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Wednesday, 23 December 2015

PhD Coursework Seminars with Professor Gil Stein

PhD Coursework Seminars with Professor Gil Stein
Dean Hallett

One concern of Classics and Archaeology postgraduates in the past has been the lack of discipline relevant coursework available for us to undertake toward completing our coursework component. This year we were tremendously fortunate to have two advanced archaeology intensive subjects taught by Professor Gil Stein, Director of the Chicago Oriental Institute. The two intensive subjects ran back to back over September. Admittedly, few of us needed to undertake the subjects for our course credit requirement, however with such a great opportunity, a group of us actively participated in the class readings, presentations and discussions.

The first of these two intensive subjects was called “Centralisation and Control in Antiquity” with a particular focus on early Mesopotamian city-states. The subject was about critically examining ancient states and the archaeological, textual and iconographical evidence for their claims to centralised power and authority. This involved a further analysis of states, models of state origins and organization and applying this to interpreting early urbanism, trade, bureaucracy and kingship. A main theme was investigating the inherent tensions between centripetal forces pulling a state to greater centralisation and the various centrifugal forces diverging and pushing against centralization. The result: a working, fluctuating compromise that is a state society. Some of these concepts were familiar ground for us, others new and intriguing. What Professor Stein did was teach in such a way that really illuminated such ideas, pulled them apart critically in light of his own fieldwork in Syria (including Raqqa) and Iraq and left us well equipped to make our own conclusions.

The second subject was called “Inter-Regional Interaction in Antiquity” within and between different regions or zones in the ancient Near East. Politically and economically when early states or empires encountered other less complex states or “chiefdoms”/“incipient complex societies” a range of interactions could take place. This subject explored the different kinds of interactions that could take place through a range of hierarchical and non-hierarchical models of cultural contact and their archaeological theory applications. These included world systems theory, colonialism, acculturation, hybridity, interaction spheres and trade diasporas. This subject built on the knowledge and skills that we had been developing in the first subject and took applying them to the next level, by examining the interactions between different kinds of societies and between different regions such as Mesopotamia, Anatolia, the Caucasus, the Central Asian Steppe and the Iranian Plateau. Professor Stein’s vast knowledge, experience of working in Iran and Afghanistan, and sense of humour helped us all to put these ideas in perspective and provided new approaches that we could all apply to our own research projects.

While he was at the University of Melbourne, Professor Stein also kindly gave a couple of other lectures. As part of our department’s popular Ancient World Seminar Series, he gave the lecture “Persian Personae: Material Culture, Ethnicity and Elite Identity in the Achaemenid Tombs from Hacinebi Turkey” to an interested audience of staff and students. He also gave a public lecture “Sweet Honey in the Rocks: Honey, Bees and Beekeeping in the Ancient Near East” as the 2015 Marion Adams Memorial Lecture. This really was a phenomenal lecture on the often overlooked, fascinating world of bees, ancient apiary, and honey in all its properties and applications. As an avid bee-keeper himself (even looking at a new Australian bee hive design while here), Professor Stein could share a lot of hands-on experience in addition to research and enthusiasm. The packed public theatre buzzed with excitement and applause afterward!

Scene from the Tomb of Rekhmire (18th Dynasty) showing the gathering of honey from ancient Egyptian beehives.

Our group also took Professor Stein, and his wife, on an expedition across the Carlton Gardens to have an Australian pub meal. This provided a lot of casual discussion where we were all able to discuss our interests, swap stories, share a laugh and attempt to explain some Australianisms.

We want to again thank Professor Stein and his wife for coming to our university and spending so much time with the postgraduate group. We hope they had an exceptional experience and enjoyed the gift made on behalf of the group, a bottle of mead (honey-wine). I believe we all learnt a lot over that month and we are grateful to have had this opportunity.

How Old is the Melbourne University Scandinavaian Club?

How old is Scandinavian Club?

