The Archaeological Institute of America
Western Illinois Society

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2020-2021 Lecture Descriptions

Thursday, November 12, 2020, 7:30 P.M. CST

Dicing with Death:  Games, Contests, and the World of Play on Roman Sarcophagi”
(Sienkewicz Lecture on Roman Archaeology)
Mont Allen, Assistant Professor of Art History and Classics, Southern Illinois University (
This lecture was presented virtually on Zoom and remains accessible here:
The public face of Roman art is painfully sober. In the privacy of their tombs however, free to cast off their stern public personae, Romans surrounded themselves with art of a different nature. Here, on the elaborately carved sarcophagi that dominated the Roman visual imagination of the second and third centuries, the imagery does something entirely different: it plays. Diminutive Pans wrestle with wee goat kids, Sirens face off against Muses in singing competitions, and Cupids role-play as charioteers, giddily racing their carts around the Circus Maximus.  Scenes of games, contests, and play appear with astonishing frequency here—on the sides of coffins, in the face of death—as nowhere else in Roman art. What forms did this play take on Roman coffins?  Why did Romans ground play so deeply in the domain of death?  And what would happen with the coming of Christianity?

Tuesday, November 17, 2020, 4:30 CST
Birthing Ideas in Ancient Greece and the Modern World”
(Antiquity in the New Millennium Lecture)
Yurie Hong, Associate Professor and Chair of Classics, and Associate Professor of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies, Gustavus Adolphus College (
This virtual lecture was hosted by Augustana College.
In ancient Greece, as now, pre-existing cultural ideas about men, women, and the body greatly influenced the way that medical practitioners thought about and treated reproductive issues. This talk will focus on characterizations of the maternal-fetal relationship in ancient medical texts but also on the birthing of ideas themselves and how research on ancient medicine led to a scientific conference on reproductive technologies. In so doing, it will consider the importance of interdisciplinary connections between science and humanities as well as the value of engaging with the ancient past when thinking through modern problems.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021 at 7:30 pm CST. Postponed until the fall.
"Feeding Cahokia"
James Godde, Professor of Biology, Monmouth College,
with students Lucas Jones MC'22 and Katelyn Richter MC'21
Host: Monmouth College and Warren Co. History Museum, Monmouth, Illinois
Every year, the Biology Department at Monmouth College teaches a half-semester course entitled Topics in the History of Biology. This past fall, the specific focus was “Feeding Cahokia: Agricultural Technology of Native Americans during the Mississippian Period". The class focused on a book written by Gayle J. Fritz, emeritus professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis. Lectures typically took place outdoors at the Monmouth City Cemetery, with trips to LeSeur Nature Preserve, the Monmouth College garden, as well as the Monmouth College farm. Sometimes the class met indoors in the CSB Nutrition Lab where we cooked some of the dishes that Cahokian peoples may have eaten. The class culminated with a trip to Cahokia itself in order to see the location that we had studied for the preceding 7 weeks.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021 at 7:30 pm CST
“The Lynch Site and 13th and 14th Century Ethnogenesis on the Central Plains”
Douglas B. Bamforth, Professor of Anthropology, University of Colorado Boulder (
Doris Z. Stone New World Archaeology Lecturer

Host: Augustana College, Rock Island IL
Here is a link to a recording of this lecture:

Plains farmers settled at the Lynch site in northeastern Nebraska during the latter decades of the 13th century, in the midst of a wave of social change and dislocation across the mid-continent as Cahokia collapsed and drought spread widely over much of North America. In contrast to the small homesteads on the central Plains prior to this time, Lynch coversnearly 200 acres, suggesting a community bigger than anything that had existed in the region before. Potters at the site made classic Plains vessels and classic midwestern Oneota vessels in households that were nearly side-by-side and mixed these styles together on other pots. This lecture addresses the social changes at work in the mid-continent at this time along with the history of work at Lynch from the 1930s to the present, including geophysical prospecting and excavation in the last two years. Viewed in the context of the Plains as a whole, the changes at Lynch and nearby sites represent a sea-change in social formations and likely mark the appearance of the modern Pawnee and Arikara nations. 

Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 7:30 pm CST
Central Plains Maize Farming and the Cahokian Diaspora”
Douglas B. Bamforth, Professor of Anthropology, University of Colorado Boulder (
Doris Z. Stone New World Archaeology Lecturer

Host: Knox College, Galesburg IL
Here is a link to a recording of this lecture:

Archaeology wonders at great length about how people invented farming but often takes the subsequent spread of farming more or less for granted. Globally, we know that farming spread in many ways. Sometimes farmers migrated into hunter-gatherer land and took it; other times they traded and married with hunter-gatherers over longer periods before farming became dominant. In every case, though, the transformation from hunting and gathering happened knowledgably, involving groups who must have interacted, eaten each other’s foods, and spoken together.  This talk explores this problem on the central Great Plains, where evidence for the earliest (12th century) maize farmers knew the great Mississippian center of Cahokia. The first pulse of maize farming in eastern Kansas and adjacent areas shows a mix of Cahokian and indigenous architecture and material culture; people had to have moved back and forth. These earliest groups also shifted from collective to individual burial, suggesting significant changes in the way people symbolized their community. Over a century, though, maize farming spread more widely without the trappings of Mississippian society, as other Midwestern agriculturalists spread into the region.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021 at 4:30 pm CST
Beyond Black vs. White: Africans in the Visual Imagination of the Roman Empire”
(Antiquity in the New Millennium Lecture)
Sinclair Bell, Associate Professor of Art History, Northern Illinois University (

Host: Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois 
This lecture will be zoomed live.
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The representation of foreign cultures with manifest “racial” differences, such as unfamiliar physical traits or strange-seeming ethnic customs, has been a longstanding and often visceral site for human artistic expression. The visual and material culture of the Roman Empire (c. 100 BCE-200 CE) provides a particularly abundant record of such cultural encounters, which render visible complex formulations of foreignness, social hierarchy, and power. This lecture by Dr. Sinclair Bell focuses on how Roman artists represented Black Africans (sub-Saharan peoples) in different visual media, and explores issues related to the patronage, production, and viewership of these works. It looks at the conventions of their imagery, the critical axioms of their study, and their contemporary re-presentation in a museum setting.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021 at 7:30 pm CST
Etruscan Helmets from Vetulonia: New Evidence for the Life of an Etruscan Soldier”
Hilary Becker, Associate Professor of Classical Studies, Binghamton University (

Host: Augustana College, Rock Island IL
This lecture will be zoomed live.

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407-298-9003 PIN: 627 806 839#
Greek and Roman sources help us to visualize Etruscan armies fighting against the Romans, but since no Etruscan literary testimony or histories has survived, little is known about the Etruscan military. A group of approximately 125 bronze helmets of Negau type were buried in a votive deposit outside of the city wall of Vetulonia in the fifth c. B.C. This unique deposit makes it possible to learn about dedicatory practices, the expectation for the soldiers purchasing arms, and even what do with one’s armor in the off-season. We will start by considering the implications of dedicating helmets to the gods. The Etruscans gave gifts to the gods but how often was this a practice with their armor? Further, would an Etruscan soldier be more likely to dedicate his armor to the gods or take it with him to his tomb? Many of the helmets from Vetulonia have inscriptions, which will be examined for what they can tell us about both Etruscan society and the Etruscan army.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at 7:30 pm CST
Shopping for Artists’ Materials in Ancient Rome: Pigment Shops, Pigments, and Product Choice”
Hilary Becker, Associate Professor of Classical Studies, Binghamton University (

Host: Monmouth College, Monmouth, Illinois
This lecture will be zoomed live.

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The discovery of the only known pigment shop in ancient Rome revealed an array of colors in their raw, mineral form waiting to be sold to wall painters. Ancient pigments provide a surprising opportunity to understand how science can be used in archaeology, revealing what pigments were present in the shop and, potentially, the source from which they originated, as well as exploring the supply-side economy of Roman painting and the steps by which these pigments went from the mine, to a shop, to the walls of a Roman house. This lecture also explores the economy of the Roman pigment trade, looking at the prices of pigments as well as the potential for their adulteration.