Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Davide Tanasi

Affiliation: University of South Florida

Davide Tanasi is Professor with the Department of History at University of South Florida, where he directs the Institute for Digital Explorations and he is P.I. of the Mediterreanean Diet Archaeology Project with the Institute for Advanced Study of Culture and the Environment. He specializes in application of innovative technologies for the study of archaeology of ancient Sicily and Malta. His researches in the fields of digital and biomolecular archaeology have generated groundbreaking results and numerous warmly received publications. In 2013-2015 he directed the excavations in the Roman catacombs of St. Lucy in Syracuse and since 2019 he is co-director of the Melita Civitas Roman project for the excavation of the Roman domus of Rabta in Malta.


Fish and fish products are an important nutritive source for humans, rich in proteins, fats and fat-soluble vitamins and they were largely celebrated and discussed in various genres of Greek literatures. From the comedies of Epicharmus, in the late 6th century BCE, to the Life of Luxury of Archestratus of Gelas (330 BCE ca.), fish seems to a assume a central role in the cuisine of Greek Sicily, with Syracuse in particular emerging as a food mecca. The rich mass of data on fish cooking and consumption documented for Greek Sicily and specifically for Syracuse finds a controversial counterpart in the material culture. Whereas the artistic representations of the world of fishing and fish mongering are rather numerous, the scanty archaeological evidence of fishing gear opposes them. In order to shed light on the problem of fish consumption in Greek Sicily and to define the role of fish in the diet of the local communities, this presentation will focus on the new data emerging from stable isotopes analysis on skeletal remains from the necropoleis of Himera and Syracuse. The two sites represent a formidable couple of case studies especially for the Archaic period. New evidence from the Greek cemeteries of Viale Scala Greca and Viale Santa Panagia at Siracusa will be discussed, in order to highlight possible connections between the apparent wealth of burials with large funerary assemblage and architectural peculiarities and the dietary habits of the inhumated individuals. The study conducted by University of South Florida, will compare certain dietary regimens, supplemented or not with fish and shellfish, with certain social status exemplified by the funerary context. The comparison with the evidence from Himera will allow for a critical revision of the literary sources and reinterpretation of the archaeological record so to establish what was the role of fish at the table of the Greeks of Sicily.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

D. Tanasi, R. Lanteri, S. Hassam 2016, New data on the funerary religion of the Greeks of Sicily. The Archaic necropolis of Viale Scala Greca at Siracusa, in H. Reid, D. Tanasi (eds), Philosopher Kings and Tragic Heroes. Essays on the Images and Ideas from Western Greece, Sioux City: Parnassos Press, pp. 329-352.

D. Tanasi, R. H. Tykot, A. Vianello, S. Hassam 2017, Stable isotope analysis of the dietary habits of a Greek community in Archaic Syracuse (Sicily): a pilot study, STAR: Science & Technology of Archaeological Research 3.2, pp. 466-477.

Mosaics are among the most suggestive examples of ancient figurative art and they play a crucial role in the study of artistic trends, popular culture and daily life especially in Roman civilization. Though more durable than frescoes and canvas painting, mosaic decorations are easily prone to degradation and needy of regular restorations, with mosaic floors being those most problematic. The combination of pattern recognition and 3D digital imaging techniques have proved to be of crucial importance for the analysis of such challenging complexes material culture. From manual and automatic digital restoration to pattern reconstruction and analysis, from automatic color detection to generation of digital elevation models, algorithms and digital approaches have drastically changed the perspective of archaeologists and art historians on mosaics. After an initial survey of the most popular methods applied so far, the presentation will focus on the case study of University of South Florida’s 3D Mosaic, a virtualization project of the outstanding mosaic complexes from Roman imperial villas of Sicily and Malta, such as the Sicilian sites of Villa del Casale at Piazza Armerina, Villa di Durrueli at Realmonte and Villa di Caddeddi at Noto and the Roman Domus of Rabat in Malta.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

F.Gabellone, M. Chiffi, D. Tanasi, M. Decker 2020, Integrated technologies for Indirect Documentation, Conservation and Engagement of the Roman mosaics of Piazza Armerina (Enna, Italy), in E. Cicalò (ed), Proceedings of the 2ndInternational and Interdisciplinary Conference on Image and Imagination. IMG 2019, Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing 1140, Springer, pp. 1016-1028.

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