Seminar: Archaeology of Myth and Legend
Archaeology of Myth and Legend
Date: 3-16 April 2018
Deadline for applications: 7 January 2018
In modern science myths, legends, and religious traditions are generally understood as stories about supernatural phenomena that serve to legitimize a particular world view or commonly held values. In such a perception, myths are ideological constructs without material basis, and therefore not appropriate objects of archaeological study. However, the broad consensus that myths and religious traditions lack an empirical basis developed only relatively recently. In the 18th century, for example, mythical topography was still a respectable scientific discipline. Having been banned from the academic theatre for some time, the archaeology of mythology currently appears to be undergoing some sort of come-back. Good examples are to be found in Rome, where the palace of Romulus is said to have been discovered recently, and the topography is, of course, richly endowed with places that are associated with the life and sufferings of the early Christian martyrs, their tombs, and/or the places of their veneration. This prompts us to ask: how does the revived archaeology of mythology relate to earlier periods, when the material traces of the past were similarly scrutinised for clues about myths and religious traditions? Which political, cultural, religious, and intellectual interests were at stake at various epochs in the study of legendary antiquities? Once we appreciate the variety of ways in which historical objects were simultaneously studied and appropriated, in the Renaissance, the Baroque, the Enlightenment, Romanticism, even Modernity, is it possible to foster fresh understanding of current archaeological presuppositions? Which past is the archaeological record supposed to elucidate? How self-evident is the ideological neutrality of scientific archaeology? What is, in fact, modern in the archaeology of today?
This course is not about the truthfulness of ‘discoveries’ of legendary places, architecture and objects. Instead it takes a step back and starts by exploring the many methods, goals, and motivations that have informed the archaeology of myth and legend in the 500 years leading up to the present. The aim of the course is to add historical depth to current discussions about authenticity, presentism, and ideology, when dealing with the material culture of the past. It aspires to start a critical and well structured dialogue between the disciplines of archaeology, history, art history, and heritage studies, in evaluating the engagement with antiquities, past and present. The course is ambitious and demands a strong commitment of students to think beyond conventionally accepted paradigms.
BA/Honours, MA-, RMA- students from the KNIR partner universities (UvA, VU, UL, UU, RU en RUG)
Form of Education
On-site classes, library assignments, excursionsDuring the first week of the course the archaeology of Roman origin myths is discussed, focusing especially on places connected to Aeneas and Romulus. Following introductory classes at the Royal Netherlands Institute Rome, the course visits several mythical places such as the tomb of Aeneas, the city of Lavinium, and the hut of Romulus on the Palatine. The second week of the course is dedicated to early Christian legends, and focusses on places connected to St. Peter and St. Paul and the emergence of the ‘Archeologia Sacra’, the archaeological discipline dealing with these sites. Excursions include: the tombs of these two Apostles, the Mamertine prison, the chains of Saint Peter in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli, and the area of Appia Antica.
– dr. J. Pelgrom (KNIR)
– dr. Jetze Touber (UU)
– dr. Eva Mol (Brown University)
Participating students will receive free tuition, accommodation in Rome and excursions (including most entry fees for museums and archaeological sites).
The study load is the equivalent of 6 ECTS (168 hours). Each student should arrange with his/her home coordinator whether the course can be a part of the existing curriculum. After successful completion of the course the KNIR provides a certificate mentioning study load and evaluation.
The study load is based on:
1. Before the course: preparatory meeting in Utrecht and assignment: 1 ECTS (28 hours)
2. Course in Rome (14 days): active participation, presentation and draft essay: 4 ECTS (112 hours)
3. After the course : essay of max. 4000 words: 1 ECTS (28 hours)
Assessment takes place on the basis of preparatory study of course material (20%), active participation and on-site presentation (30%), and the concluding essay (50%).
Application and admission
The selection of participants is based on grades, the positioning of the course in the student’s curriculum, and a letter of motivation.
Students can apply via the link below; include in your application:
1. a letter of motivation
2. a cv
3. a recent list of grades officially supplied by your university