By Dean Hallett on Monday, 2 April 2012 at 17:24

We often get asked 'Just how old is Scandinavian Club anyway?'. The short answer is usually - we don't know. It has been lost somewhere in the mists of time.
So far attempts to find out from the student union havn't yielded much. They only keep records for a certain number of years. And they are not there to be our personal archivists, but have to work long hours just to keep the Clubs and Societies of today's University of Melbourne going. Likewise a bit of time searching the web has not revealed anything either.
In my own experience, I know that club has existed largly in its present form with the usual cycle of core events and weekly game of kubb accompanied by pizza and conversation since 2006, when I started my first degree and studying Swedish. Admittedly,  my own classes often clashed with Scandinavian Club, so I didn't become a regular until 2009. The oldest emails in the club email account indicate that the club was affiliated with the student union at least since March 2006. In 2005 I took modern history at the university of melbourne for a year while still studying in year 12 and was vaguely aware that the club existed, which was later re-enforced as I went to a seminar on Open Day in the middle of that year where Scandinavian Club was spoken about in relation to the Swedish department.
I have been able to track down a few photos (viewable in our photos on this page) which show that we had the flags from 2007, the Swedish flag from at least 2006 and the kubb set from at least early 2005.
Recently I stumbled across an extract from the Department of German, Russian and Swedish ( :
Melbourne University Scandinavian Club

What is it?
The Melbourne University Scandinavian Club is a cultural and social group consisting mainly of students of Melbourne University and young Scandinavians visiting Melbourne.
What do we do?
The club hosts social gatherings, such as pizza nights, pub crawls, film viewings, etc, as well as an annual camp. The club also liaises with other overseas interest clubs, both at Melbourne and other universities, providing opportunities for cultural exchange with non-Scandinavian oriented groups. It was in early 1999 that the club changed from the narrower-focussed "Bellman Society", which was a society only for students of Swedish at Melbourne University. Now, all interested parties are welcome to join.
Who are our members?
Members of the Melbourne University Scandinavian Club are active students, enthusiastic about travelling and passionate about their origin or interest in Scandinavia. At a time when students at universities across Australia are becoming ever less interested in the extra-curricular facets of university life, the mystique and fun typically associated in the minds of Australians with Scandinavia makes membership of the Scandinavian Club a unique experience which should not be missed!
Where can you get more information?
You can email us at
We hope to see you at our next event!

So the club at least goes back until 1999! And that prior to this it existed via a predecessor club the "Bellman Society" (in reference to the famous 18th C.  Swedish poet Carl Michael Bellman). Interestingly they choose to decribe the Bellman Society as 'only for students of Swedish at Melbourne University' it looks as if it was a literature, poetry (and perhaps homework) orientated club rather than the more cultural/social club we have today.  

This document is still a work in if you have any more information to add to it by all means.

Dean Hallett,
President, Melbourne University Scandinavian Club. 2nd of April 2012.
UPDATE: Committee helper and club member, Harriet 'Chariot' Kulich began to do some searching and found the following article ( which was aired on ABC National radio in 2012. The article by Maria Rita Skog, a former club member from Norway states:
The Melbourne University Scandinavian Club, which had very few students, was founded in 1989 and is still running. Its growth fuelled an international exchange cooperation agreement between universities in Australia and Scandinavian countries.
A search of the Melbourne University Scandinavian Club's facebook group found Maria, and upon asking her, it was indeed the same journalist. We were able to confirm that she found this information on the old homepage and called the contact number listed. She confirmed that she was told it was founded in 1989! Thus adding a decade onto the known history of "Skandi club." We are very glad to have found this out!!Tak,Dean Hallett,President, Melbourne University Scandinavian Club. 19th of August 2015.

According to the following link. the Bellman Society at Melbourne University was running in 1972 (if not before!) ( Page 86(

