National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Allison Karmel Thomason

Affiliation: Southern Illinois University

Dr. Allison Karmel Thomason is Professor of Ancient History at Southern Illinois University. She specializes in Mesopotamian art, archaeology and history; ancient Near Eastern art and Neo-Assyrian art. She received her PhD from Columbia University and participated in excavations in Corfu, Greece, with Martha S. Joukowsky and in Ashkelon, Israel with Larry Stager. Her publications include Luxury and Legitimation: Royal Collecting in Ancient Mesopotamia (2005, Series: Perspectives on Collecting, Routledge/Taylor and Francis Press), and Handbook of the Senses in the Ancient Near East (eds. K. Neumann and A. Thomason, Routledge/Taylor and Francis, under contract).


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 presentation where the audience can sense along the way, 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.

Thomason, Allison. 2019. “Sensing Nature in the Neo-Assyrian World.” Pp. 293-314 A. Schellenberg and T. Kruger (eds.). Sounding Sensory Profiles in the Ancient Near East.  Atlanta:  Society for Biblical Literature Press.

Thomason, Allison and Kiersten Neumann, eds. 2021. Handbook of the Senses in the Ancient Near East. Routledge/Taylor and Francis.


For further reading:

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

Hawthorn, A. and A.-C. Rendu Loisel (eds.) 2019. Distant Impressions: The Senses in the Ancient Near East. College Station, PA:  Pennsylvania State University Press.

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


See Allison Karmel Thomason's work in the American Journal of Archaeology.

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