Joan Breton Connelly— 2009 James R. Wiseman Book Award

Award Citation:


The Archaeological Institute of America is pleased to present the 2009 James R. Wiseman Book Award to Joan Breton Connelly for Portrait of a Priestess: Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece (Princeton 2007).

In this book, Connelly presents a reasoned and comprehensive review of the evidence for Greek priestesses and the public roles they played. Refuting the notion that Athenian women were always of second-class status, she offers an important counterweight: Athenian women were not invisible, but occupied positions of great authority within the religious cults of the time. The subject is intelligently presented, wonderfully illustrated, and written with great style. While the book has already sparked some controversy among reviewers, it is the right kind of controversy, the kind that marks an exciting approach to a topic too long ignored.

Of particular excellence in the book is the blending of evidence from ancient texts and from archaeology. While the nature of the evidence leaves room for interpretation, Connelly’s use of so wide a range of information makes it a uniquely valuable contribution to the field. The thesis is well argued, reexamines some of the basic arguments in the study of women’s roles in ancient Greece as well as in the organization of Greek cult, and will unquestionably be cited for years as a model for the use of archaeological evidence in such areas as social history, women’s studies, and the history of ancient religion. For all of these reasons, Portrait of a Priestess is a most worthy recipient of the 2009 James R. Wiseman Book Award.

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