It appears that Swedish had a lectureship at Melbourne University at least since 1969 and it is possible, ney probable that the Bellman Society was formed then, as an informal and/or faculty club, or between then and 1972 at the latest. The significance of 1989 is still unresolved, but it would make sense if that marks the time the Bellman Society became affiliated with the Student Union. Ten years later in 1999 marks the change of name and focus for the same club to become the Scandinavian Club as we know it. Interestingly Old Icelandic/Old Norse was the 6th language to be taught at the University from 1944! Augustin Lodewyckx gathered a group together after his second visit to Iceland which appears to have been the fully functioning earliest form of the Scandinavian club, the "Íslandsvinna félagiô [sic] (The Society of the Friends of Iceland)" [I think it should be félagið? Literally "fellowship"]. This group lobbied and suceeded in establishing Old Norse and by extension, Swedish which came into the same department in 1969, we believe. This group held weekly meetings, provided food, studied Scandinavian languages, taught Melbourne University students and lobbied for Scandinavian language study at Melbourne University, had an Icelandic flag and welcomed visiting Scandinavians and Scandinavians settling in Australia. Some of it's members and the Swedish lecturing staff were involved with the later Bellman Society, so The Society of the Friends of Iceland appears to be the earliest form of the Melbourne University Scandinavian Club back in 1939!!!'in 1939, he gathered together a group of people who were fascinated by his descriptions of his travels. The members of this group kept regular meetings at "Huize Eikenbosch", the Lodewyckx home, and adopted the name of Íslandsvinna félagiô (The Society of the Friends of Iceland).'See the following (which I was able to download from the University of Melbourne Library and upload into the club documents):StanleyMartin, J 2008, 'The teaching of Old Icelandic at the University of Melbourne 1944- 2007', Nordic Notes, vol. 12, pp. 6-17.The Anna Lodewyckx Scandinavian Scholarship still exists, though few can access it ( "Viking Studies" Old Icelandic finished in 2007. I was in that final year and helped co-ordinate and run the Symposium 'Vikings and their Enemies' as a send off for such a long standing and well loved area of study at the University of Melbourne. Some of the ex-Viking Studies students kept an Old Norse reading group with me, going over 2008 but by 2009 people were finishing degrees or moving on and the reading group ceased to be. Between 2008-2011 Medieval History subjects covering the Dark Ages and the Vikings were also systematically culled.Swedish was phased out between 2010-2012. In 2012 only advanced Swedish was offered for students who had completed the prerequisites and no new beginers or intermediate students were taken on. ( By 2013 no Scandinavian languages, history, culture or literature were taught at the University of Melbourne. The Scandinavian Club had long been friendly with but not dependent upon faculty departments from the School of languages. This brings us to the present, where the Melbourne University Scandinavian Club is the last survivor of a long and rich history of Scandinavian languages, history and culture on campus.

Dean Hallett,President and Jarl, 26/08/2015.

Emotions and Archaeology Part 3

My Own History of Archaeology and Emotion
In my experience, finding that you may have developed some kind of emotional attachment to subjects of archaeological study can be surprising but is nonetheless a very human thing to do. When you spend so much time researching different cultures deeply, you develop not only knowledge on a topic, but a degree of understanding about that culture. Sometimes you inadvertently come to have a closer attachment to some ancient sites, cultures or classes of objects over others because you “know them better” almost like an old friend that you have not crossed paths with for a long time. Archaeologists also frequently return to work on the same site in a foreign land year after year and so I also wonder to what extent do we emotionally connect our experiences of travel with a modern community in a distant land, with their predecessors and in relation to ourselves. Other countries and their customs can be strangely familiar and yet alien at the same time. Working with the ancient past can intensify those emotions all the more if you find yourself well acquainted with the distant past, and yet realise that ultimately it is after all but a reconstruction of the past. The reality is, that every step in an archaeological process from excavating and recording a site to writing about ancient things, even those rediscovered and excavated long ago involves the emotions of the archaeologist too, not merely the analysis of emotion in the ancient world. Emotion affects our thirst for knowledge. It affects our drive to explore the past. Our past emotional experiences put us on a path of discovery and they continue to affect how we relate to our own research.

