National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Bice Peruzzi

Affiliation: Rutgers University

Bice Peruzzi is an Assistant Professor at Rutgers University, after earning her Ph.D. at the University of Cincinnati. Her research focuses on the construction of cultural identity in pre-Roman Italy. Using artifacts –in particular local and imported pottery– as her main form of evidence, she aims to give a voice to individuals who would be otherwise mute, as they have left no written accounts and are only tangentially described in Greek and Roman sources. She has fieldwork experience in Italy (from Roman villas in Veneto, to Tarquinia’s necropolis, to Pompeii), in Greece, and in Turkey. She has published on Etruscans and Apulian tombs and on Corinthian pottery. Her current book project is a social biography of the inhabitants of Central Apulia.  


Tomb re-openings in the ancient Mediterranean have been generally treated as transgressive acts of violation against the memory of the deceased. From Elpinor’s lament in the Odyssey to the jurists in the Justinian Digest, the ancient sources are full of references to the widespread fear of having one’s tomb defaced or otherwise compromised.

Yet, in pre-Roman Apulia re-opening and re-using tombs seem to be a widespread and accepted phenomenon. For example, about a quarter of the tombs in the necropolis of Rutigliano-Purgatorio (a site about 15 miles from the modern town of Bari), show signs of having been reused, sometimes several times over the course of a century.

This talk analyzes the relationship between graves and collective memory, focusing on tomb violation in Central Apulian necropoleis in the 6th-4th centuries BCE. I argue that this practice, paired with the general lack of grave markers and post-depositional rites, ancient looting, and the unclear boundaries between settlements and necropoleis is part of complex local strategies where the local communities alternately rejected, incorporated, and reinvented memories of their own past to create a narrative about themselves and legitimize their place in the world

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