Highlights of 2019-20

The Roman Negev as a Mediterranean Society

16 March 2020

Gil Gambash, Haifa, Leverhulme Visiting Professor at the ICS

Shivta Church south

The prosperity of the Byzantine Negev has been noted by modern research, and particular attention has been given to the location of the area along the spice route, as well as to the technical means by which primary production had been achieved in an arid environment. In this talk I shall portray distinct avenues in Negev routine, emanating from its connections with Mediterranean networks, and determining fundamental aspects in the material culture, consumption habits, and economy of local towns and villages, to an extent that would have defined them, partially if not wholly, as a Mediterranean society.


Sheila Kassman Memorial Lecture: 'Aristotle on the anatomy, physiology and psychology of animal locomotion'

10 March 2020

Christof Rapp, LMU Munich

Aristotle and animals

Studying the joints of animals in his biological writings Aristotle came to conclude that the flexion and straightening of the limbs would not be possible without some resting point within the joint. He further concluded that the same principle must hold not only of the movement of particular limbs, but also of the movement of the animal as a whole, so that, when the animal moves as a whole, there must be a region within the animal that remains at rest. Aristotle’s anatomic scrutiny of different types of joints thus confirms a very general principle of his physics and cosmology, namely that all movement presupposes something unmoved. In his De Motu Animalium Aristotle draws on this principle to account for the physiology and psychology of animal locomotion.


ICS/BSR Lecture: Thinking about the management of the Etruscan cities

26 February 2020

Maria Cristina Biella, Sapienza Università di Roma

Etruscan city map

The absence of thorough studies on the “cities of the living” is widely acknowledged as a problem in Etruscan studies and only the last twenty years of the last century saw for the first time the development of projects investigating some (especially South-)Etruscan cities.
In this picture, a research has been recently carried out using as a starting study case Falerii, which can be considered a privileged observation point of the Tyrrhenian urban phenomenon, because of the intense investigations of the last 150 years, remained up to now substantially unpublished.
The analysis has on the one hand provided a new picture of the ancient Falerii, but above all has shed new light on a series of relevant questions concerning the ways in which the ancient Tyrrhenian cities were managed, shaped and reshaped between the 8th and the 2nd BC.


ICS/BSA Lecture: Sacrificial rituals in the Mycenaean palatial centre of Kydonia (Khania, Crete)

3 October 2019

Dr Maria Andreadaki-Vlazaki, Hon. Secretary General, Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports

Religious image

Kydonia, the most important ancient city in Western Crete, traditionally one of the three cities founded in Crete by Minos, occupied the Kastelli Hill in the centre of the Old Town of Khania. Its name appears on the Knossian Linear B tablets.
On the Kastelli hill, during the 14th c. B.C., a Mycenaean palace had been erected above the ruins of a Minoan palatial centre. On the SW courtyard of the palace, two major kinds of sacrifice were taking place: bloody and bloodless, following a particular ritual. The representations on the Ayia Triada sarcophagus can be considered as a guide to the rites that were conducted in this courtyard, in the same period: bloody animal sacrifices of bulls and wild goats on a table, as well as bloodless offerings on top of an altar.
In the beginning of the 13th c., a sacrifice took place after a catastrophic seismic shock -followed by fire and having the effect of raising the floor in pieces. A large number and a wide range of sacrificial creatures seem to have slaughtered in a public setting as part of an official state ritual of Mycenaean character for such a special occasion. This unique episode seems to be connected with a major phase in the history of the Kydonia palatial centre, as an aftermath to the seismic events of the LM IIIB: early period and had not only religious but social and political significance.
On an intentionally removed section of the destroyed fine floor of the LM IIIB courtyard, a mass of dismembered remains of various animals, with no traces of burning: 43 ovicaprids and wild goats, 4 pigs and 1 bovine, were mingled with scattered human remains of a young female.
Maiden sacrifices are known from ancient Greek mythology and literature, elicited for exceptional circumstances in an attempt by society to confront an extraordinary disaster and these probably go back to Mycenaean times. They were presented as acts of deep obedience and reverence to the divine, as acts of awe and purification, as a kind of negotiation with the supreme powers and not as ferocious and ruthless slaughters. Among them, Iphigeneia, the daughter of Agamemnon, is the most famous sacrificial victim. Now the Kydonia find shows that the core of such legends may refer to a real ritual as the ultimate resolution of a very difficult situation.