I can even note the history of emotion apparent in my own research. My PhD thesis is on investigating the spread of chariots and chariot related technology throughout the ancient Near East; and beyond into adjacent regions from the Middle Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age. Clearly my own interests both emotional and intellectually have lead me to want to investigate this topic and write extensively on it. Certainly growing up on acreage on the urban-rural fringe of Melbourne where there are horse trails and people often have a horse or two must have contributed to a familiarity and emotional connection between myself and horses and horsemanship. Likewise, if not for my studies, mentors and emotional experiences in my studies than I would not be undertaking this research at this institution. In my final undergraduate year I took considerable care to draft some preliminary Honours thesis topics and email several of my lecturers for feedback. The feedback was invaluable but I realised all of my proposed topics involved cultures that placed a great emphasis on chariots and/or horses. So I decided to write on the origins of chariot warfare in the ancient Near East. This in turn inspired the next natural chapter in this narrative to continue my research. Although my current research is not centred around emotions per se, I can see how the culmination of a history of emotions and experiences has lead to me researching my thesis topic at this point. A history of emotions, a personal affective cartography, has inspired and driven my archaeological research.

Having turned the wheel full circle in a reflection on the study of emotions and archaeology, we now end where we began. Emotions are both an affect and effect of human experiences. They have implications across our society today, whether it be an instant of emotion in a moment for an individual to influencing a vast array of factors that influence our lives and our world. It must surely be true that emotion must have profound and far reaching implications on actions and decisions throughout history, and even beyond into prehistory. Therefore the study of emotions should be a useful discourse for those who research the past: whether historians, classicists, art historians, archaeologists or others further still. Unfortunately, emotion and rational intellectual discourse have long been considered antithetical to each other, if not mutually exclusive. More recent research, especially interdisciplinary study of the history of emotions is leading to more open dialogue about the importance and role of emotions in different human societies and the different disciplines which study these societies. This appears to offer archaeology as a discipline a new way for better understanding the ancient past and yet archaeology has been cautious to engage much with this emerging paradigm of writing emotion into our archaeological heritage. Why exactly this has been the case is difficult to say. In part the general academic aversion must be a factor. In archaeology this is exacerbated by the nature of a descriptive and analytical discipline focused around finds, in context, of material remnants of the past. The difficulties in defining emotion consistently, in ascertaining what would constitute archaeological evidence of emotion are also contributing factors. I think navigating the intricacies of emotions from ancient cultures vastly removed from our own in time and space presents a serious challenge of studying emotions for which we may not understand or have a parallel for today, something which is significantly more complex than studying an object or early technological process of which we no longer have an equivalent of today. The final challenge is for archaeologists to be able to identify and claim their own emotional interactions with their research and better understand the role of emotions not only in the lives of those that lived long ago, but in their own lives as well.



2012 “AHR Conversation: The Historical Study of Emotions,” American Historical Review (December 2012) 1486-1531.

Dixon, Thomas.
2012 “Emotion: History of a Keyword in Crisis,” Emotion Review 4.4: 338-344.

Frevert, Ute.
2011 Emotions in History: Lost and Found. Budapest: Central European University Press.

Gammerl, Benno.
2012 “Emotional Styles – Concepts and Challenges,” Rethinking History 16.2: 161-175.

Kramer, Samuel Noah.
1979 From the Poetry of Sumer: Creation Glorification and Adoration. Berkley: University of California Press.

Lutz, Katherine.
1988 Unatural Emotions: Everyday Sentiments on a Micronesian Atoll and their Challenge to Western Theory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Matt, Susan.
2011” Current Emotional Research in History: Or, Doing History From the Inside Out.” Emotion Review 3: 117-124.

Plamper, Jan.
2010 “The History of Emotions: An Interview with William Reddy, Barbara Rosenwein, and Peter Stearns,” History and Theory 49: 237-265.

Robinson, Emily.
2010 “Touching the Void: Affective History and the Imposible,” Rethinking History 14.4: 503-520.

Stearns, Peter.
1993 “History of emotions: The issues of change,” in Handbook of emotions,  edited by Michael Lewis and Jeanette M. Haviland, pp. 17–28. New York and London: Guildford Press.

Tarlow, Sarah.
2000 “Emotion in Archaeology,” Current Anthropology 41.5:  713-746.

Emotions and Archaeology Part 2

The Challenges of Writing Emotion into the Past[1]
It therefore only makes sense that emotions should form part of the life cycle of the production/shaping, use, deposition, abandonment, rediscovery, excavation and eventual study of material culture from the past. So why has archaeology had so little to say about emotions? One concern could very well be, what do we mean by emotions and how do we define emotions? This could be a complex task and different scholars are likely to have widely varying approaches. With that said, perhaps archaeology could draw on definitions and approaches to the study of emotions found in other fields like history, literary analysis etc.

