Sheffield Aegean Round Table List

Archaeology & Homeric Epic

11th Annual Round Table, 19-21 January 2007
Organized by: John Bennet and Susan Sherratt

The relationship between the Homeric epics and archaeology has suffered mixed fortunes over the course of the last 130 years, swinging between fundamentalist attempts to use archaeology in order to demonstrate the essential historicity of the epics and their background at one extreme, and outright rejection of the idea that archaeology is capable of contributing anything at all to our understanding and appreciation of the epics at the other. In between stands the view that the Homeric epic can tell us nothing about society in Greece at any period. Although narrow questions of historicity, particularly in relation to the Homeric Trojan War theme, have been revived in recent years, to focus of this Round Table was on exploring a wide variety of other, perhaps sometimes more oblique, ways in which we can use archaeology, in combination with philology, anthropology and social history, to help offer insights into the epics, what they stood for, the context of their creation, and various aspects of their "prehistory". The effects of Homeric and other epics on the history and popular reception of archaeology, particularly in the last hundred years or so, is also a theme which may be worth exploring.

In order to structure our exploration of a large, potentially open-ended topic, the presentations were organised around three broad themes: Archaeologies of Homer, The Past in the Past: erasing the gap between pre-history and history, and Creating the Tradition: the production of epic. Within these larger themes some topics for discussion included such issues as the relationships between visual and verbal imagery and the role of these in reflecting or enhancing elements of ideology; the social contexts of epic or sub-epic creation; the roles of bards and their relationships to different types of patrons and audiences; the ability of story-patterns, ideological elements and linguistic formulae to cross linguistic and/or cultural boundaries in general, and Near Eastern contributions to Homeric epic in particular; the construction and uses of "history", as traceable through both epic and archaeology, and the nature of "historical memory", and its manipulation; linguistic and material-cultural stratigraphy, as detectable in epic; composition-in-performance of oral history, and its transmission and transformation; the relationship between "prehistoric" and "historical" periods; the history of "Homeric archaeology" and other epic archaeologies.


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Sheffield University Sheffield Centre for Aegean Archaeology is a Research Centre in the Department of Archaeology, University of Sheffield.

How to cite this page: Sheffield Centre for Aegean Archaeology,, Accessed: 22 May 2018