Past Event

Astrid Van Oyen - A Kaleidoscopic Empire: Scale and Scalability in Roman Storage Practices"

October 26, 2018
4:10 PM - 6:00 PM
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Schermerhorn Extension (Room 951), Columbia University, 1200 Amsterdam Avenue, New York

Astrid Van Oyen is Assistant Professor in Classical Archaeology at Cornell University. She is interested in how material culture can be written into social, economic, and cultural histories of the Roman empire. Her first monograph, How Things Make History: The Roman Empire and its Terra Sigillata Pottery was published in 2016 by Amsterdam University Press. With Martin Pitts (University of Exeter), she has co-edited Materialising Roman Histories (Oxbow, 2017), a volume that scrutinizes how Roman archaeology marries the detail of artifact studies with big historical narratives. She is PI of the Marzuolo Archaeological Project – in collaboration with Gijs Tol (University of Melbourne) and Rhodora Vennarucci (University of Arkansas) – excavating the multi-craft rural site of Marzuolo (Tuscany, Italy) to explore innovation and craftsmanship in a rural community.

This talk draws on Van Oyen's current book project Storage and Empire, which examines the moral, social, and economic reverberations of storage in the agrarian Roman empire. Anthropologically, storage has been approached from two angles: as the state marshaling surplus, or as the farmer’s risk buffer. This study seeks to bridge these scales, by replacing abstract and immaterial notion of ‘surplus’ with a contextual and dynamic inquiry into storage practices. It particularly emphasizes how storage and its material transformations (e.g. grain degrading; assemblages (un)forming) redefine both people and things and are a sensitive indicator of changing mentalities. In this talk, the central question is scale: how does an empire scale up?

For more information, visit the event page. This event is hosted by Columbia University's Anthropology Department as part of the Columbia Center for Archeology lecture series.