What evidence is there for the expression emotions in the archaeological record? For some societies we can look to the emotional language used in texts or inscriptions and visual representations reflecting people experiencing emotions as represented in sculpture, paintings and iconography. However in archaeology, the historical written or visual record can be fragmentary – sometimes quite literally comprised of reconstructed fragments. In other cases, a language or script may be undeciphered and for prehistoric societies there is (by definition) no written record at all. In such cases, this does not preclude archaeological investigation, it merely hinders cross referencing finds with the additional cultural context provided by written records, especially say mythological texts which can sharply hone our understanding and interpretation of piece better than speaking in more general terms. What a lack of texts, and where we have them, a lack of sufficient surviving bodies of literature might do is prove a barrier to studying emotion in the distant past. That said, I see no reason why the study of emotions in the ancient past could not be attempted from what has survived, and competing arguments could be weighed and contested from there.

How emotions are expressed and represented, not to mention what constitutes an emotion can vary immensely from culture to culture.[2] Furthermore emotions can change or even become obsolete over time.[3] It is often said metaphorically that the past is a different country. If this is true, then archaeology, especially of ancient societies is confronted by not only the challenge of understanding emotions in very different cultures to our own. Often this is not only literally from a distant country, but across a vast ocean of time when we look at societies separated by centuries if not millennia from our own . So quite easily, what constitutes some emotions for us may not constitute the same emotions or even count as an emotion for them at all. Conversely we may have trouble recognising, interpreting and understanding some ancient emotions if they differ vastly from our own. In such cases we would have to translate emotions into concepts we can better understand.[4] Nonetheless there is no easy answer to this. Introducing the study of emotions to archaeology rather than the traditional more descriptive approach raises many as yet unresolved questions and issues.

I think the other concern archaeologists may have is the ‘unexplored anxiety that writing emotion into the past necessarily involves empathy,’ and I would add; self-reflexivity.[5] Archaeology can be a very descriptive discipline, as I have said above.  It is one thing to describe artefacts and sites, but another to try and discuss emotions. There is always the risk of projecting views onto the past either consciously, which is a risk reduced by accountability and peer review, or unconsciously,  which doubtless historiography will note the views that will one day be seen as symptomatic of our own time and place in history. Discussing emotions as a discourse within archaeology, especially the emotions of the archaeologists, could be seen as running the risk of blurring the line between raising ideas in debate and projecting conscious or unconscious ideas and norms of emotions onto the past. Perhaps the hesitancy has more to do with an unvoiced fear of appearing unprofessional or unacademic in admitting a passion for one’s chosen topic of research and not mere intellectual problem solving. Speak with any expert in their field about their research and that same passion as drive and motivation becomes readily apparent. Indeed it is probably vital for sustaining long  term projects over years of  research and refinement. Clearly, in reality interest and enthusiasm is not mutually exclusive with academic rigour, rather it is conducive to sustaining it.

[1] See also Robinson 2010 and Matt 2011.

[2]  Frevert 2011. See also Lutz 1988.

[3]  Loseing emotions from culture over time, based on Medieval examples. Frevert 2011, pp. 19-86.

[4]  For instance the concept of modern romantic love is completely absent from Mesopotamian literature, does this mean that they did not experience or did not express romantic love? Kramer 1979, pp.  74-75.

[5]  Tarlow 2000, p. 720.

Emotions and Archaeology

Affective Cartography: A Reflective Essay on Emotions and Archaeology.

Just as emotions drive many aspects of the world around us today, so it is true that emotions have been influential (and influenced) by the history that has shaped the past. For historians, classicists, art historians and archaeologists, and others too, investigation into emotions can greatly enrich our understandings of the past. That said, interpreting emotion from cultures, times and places that are very different to our own can be complex and problematic. My own discipline of archaeology has been cautious and had relatively little to say about emotions. For that reason I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the relationship of emotion and archaeology, and both the challenges and potential benefits that may hold for the future.   

