Thursday, November 4, 2010

Possible upcoming AIA lectures

Salve! Spartacurtus sum. 
I wanted to pass along this info from the AIA, and their possible upcoming lectures. 
If you have a preference, and really want to see one of these lectures, please contact the AIA as directed in this posting. 
Consul Spartacurtus 

We are busy finalizing the logistics for the Spring Lecture season. The national AIA is sending us two lecturers, each of whom has offered several possible lecture topics. Let's tackle them one at a time. 

The Charles Eliot Norton Memorial Lectureship (named for a Professor of the History of Art, Harvard University, and the first president of the AIA) is held this year by Dr. John Peter Oleson, of the Department of Greek and Roman Studies, University of Victoria (Canada). I have heard him lecture and I guarantee an informative and well-delivered presentation. He also happens to be one of my academic heroes -- first-class and imaginative scholarship. He takes seemingly dry or technical topics and shows that they speak lively histories.  I am more than a little excited the AIA chose to send him to visit our society!

He offers three possible lectures:
Harena sine calce (“Sand without lime”): Building Disasters, Incompetent Architects, and Construction Fraud in Ancient Rome.” Roman architects and builders employed concrete and other materials with great creativity and produced structures that in some cases have lasted 2000 years without significant decay. Nevertheless, the structures we see today are a very small sample of those that were constructed, even of those constructed with concrete, and that their survival is the result of a long process of natural and unnatural selection. How or why did the others disappear? Were the Romans in fact such good construction engineers after all? Roman engineers constructed thousands of buildings with opus caementicium over a period of 500 years: surely a significant sample of these buildings would turn out to be remarkably durable even by accident. In this regard, it is striking that a large, often hilarious corpus of Roman literary and epigraphical sources and legal texts survives that documents construction disasters, incompetent architects, fraudulent contractors, and cost over-runs. There is also ample testimony to misjudged urban planning, and flawed codes or regulations or inadequate enforcement of regulations, with resulting losses of life and property from fire and other natural disasters. What types of mistakes were made, what types of fraud committed, and what can we learn from them about the structures that survive? 
“Building for Eternity: Investigating the Secrets of Roman Hydraulic Concrete.” All long-distance trade in the Roman world went by sea, and harbour installations built of hydraulic concrete were a crucial part of the imperial infrastructure. The fact that many of these concrete structures have been able to withstand the force of the sea for 2000 years has long excited comment and speculation. Although the modern world produces five billion cubic metres of sophisticated concrete every year, the material most commonly used by humans after air and water, the secrets of Roman concrete have remained shrouded in mystery. The speaker has 30 years of experience with harbor excavation, and with research on Roman harbor design, analysis of the components of the hydraulic concrete, and the design of the wooden forms in which the concrete was placed. Since 2001 he has been part of a project that has collected large cores of concrete from numerous Roman maritime structures above and below water throughout the Mediterranean by a revolutionary new method. These cores have for the first time allowed accurate laboratory analysis of the engineering characteristics of Roman hydraulic concrete, with very surprising results. In addition, the samples have for the first time allowed proper analysis of the materials used and the method of placement The results have documented a Mediterranean wide trade in the volcanic ash from Baiae, on the Bay of Naples, wh ich was the crucial component of Roman hydraulic concrete. In 2004, the team also replicated full-scale, Roman style formwork in the harbour of Brindisi, and constructed a harbour pier with carefully reproduced Roman style hydraulic concrete. The resulting data have provided striking new information on the process by which the Roman engineers planned and executed their harbor installations and other structures. Discussion of the project results is set in the context of a historical introduction to the procedures and accomplishments of Roman concrete technology in general.
“Herodotus, Aristotle, and Sounding Weights: The Deep Sea as a Frontier in the Classical World.” The ancient Mediterranean cultures knew far more about the deep sea than is generally realized. Pharaohs, emperors, scientists, fishermen, ships’ captains, and sponge divers were all personally concerned with the topography and environment of the sea floor. Comments by the scientist-philosophers Aristotle and Posidonius indicate that by the early Hellenistic period many areas of the Mediterranean Sea had been accurately measured down to 2000 m. This was an impressive accomplishment, given the materials and technology available at the time. Both the difficulty of the undertaking and the apparently comprehensive scope of the inquiry reveal a profound and so far underrated interest in the deep sea among Greek and Roman intellectuals. In a richly illustrated talk, Prof. Oleson presents the surprising results of his research concerning ocean science and navigation in the ancient Mediterranean.
IF you are an AIA member -- or, motivated by this notice, you plan to send in a membership application within the month -- and you have a preference for one of these three lectures, please let me know by Mon 15 Nov. Simply say: Building Disasters - or - Hydraulic Concrete - or - Sounding Weights. 
If you are not an AIA member, please consider becoming one. But in any case, please feel free to continue attending the lectures, and inviting friends or family whom you think would enjoy hearing a real live archaeologist talking about his/her research.
Please bookmark our website for updates about lectures and other activities (fieldtrip, AIA Annual Meetings, volunteer opportunities):
Finally, I am beginning to plan for 2011-12. If there are archaeological topics or areas of the world which you would like to see included, please let me know. It costs approximately $1000 to bring in a lecturer; one of our wonderful members has already offered to sponsor one lecture next year. If you would like to sponsor all or part of a lecture, please let me know. 
Very finally, we would like to hire a professional to help us revamp our website. Please send me suggestions for the website and/or recommendations for a web-designer. Donations toward this project are also welcome.
Thanks! Nicolle

Nicolle Hirschfeld, Classical Studies, Trinity University 210.999.7125

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