Also Seen: Vectorworks in Classical Archaeology

Vectorworks appears to be a CAD software package and was used by archaeologist Jacopo Bonetto in his work at Nora … the Vectorworks people have a mini-feature on their website:

When designers use our software in unique ways, we are all ears!

Jacopo Bonetto, Associate Professor of Greek and Roman Archaeology at the University of Padua, rebuilds ancient societies using the design tools in Vectorworks software. He and his students started excavating the Nora Archaeological Site in 1997 and concluded the Roman forum in 2007. In 2008, they began the next phase–to conduct a complete excavation of the sacred area that also includes a Roman temple–and to manage the corresponding reconstruction and restoration of the structures for public visits.

With Vectorworks software, Bonetto and his students have been able to answer many of the questions regarding the use of the holy ancient building. They rely on 2D drawings to reconstruct these vanished worlds. The team is also beginning to make a 3D reconstruction of the ancient buildings of Nora. “Vectorworks is an essential tool for our work. It allows students to learn the architectural and artifact drawing practice in an easy and fast manner,” explains Bonetto. “Using Vectorworks means that we save a lot of time because it’s so easy to learn, especially for students who may not be as familiar with the CAD world. Vectorworks also supports us in each phase of drawing practice—from field drawing to presentation.

… to read Bonetto’s (interesting) case study (which is a useful look at the use of technology in such contexts), download the pdf

Reading Hesiod

Tariq Ali (re)reads Hesiod for the Guardian … here’s the first bit:

I was in my mid-teens when someone gave me a copy of Pears Encyclopaedia of Myth and Legends as a birthday present. It sat on my shelves for many months before I looked at it. When I did, I couldn’t stop reading it. I became an obsessive. It was much more interesting than the boring old monotheistic religions with the single deity in the sky and his enforcers below. The Greek gods and goddesses, and their Egyptian and Indian equivalents (of which I knew very little at the time), were exciting characters, full of foibles and emotions far more closely associated with humans: love, sex, anger, jealousy. The main difference was that the gods were immortal. And yet even in ancient times there were sceptics who denied the existence of the gods, or gods who rebelled and were punished, such as Prometheus, chained to a rock for eternity because he broke the Mount Olympus monopoly and provided humans with the secret of fire. Because of this, he was for ever Marx’s favourite Greek god. “I detest all gods,” said the enchained Prometheus, and the 19th-century philosopher used the image to proclaim his own philosophy: “What was inward illumination becomes a consuming flame that turns outward.”

Later, Prometheus sent Hermes, the messenger of the gods, packing with a memorable verbal kick up his backside: “Be sure of this, I would not change my evil plight for your servility. It is better to be slave to the rock than to serve Father Zeus as his faithful messenger.” A sentence, I think, that could never be understood by contemporary European politicians, permanently in thrall to a system that worships commodities more than human beings, and under the military command of the Father in the White House.

It was reading and rereading the old myths that sent me off happily to Homer, both his tragedy (The Iliad) and his comic and happy-ending Odyssey. The goddess Athena became an instant favourite. Still is. Hesiod came later, much later, but encountering him was a delight that took me back to the encyclopedia, only to transcend it. Hesiod’s cosmic poetry, recounting the history – Theogony – of the pagan gods, has no equal in the literature that followed. Killing the father, something Freud picked up, plays a central part in the evolution that leads to the victory of Zeus and stability on Mount Olympus.

… despite the title, the majority of it is about the Theogony

Classical Crossover

Interesting program at Whitman College:

Between fall 2008 and spring 2010, Dana Burgess, professor of classics, taught 50 Whitman students to read the classics from a new perspective. He assigned traditional texts — Virgil, Plato, Aristotle, Seneca — with a new purpose: to reach across disciplines and re-evaluate contemporary attitudes about the environment.

The forward-thinking Burgess looked back to antiquity to examine the foundations of modern environmentalism.

“What we call “nature” is an idea with a history,” Burgess said. “Most schools would limit environmental studies to an inquiry into the present and the future, but a liberal arts college needs to think about the present as, in part, a function of a past: How did we get here?”

Although many colleges offer social or political histories of environmental studies, Whitman’s Don Snow, senior lecturer of environmental humanities and general studies, knows of no other positions that bridge the environmental humanities and the classics.

Burgess successfully petitioned for a new cross-disciplinary position, and Kathleen Shea, assistant professor of environmental humanities and classics, was chosen to fill one of 10 new tenure-track positions last June.

“She is blazing a trail at Whitman,” Snow said.” It’s a very exciting opportunity for a young scholar, pedagogically as well as scholastically. Trying to unearth what some of those underpinnings might be is a very interesting project, a great intellectual frontier.”

The new field is a two-pronged study — first, a literary study of modern American nature writers as readers of classical texts, and second, a philosophical study of ancient texts from an ecological approach.

“My primary goal is to get a new perspective, to see the natural world and environmental concerns from a radically different perspective,” Shea said, “And I think looking at the ancient world gives us that. They’re foundational to us in forming our own ideas, and yet their experiences are completely different.”

“That’s what I really hope: that the students will get a widened and deepened idea about how to approach the idea of nature.

Sustainable Cults, Ritual Composting

Shea’s fall 2011 class “Concepts of Nature in Greek and Roman Thought” is based upon the course of the same name that Burgess designed and taught in fall 2008 and spring 2010.

Environmental studies-biology major Natalie Jamerson ’13 recalled the study of rituals in agriculture as particularly “enlightening.”

In one ritual, the grain goddess Demeter was honored by leaving pigs and other organic matter in a pit. Women would later retrieve the decomposed matter and mix it with the seeds to ensure fertility.

“We basically have some really awesome compost,” Shea said.

Although placing environmentalism within ancient Rome might seem an anachronism, Shea contends that environmentalism took different forms.

“Is environmentalism played out the way we do, in a political approach to land management, or does it get played out in religion and cultural activities? That’s one of the approaches we take in Concepts of Nature: how does cult relate to how a civilization sustainably manages their land.”

For scientifically-minded students like Jamerson, the course offered a unique opportunity for discussion across disciplines.

“This seminar style allows for more discussion about philosophically environmental concepts instead of the typical environmental science class where the material is predictable though interesting,” Jamerson said. “Many of the writers and poets we read had no conception of how the earth functioned, attributing much of the natural processes to divine works, so it gives me the opportunity to see these phenomena through a completely differently lens.”

Brady Klopfer ’12, an environmental humanities major, said Shea’s class is an integral component of his environmental education.

“In a sense, Concepts of Nature in Greek and Roman Thought is to the Environmental Humanities major what our first-year program, Encounters, is to a general Whitman education,” Klopfer said. “It provides the foundation of thought on the subject, a historical background that pertains to the major and an overarching theme and understanding which can be drawn on at any time in any other class. It is a beautiful class, and very well taught, and in my opinion it is imperative to a well-rounded Environmental Humanities education.”

Circumundique ~ 10/07/10

Meanwhile … in the Classical Blogosphere and environs: