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April 11, 2006

Ancient Athens Expert to Deliver 16th Lehmann Lecture

NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—Archaeologist Susan Rotroff will describe how an analysis of bone fragments gathered from pyres in ancient Athens led to new conclusions about their ceremonial function, during the 16th annual Lehmann Lecture.

Her talk, titled “Industrial Religion: Ritual Pyres in Ancient Athens,” will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 29, in Graham Auditorium, Hillyer, Brown Fine Arts Center. A reception will follow in Neilson Library Browsing Room. The event is free, open to the public and wheelchair accessible.

Rotroff will talk about a series of unusual pyres located along the border of the public center, called the agora, in ancient Athens. Unearthed pyres consist of a shallow pit containing deposits of pottery and fragments of burnt bone, she said.

First interpreted as baby burials, that idea changed after the bone fragments were determined to be mostly those of sheep and goats, according to Rotroff. She now believes the deposits to be the remains of sacrifices during rituals designed to keep workers safe and assure the success of activities on which their livelihood depended.

As a member of the excavation and research staff of the agora excavations in Athens since the 1970s, Rotroff’s primary research interests are Greek ceramics. She has also worked elsewhere in Greece, as well as Turkey and Tunisia, and has written about the Hellenistic pottery of Turkey.

Rotroff, a MacArthur Fellow, has been a member of the departments of classics and art history and archaeology since 1995 at Washington University, where she is the Jarvis Thurston and Mona Van Duyn Professor in the Humanities.

The Lehmann Lecture honors the late Phyllis Williams Lehmann, who taught at Smith from 1946 until her retirement in 1978. It is sponsored by the Western Massachusetts Society of the Archaeological Institute of America.

For more information, contact Jayne Mercier at (413) 585-3390.

Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Kristen Cole
Media Relations Director
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174

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