Research update

I finally got around to updating my research page to reflect what I’ve been up to lately, or more accurately what I’ve promised to get up to.

Provenience vs. provenance

Ever been confused about the difference between provenience and provenance? I still am. As I understand it, provenience refers to the specific location where an object was unearthed, whereas provenance refers either to an object’s ownership history, or to its geographic origins more generally (that is, roughly where it entered the archaeological record, not where it was made).

But I recently came across an article by Rosemary Joyce that adds some very welcome nuance to my understanding of these words. She makes several interesting points, which I summarize here in no particular order. 1.) Despite the commonly held view that ‘provenience’ is an Americanism for provenance, its use in an archaeological context is first attested in Britain. 2.) Although provenance seems to be more common term, based on searches in JSTOR both are used more or less equally. 3.) For geologists, provenance refers to where the materials that comprise a sample originated, whereas provenience simply refers to where the sample was collected. 4.) In Joyce’s view, provenience refers to a specific point within an object’s provenance, and it is not always the most interesting or important point.

I have always eschewed the term provenience in favor of provenance, which I use in its most general sense. Joyce’s paper seems to justify this usage. She suggests dispensing with both terms in favor of such things as ‘object itineraries,’ but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

The article, which I highly recommend, is R. Joyce, “From Place to Place: Provenience, Provenance, and Archaeology,” in G. Feigenbaum and I. Reist (ed.), Provenance: An Alternate History of Art (Getty Research Institute, 2012), 48-60.

Classics and misogyny

I highly recommend Ellen Muehlberger’s review of Donna Zuckerberg’s book Not All Dead White Men: Classics and Misogyny in the Digital Age. I haven’t read Zuckerberg’s book yet — I don’t know when I’ll have the time — but the review does an excellent job of explaining why, even if the book has some shortcomings, it sheds light on an essential topic.

Baxandall and Athenian painted pottery

I have just read Guy Hedreen’s review of Robin Osborne’s recent book The Transformation of Athens: Painted Pottery and the Creation of Classical Greece (Princeton University Press, 2018). I’ve always had a soft spot for Athenian painted pottery, as it is such a large and rich corpus of evidence, waiting to be interrogated by scholars interested in more than, for example, the chronological development of the Amasis Painter’s elbow dimples. Similarly, I also have a significant appreciation for Michael Baxandall, whose work (especially Art and Experience and Patterns of Intention) has been fundamental to my own attempts to write social history from art. According to the review, in this book Osborne combines these two enthusiasms of mine. Hedreen’s view is that the attempt is not altogether successful, which is too bad. I haven’t read the book myself (and may not for some time, given how much is on my plate right now), but the review is stimulating and brought me back to material I haven’t thought about for some time.

‘Classics for Everyone’

I highly recommend Dani Bostick’s recent post at Sententiae Antiquae, ‘Classics for Everyone’ Must Be More Than a Slogan. Although directed specifically at materials disseminated by the American Classical League, it is an excellent entrée onto how the Classics are still used to make arguments about cultural superiority. Many classicists find such accusations ridiculous, but, as Bostick points out, because classicists are not offended by such arguments does not mean that they are not offensive, especially since Classics is an extremely white field.