This week at GIS we had two fascinating presentations on two very different aspects of change and evolution in the Classical world. First to present was Di Yan, with a paper entitled, ‘Let the Masks Speak: Multiple Images of Medusa and the Gendered Expression.’ In her paper, Di discussed the iconographical evolution of Medusa, from Archaic to Hellenistic times. Drawing on earlier schemata which have noted Medusa’s transformation from a masculinized monster into a beautiful maiden in Greek art, Di explored the gender and power dynamics which underlie each of these images. Through an illuminating survey of both artistic and literary sources from Archaic to Hellenistic and even early Imperial sources, Di highlighted for us the ability of Medusa to maintain her power over men even when depicted as a seemingly helpless maiden who is overpowered by Perseus. Conversely, she examined how Archaic representations of Medusa as a grotesque and almost masculine figure creates a certain set of associations between the feminine and disorder which marginalizes Medusa while simultaneously acknowledging her power.
Our next speaker was Mateo González, who came from the Universitat de Barcelona to present on ‘A Cross-Cultural Approach to the Ancient Economy: Storage as an Economic Process.’ Mateo opened his paper with a truly interesting history of the colonial legacy which impacts current archaeological views of storage, mobility/nomadism, and sedentary communities in the Roman Empire. He then continued to outline how the increase in grain storage pits in the North-western Mediterranean Basin in the late third-early first centuries BCE has previously been used to suggest an increase in production in the region to support the campaigning needs of the Roman military. Mateo concluded by explaining how the colonial legacy in archaeological scholarship affects the perception of the relationship between the ‘indigenous’ grain storage pit and the Roman dolium, which, he argued, has been wrongly styled as a technological innovation by modern scholarship.