Emotion and Research
Emotions underpin so many of our interactions in the world today, yet in academic discourse the modern Western tendency has largely been to attempt to downplay the role of emotions, or perhaps even to remove them from at least the stated aims and methodologies of academic research. Since the Enlightenment, there has been an assumption that learning and scholarship must be driven by rational objectivity and empiricism; detached from more subjective emotion.[1] For researchers there is inevitably emotions at play in behind the object of their inquiry. Whether the research examines in detail the specific intricacies of a single event in history, or takes a broad discursive view of deep historical factors over centuries – emotion is always there.[2] Emotion is always both affect and effect.   There is also inevitably an emotional investment by the individual conducting the research. The objects of the research, the research itself and the journey experienced in conducting that research all result from and further generate emotional experiences. Human beings are not automata, emotionless machines, yet intellectual rigour requires, nay demands, a certain amount of emotional detachment and objectivity. All of this contributes to a tension that has built up over centuries between two seemingly juxtaposed positions rationality and emotions.

This polarisation between rationality and emotion can be seen between different approaches between different fields, but also even within a single discipline.  The general modern Western interpretation is that emotions are experienced internally to our individual consciousness, with individuals emotional responses and expressions varying widely from experience to experience and even varying significantly between people going through the same or similar emotional experiences.[3] The sciences have tended to view emotions as being biological and/or neurological reactions to stimuli hardwired universally across humankind with the reaction or expression of emotions varying between occurrences, people and cultures as dictated by circumstance or expectation.[4] From this perspective emotions are objective phenomena, even if that is an electrical impulse through a pathway of neurons, but the experience and expression of emotions is highly subjective and variable and therefore contrary to the rationality, empiricism, and objectivity that is the foundation for the scientific method. On the other hand, the humanities and social sciences have often viewed emotions and the expression of emotions as social constructions, being culturally relative, the result more of nurture than nature.[5] More recently, perhaps due to greater interdisciplinary cooperation there is increasing acknowledgement of both sides and more acceptance of intermediary positions between these extremes.[6]

Archaeology and Emotion[7]
As I stated earlier, as a discipline, archaeology has had surprisingly little to say (at least in print) about the relationship of emotions in archaeological discourse. At first this may appear surprising, as other similar and sometimes overlapping disciplines like history and anthropology have been more inclined to embrace theories of emotion and apply new interpretations of affect and emotion to better understand people living in different times, places and cultures. I suspect this caution about dealing with emotions has something to do with the nature of archaeology as a discipline in and of itself. In the popular imagination archaeology is represented by adventurous treasure hunters like Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider, or a little more realistically by popular British television series like Time Team and Meet the Ancestors. By interpreting and analysing finds of artefacts, architecture, human remains, technological processes of production, sites, and texts, particularly anything found in situ (found in the original context in which objects were left when deposited), archaeologists can rediscover and analyse various aspects of life in the past. Archaeology is generally regarded as a humanities discipline, however depending on the country and academic institution, archaeology can be placed as a social science or even a science taught alongside geology. In my experience, I have found that archaeology exists in something of a luminal zone between the worlds of humanities and social sciences on the one hand and the traditional sciences on the other.  In conducting their research, archaeologists are often aided or need scientific cooperation and so a working understanding of radiocarbon dating, soil and organic chemistry, geology, animal and human anatomy, botany, chemical residue analysis and various other forms of scientific analysis can be invaluable for interpreting data and understanding the processes at work on a site or upon artefacts. On the other hand, this data is meaningless without the cultural understanding and analysis gained through humanities research. Therefore archaeology is probably best considered among the humanities, but one that can often draw important contributions from the sciences.

[1]  AHR 2012. Extensive discussion on the history of academic approaches to emotions.
[2]  Stearns 1993.
[3]  Different connotations to the use of emotion, including as a “scientific term” available in Dixon 2012.
[4]  Gammerll 2012.
[5]  Plamper 2010 passim.
[6]  Plamper 2010 passim.
[7]  One of the few, but very comprehensive studies can be found in Tarlow 2000.