. Their material culture and the more accurate chronology indicate that traditional interpretations about the phenomenon of hilltop occupation are no longer valid. After reviewing some paradigmatic sites, this lecture will offer an alternative model to understanding the change in settlement patterns. It will be argued that occupation of hilltops must be understood in the context of the administrative reforms of the late Roman Empire and the economic changes that occurred in northern Iberia during late antiquity.

Interoperation with Pleiades

I've had a few questions lately about how other web-based publications could be designed to support interoperation with Pleiades. Here's my working advice:

Any project that wants to lay the groundwork for geographic interoperability on the basis of Pleiades should:

1. Capture and manage Pleiades identifiers (stable URLs like http://pleiades.stoa.org/places/638753/) for each place one might want to cite.

2. Request membership in the Pleiades community and add/modify content therein as necessary in order to create new resources (and new URLs) for places that Pleiades doesn't yet document, but which are provably historical and relevant to content controlled by the external project.

3. Capture and manage stable URLs from Wikipedia or GeoNames that correspond to modern geographic entities that are relevant to the content controlled by the external project. Don't conflate modern and ancient locations, as this will eventually lead to heartbreak.

4. Emit paged web feeds in the Atom Syndication Format (RFC 4287) that also conform to the guidance documented (with in-the-wild, third-party examples) at:


and make use of the terms defined at


to indicate publicly relationships such as "findspot" and "original location" between the content controlled by the external project, Pleiades resources, Wikipedia resources, GeoNames resources and resources published by other third parties.

5. Alert us so we can include the entry-point URL for the feeds in the seeded search horizon list for the web crawler and search index service we are developing.

You can see how the Epigraphic Databank Heidelberg team has been thinking about how to accomplish this at:




Bringing the Frontier to the Center: Empires and Nomads from Achaemenid Persia to Tang China

a lecture, presented by:

Wu Xin
Visiting Research Scholar
Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University

This paper presents a comparative consideration of the ideological strategies used by Achaemenid and the Tang empires to manage relations with their subjects living in Central Asia and on the Central to Eastern Eurasian steppe. For both empires, the nomadic communities to the north were an especially important constituency that was complicated by strong dynastic hereditary ties. In each case, a conscious program specifically addressing this complex and mobile community was developed and was expressed through the official language (text and images) of the imperial court. An exploration of those programs reveals striking parallels in their approach to maintaining imperial control and cooperation.

Monday, 6:00 pm
November 30, 2009

Lecture Hall
ISAW Building
15 East 84th Street
New York, NY 10028

this event is free and open to the public

Bridging Institutional Repository and Bibliographic Management

As an institution, ISAW has an interest in disseminating, preserving and promoting the research products and publications of its faculty, research staff, students, affiliates and collaborators. Our parent institution, NYU, has made a commitment to the persistent dissemination of such materials when voluntarily contributed to its Faculty Digital Archive (FDA). We'll use the FDA as a locus for materials that fit well into DSpace (with which the FDA is realized) and that aren't rights-constrained. But we also need mechanisms for developing and publishing the whole bibliographic story of a particular faculty member, research group, project or conference with links from the individual entries to digital copies wherever they may be (e.g., the FDA, JSTOR, Internet Archive, Google Books). For this function, we like Zotero. Atop Zotero's robust and ubiquitous feed documents, we can build interoperability with our website and other tools and venues in a way that is also completely visible to commercial and third-party search and discovery tools.

There will be a number of iterations necessary to reach a fully robust solution, but we're already taking some of the first steps.

As an early experiment with the FDA, we had a student assistant input all of my boss's articles in PDF format, along with descriptive metadata (see: Roger Bagnall's Publications). The default metadata schema in the FDA wasn't a perfect fit for journal article citations, but the FDA staff is now working with us to extend the schema to meet our needs. We're using the Zotero data model as a guide.

Given that the metadata in this collection is the only structured dataset around for Roger's articles, I wanted to be able to get it all back out to use for other things. The FDA does provide web feeds, but (unlike Zotero) these aren't comprehensive for a given context and don't incorporate all the metadata fields. But we can use FDA's OAI-PMH interface to get the full metadata with a query like:


where "hdl_2451_28115" is the identifier for the "Roger Bagnall's Publications" container I linked to above. (Special thanks to Ekaterina Pechekhonova on the NYU Digital Library team, who helped me with syntax).

As a further experiment, I wrote an XSL transform to convert the OAI-PMH XML document into the RDF XML Zotero can import. There are a couple of inelegant hacks in the transform (mainly to get at substrings within single fields), but I'm still happy with the results. The import into Zotero went smoothly:


Next steps: move this to a shared Zotero library so Roger, a student assistant and members of our digital projects team can collaborate to enter the rest of the publications (books, book sections, etc.) and fix any errors in the article records. Then we'll look at the process for using that metadata (via another transform) to help us populate the FDA. We'll also start working on parsing and aggregating Zotero's feeds for use on our website (in Roger's online profile and aggregated with other affiliates' feeds to provide a "recent publications" section).

We're also experimenting with Zotero for the bibliography of our Pleiades project (a collaborative online gazetteer of the Greek and Roman world), and as a component in a potential replacement for the Checklist of Editions of Greek, Latin, Demotic and Coptic Papyri, Ostraca and Tablets. On a more personal level, I've taken to doing all my bookmarking with Zotero and have set up a folder in my library (with associated feed) so that colleagues can following what I'm citing on a daily basis.