On November 27th-29th 2020, The Department of Ancient History, Archaeology and History of Art (Faculty of History, University of Bucharest) hosted the Online International Conference Communicating Objects. Material, Literary and Iconographic Instances of Objects in a Human Universe in Antiquity and the Middle Ages/Objets en dialogue. Présences matérielles, littéraires et iconographiques des objets dans l’univers humain pendant l’Antiquité et au Moyen Âge.
It was a joint venture of Department of Ancient History, Archaeology and History of Art (Faculty of History, University of Bucharest) and the International Society for Cultural History (ISCH) which enjoyed a significant success having in attendance as speakers 49 scholars and early career researchers from 19 countries and high-ranking universities from Europe including Israel, North America and South America (a number of auditors also participated at the conference).
It proved to be an extremely enriching experience with very high quality papers organized in 9 panels. Dr. Daniela Zaharia, head of Department of Ancient History, Archaeology and History of Art, provided the institutional greetings and a first intervention on theoretical aspects involved in the approaches our call for papers proposed to potential participants.
The first panel of the first day dealt with Saints, Lovers, Warriors, Merchants: Material Expressions in the Middle Ages and tackled topics pertaining to textiles and adornment objects, iconographic programs of monuments and their architecture, and meaningful roles of objects in literature. The second panel was structured around the topic of Images, Objects, Memories and implied incursions in the Roman world and medieval readings of ancient statuary. The third panel, The Word and the Object in a Roman Literary Universe, approached Augustan literature and its narrative and symbolic uses of objects, with a very welcome addition of a discussion of objects in Petronius’ Cena Trimalchionis.
The first panel of the second day gathered important discussions of the material culture involved in sanctuaries and religious practices in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome under the title Gods and Objects. The second panel approached the interaction between writing and objects in the case of votives, coins inscriptions and luxury objects in the Greco-Roman world. The third panel, Objects in Context, Objects as a Context in the Greek World focused on the important subject of Greek pottery and glyptic art. It investigated objects as providers of contexts (as it happens for their iconography) and/or being themselves contextualised and created on pottery, glyptic arts, in a funerary medium or in literature.
The third day of the conference opened with an incursion in the Materiality of Life and Death in the Roman World dealing with domestic (luxury) settings, funerary inscriptions of physicians and their iconography, and Christian uses of objects. The second panel Objects of the Black Sea. Points of Convergence and Otherness dealt with funerary monuments in Thrace and Greek pottery in the Black Sea area. The third and final panel approached The Word and the Object in a Greek Literary Universe. It lead to in depth discussions about Athenian tragedy and comedy, and Hellenistic epic. The discussions were rounded up by two papers on theoretical frameworks for interpreting material culture. Dr. Daniela Zaharia wrapped up the conference through a quick and comprehensive review of the issues raised by the speakers during the three days of the conference.
The conference also greatly benefited from the papers of the two invited keynote speakers Prof. Ecaterina Lung (University of Bucharest; member of the Committee for the ISCH) and Prof. Jörg Rogge (Johannes Gutenberg-Universität; Chair of the ISCH).
It equally benefited from the experience of the scientific committee composed of Alexandru Avram (Université du Maine Le Mans; CRéAAH. Centre de Recherche en Archéologie, Archéosciences, Histoire), Ecaterina Lung (University of Bucharest); Committee for the ISCH); Adam T. Rabinowitz (University of Texas at Austin; Associate Director of the Institute of Classical Archaeology at the UTexas); Jörg Rogge (Johannes Gutenberg-Universität; Chair of the ISCH). We would like to highlight the contribution of Adam Rabinowitz in terms of scientific input as well as for assuming the position of chair of the panel Objects in Context, Objects as a Context in the Greek World.
The organizing committee of the conference was composed of Ecaterina Lung (University of Bucharest), Alexandra Liţu (University of Bucharest), Alexandra Ţârlea (University of Bucharest).
The initial call for papers, the programs and abstracts of the conference were circulated on the ISCH; Liverpool Classics Mailing List; Calenda. The Calendar for the Humanities and Social Sciences; Academia.edu; Compitum. Recherches et actualités sur l’Antiquité romaine et la latinité; Fasti Congressum. Recopilación de Congresis sobre la Antiguëdad
A chronicle of the event will appear in the Bolletino dei Studi Latini (on request).