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Clay, Sand, Water, Hand, Body, Mind, Form, God: Crafting Belief in Ancient Italy

John Hopkins, New York University

Fri, 3/29 · 12:00 pm1:30 pm · 209 Scheide Caldwell

Program in the Ancient World
Terracotta head, 4th BCE, interior and front
Terracotta head: left, interior with finger strokes; right, front. 4th c. BCE. Antemnae, occupied territory of Rome. Photo credit: left, Emily Frank/Antefixa Project; right, Museo Nazionale Etrusco, Villa Giulia.

It is well known that Roman life was steeped in religious practice. Historians also generally understand that the predation of an imperializing, centrally administered government in Rome began to deploy religion as a syncretizing, assimilationist and appropriative measure in Italic and Mediterranean occupation from the third century BCE, at least. This is probably true, and the violent and insidious epistemicide that followed is increasingly well documented. Still, the idea of Roman religion as a kind of imperial weapon imagines in some ways a world where, before and during conquest, there had been such a thing as Roman religion and that those who organized its institutions and oversaw its influences were elite sociopolitical figures. In this talk, Prof. John Hopkins will contend with both suppositions by considering the creative intelligence of itinerant, often non-Roman maker communities, the constitutive ecologies of sacred materials, and the effective roles of sacro-material creation in ritual encounters and religious institutions before and during the early years of Roman expansion. They will present the urgent need to re-examine these worlds as well as a new initiative, the Antefixa Project, which is harnessing scientific and computational imaging methodologies to recover the contributions of communities that have been silenced but were essential to sacred life in ancient Italy.

John Hopkins is Associate Professor of the art and archaeology of ancient Mediterranean peoples in the Department of Art History and the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. They are author of The Genesis of Roman Architecture (2016, Yale UP, winner of the Spiro Kostof Award from the Society of Architectural Historians), Unbound from Rome: Art and Craft in a Fluid Landscape (2024, Yale UP), and co-editor of Object Biographies: Collaborative Approaches to Ancient Mediterranean Art (2020 the Menil Collection and Yale UP) and Forgery Beyond Deceit: Fabrication, Value and the Desire for Ancient Rome (2023, Oxford UP).  They are also co-director, of the Quirinal Project and director of the Antefixa Project.

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