National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Catherine K. Baker

Affiliation: Bryn Mawr College

Catherine K. Baker is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Bryn Mawr College, and holds her degrees in Classical Archaeology (Ph.D.), and Classics (M.A.) from the University of Cincinnati; History of Art and Archaeology (M.A.) from New York University; and Classical Archaeology and Ancient History (M.A.) from Brandeis University. Her areas of specialization are Roman archaeology and art history; Roman Republican history; ancient urbanism, imperialism, and colonialism; first millennium BCE Central Italy; the Central Apennines; Pompeii and the Bay of Naples; archaeologies of identity; Greek and Roman pottery and small finds; ancient trade and the economy. Her several forthcoming publications include Excavations at Pompeii (I.1, VIII.7, and the Porta Stabia). The Small Finds (with L.A. Lieberman, S.J.R. Ellis and contributors).


From the chipped corners of an ancient die to the mortar on a reused inscription, artifacts tell stories. Archaeologists reconstruct these object biographies, tracing the lives of ancient artifacts from their creation to their final deposition. In this talk, I explore the stories of some of the artifacts excavated by the Pompeii Archaeological Research Project: Porta Stabia (University of Cincinnati), including dice and gaming pieces, statuettes, tools of potters, and even nails. These object biographies shed light not only on the way people first used these objects, but on their afterlives – the ways in which objects were discarded, recycled, and reused.  These lives and afterlives of objects, in turn, shape the archaeology of a site, allowing us to trace the complex patterns of use, reuse, and discard which characterized the history of one neighborhood in the Roman city of Pompeii.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

Infrastructure connected with the removal of wastewater forms an important, yet often overlooked, element of the urban landscape. This talk explores how approaches to wastewater infrastructure in the Roman city of Pompeii changed over time, shifting from underground soak-away systems, made from reused pots, to underground drains. Through an examination of these different types of wastewater removal systems in Pompeii, particularly those recently excavated by University of Cincinnati’s project in the non-elite Porta Stabia neighborhood, we trace how choices and changes in wastewater removal and technology were closely tied with the wider needs, economic and material resources, and even political circumstances of the city and its residents.

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