18th Annual Kolb Senior Scholars Colloquium: A Retrospective on Friday, October 13th, from 2:00–5:00 pm in Widener Lecture Hall, Penn Museum

This year’s Kolb Society’s Senior Scholars Colloquium will be a hybrid event held in person and virtually. Please join us Friday, October 13, 2023, at 2:00pm (Eastern Time) for three presentations from Kolb Fellows.

This year’s lectures will be followed by a Kolb Society roundtable for Kolb fellows at 4:15 pm.

Welcome Holly Pittman, PhD, Faculty Chair, Senior Fellow

Opening Remarks: A Brief Kolb History Chris Woods, PhD, President, Williams Director of the Penn Museum


Matthew D. Adams, PhD, Senior Research Scholar, NYU-Institute of Fine Arts; Director of the Abydos Excavation

The “Longue Durée” at Abydos: The Short Life and Many Afterlives of King Khasekhemwy’s Funerary Temple

The monumental cult enclosure, or funerary temple, of King Khasekhemwy, known locally as the Shunet el-Zebib, dominates the landscape of north Abydos, just as it has since its construction nearly 5000 years ago. Excavations at the site have revealed a great deal about its construction and original use, its place in the broader context of Abydos, and how the monument has been perceived and reinterpreted over millennia, a process that continues to this day.

Bio: Matthew Adams, the first Junior Fellow elected to the Kolb Society, graduated from Penn with a dual PhD in Anthropology and Egyptology. His dissertation “Community and Society in Egypt in the First Intermediate Period: An Archaeological Investigation of the Abydos Settlement Site” was part of the research he conducted at Abydos, a site he has excavated at for more than forty years. Even before he graduated, Matt led his first excavation at the site in 1991, and he has directed archaeology at north Abydos since 1999. His recent excavations have led to the re-discovery of the Abydos Royal Brewery in 2018 (supported by an NEH Archaeological and Ethnographic Field Research grant) and have focused on the economic aspects of early royal activity. He has taught and lectured on the archaeology of Egypt, is widely published, and has been featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times, National Geographic Magazine, as well as several television documentaries. His work, in collaboration with the late David O’Connor, redefined the understanding of emerging Egyptian kingship, the importance of Abydos in Egypt’s early history, and the transformation of the site into a national religious center. Matt also directed a pioneering architectural conservation program at the Second Dynasty cult enclosure of King Khasekhemwy, known today as the Shunet el-Zebib.

Seth Bernard, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Classics, University of Toronto

Historical Thought and the Early City in Iron Age Italy

Among the most important and durable developments of Italian society in the Pre-Roman period was the rise of cities. Recent decades have witnessed considerable investigation of this process, with the result that we now know in detail how dissimilar urbanization in Italy looked from other parts of the Mediterranean. Italian cities often arose in continuity with previous settlements as with pre- or proto-urban socioeconomic structures, while at the same time their development prompted a host of new and innovative technologies. In this talk, I point out that early urban society in Italy also drove the emergence of new cognitive technologies, especially new ways of understanding history. Drawing from my new book, I bring this material together under the rubric of “historical culture”, highlighting how a range of materials in this period reveal Italians actively engaging with and reshaping their pasts, even as they made use of traditional written historical records to do so. This anthropologically inflected understanding of history in the setting of ancient Italy intends to be expansive; my exploration of what history is and how we can understand it through interdisciplinary means aspires to access new ways of investigating historical thought not only in Pre-Roman Italy but in other past societies where traditional evidence for this sort of work may be lacking. I close by noting how my approach to the study of ancient history displayed by this project has been influenced by my time as a Kolb Junior Fellow. 

Bio: Seth Bernard graduated from Penn with a degree in Ancient History in 2012. His dissertation “Men at Work: Public Construction, Labor, and Society at Middle Republican Rome (390–168 B.C.)” informs his broader research on the social and economic history of Rome and Italy— particularly of the Republican period—and his first monograph, Building Mid-Republican Rome: Labor, Architecture and the Urban Economy, 400–200 BCE, published in 2018. Seth has published over sixty papers, chapters, and book reviews. A second monograph examining historical behavior in Pre-Roman Italy, Historical Culture in Iron Age Italy: History, Archaeology and the Use of the Past, 900-300,was published this fall. Seth has participated in archaeological fieldwork for almost two decades in Greece, Morocco, and Italy. In 2018–2019 he co-directed excavations on the acropolis of Populonia in Tuscany. He currently co-directs with Fellow Meg Andrews and colleagues excavations at the urban site of Falerii Novi, north of Rome. Seth has been teaching at the University of Toronto since 2014.

Whittaker Schroder, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology, University of Florida

Coping with Change: Confluent Strategies in the Riverine Landscape of the Western Maya Lowlands

Recent analyses of global land use change have shown that the processes of urbanization and population increase are accelerating in floodplain and flood prone regions. Alongside these demographic trends, global climate change, deforestation, and urban development are leading to greater and more destructive flood risk, not only in coastal regions but also along inland water networks. The long-term archaeological record of how people have historically coped with similar socioenvironmental crises may offer perspective to 21st century threats. I study these processes in the Western Maya Lowlands of the Yucatan peninsula, a landscape not typically associated with permanent surface water networks. The border between southeastern Mexico and northwestern Guatemala, however, is defined by the largest river system in Mesoamerica, formed by the Salinas, Chixoy, and Usumacinta Rivers, along with their major tributaries, the Pasión and Lacantún Rivers. My work focuses on the region surrounding the Usumacinta-Lacantún River confluence, which forms a floodplain region likely associated with the poorly understood Classic period (250–850 CE) kingdom of Lakamtuun, the likely origin for the modern name of the nearby river. This landscape offered opportunities and challenges for communities to cope with environmental risk through settlement choice, landscape modification, political cycling, and ritual activity. In this presentation, I will contextualize my current research concerning how indigenous knowledge can inform understandings of resilience and sustainability to cope with socioenvironmental change and crisis, interests that I began to pursue as a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, with the support of the Kolb Society.

Bio: Whit Schroder is a 2019 Penn graduate from the Anthropology Department. His research focuses on historical and political ecology, emphasizing the reciprocal dynamics between people and the environment, and using remote sensing technologies to document and interpret landscapes. His dissertation, entitled “Community Resilience Through Crisis at El Infiernito, Chiapas, A Fortified Refuge in the Upper Usumacinta Valley” examined an archaeological community providing a glimpse into the Maya transition from the Terminal Classic to Early Postclassic periods. Whit, who recently held a Postdoctoral Associate position, has just been made an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Florida. He has numerous co-authored articles in 2022 and 2023, the latest, “Google Earth Engine for Archaeologists: An Updated Look at the Progress and Promise of Remotely Sensed Big Data” in Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports and “Does the Past Influence the Present or the Future? Deep Time, Land Use, and Remote Sensing in Southern Mexico” in Journal of Digital Landscape Architecture, published this year. He is first author on the article “Regional household variation and inequality across the Maya landscape” just published this week in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. He currently directs the Proyecto Arqueológico Bajo Lacantún (Lower Lacantún Archaeological Project) in southeastern Chiapas, Mexico.

4:15 pm: KOLB SOCIETY ROUNDTABLE Holly Pittman, Moderator

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Meeting ID: 918 8689 5323

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