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Sensing the Past: Sensorial Experiences in Ancient Mesopotamia

February 18, 2021 Eastern Time

TBA (Boston)
Boston, MA United States

AIA Society: Boston

Lecturer: Allison Karmel Thomason

We are all sensing people, and the basic physical structure of our sensing organs has not changed for many thousands of years.  But how did ancient humans perceive and experience sensory stimuli in their environment differently than we do today?  Dr. Thomason sets out to explore this topic for the ancient Mesopotamians in particular.  The history of the senses and explorations of sensory experiences in the ancient world have been increasingly the focus of scholarly research.  Archaeologists, art historians and textual scholars have tried to recreate past sensory environments and experiences by using evidence from images, artifacts and ancient texts of all kinds.  In this lecture, Dr. Thomason, a specialist in ancient Mesopotamian material culture, explores how ancient Mesopotamian perceptions of sensory experiences can be compared to our own modern ones, with sometimes surprising results.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Thomason, Allison. 2016. “The Sense-scapes of Neo-Assyrian Capital Cities:  Royal Authority and Bodily Experience.” Cambridge Archaeological Journal 26/2: 243-64.

Forthcoming book: Thomason and Kiersten Neumann, eds. Handbook of the Senses in the Ancient Near East. Routledge/Taylor and Francis, expected 2020.


For further reading:

Howes, David and Constance Classen. 2014.  Ways of Sensing: Understanding the Senses in Society. London and New York:  Routledge.

Hamilakis, Yannis.  2013.  Archaeology and the Senses:  Human Experience, Memory and Affect. Cambridge, UK:  Cambridge University Press.

Renner Lecture


February 18, 2021
Event Category:


Paul Properzio


TBA (Boston)
Boston, MA United States
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