B A B E S C H Annual Papers on Mediterranean Archaeology
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The Board of the BABESCH Foundation presents

The ELEVEnth Annual Byvanck Lecture

held on Tuesday 28 NOVember 2017
at the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, The Netherlands

Professor Dr. Roger J. A. Wilson
'Dining with the dead in early Byzantine Sicily:
excavations at Punta Secca near Ragusa'

Punta Secca (Ragusa province) on the south coast of Sicily is a late Roman and early Byzantine village, partly excavated in the 1960s and 1970s and identified as the Kaukana of the ancient sources, where Belisarius set sail for the conquest of Africa in 533 AD.

This talk will describe a more recent excavation which focused on one building, a house, which examined in detail its building phases and the commercial contacts that its inhabitants enjoyed with other parts of Sicily – and indeed with the wider Mediterranean world. Finds include the earliest well-dated example in Europe of a thimble, and what is arguably the earliest depiction anywhere of a backgammon board.

The biggest surprise was the discovery of a substantial, built tomb placed in what was probably the yard of the house in the second quarter of the seventh century AD, and of evidence for associated feasting in honor of the deceased. Who was inside the tomb, and why did that person deserve this level of respect? What evidence was there for feasts, and what did they eat? Was it a pagan or a Christian burial? And what was the tomb doing here, in a domestic setting, rather than in the village cemetery, or indeed, if the deceased was Christian, in or near the settlement’s church?

These and other intriguing questions were addressed in this lecture, and the discovery set in the context of what else is known about such practices in late Roman and early Byzantine funerary culture.

Roger J. A. Wilson is Director of the Centre for the Study of Ancient Sicily at the University of British Columbia.

He has also been Professor of the Archaeology of the Roman Empire at the same university, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Nottingham, and Louis Claude Purser Associate Professor at the University of Dublin, where he was also a Fellow of Trinity College.

Recipient of the Killam Prize for Research in 2012 at UBC for his career-long contributions to scholarship, he has also been Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at the University of Bonn (1987/1989), Visiting Professor Classics at McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario) in 1998, Balsdon Senior Research Fellow at the British School of Rome (2001/2002), Charles Eliot Norton Lecturer for the Archaeological Institute of America (2007), and Guest Fellow at the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2012). In 2017 he gave the Dalrymple Lectures in Archaeology at the University of Glasgow.

He is a graduate of the University of Oxford, where he also studied for his DPhil. His research concerns mainly the Roman archaeology of the central Mediterranean, with a special emphasis on Sicily, but he has also written on Roman Britain and Roman Germany.

He has over 180 publications to his name, including the authorship or editorship of ten books, such as Guide to the Roman Remains in Britain (1975; 1980; 1988, 2002; fifth edition in preparation), Piazza Armerina (1983) and Sicily under the Roman Empire (1990).

His most recent book is Caddeddi on the Tellaro: a late Roman villa and its mosaics, published as a BABESCH Supplementary Volume in 2016.

He is currently excavating a Roman villa at Gerace, near Enna in the heart of Sicily.

Dr. Eric Moormann introduced the lecture and gave the opportunity for questions and discussion afterwards.

Thanks to the Byvanck Foundation this lecture has been published and handed out to the audience for free. A digital copy of the lecture can be downloaded for free here: download

Held for the first time in 2007, the Byvanck Lecture is the result of a generous donation from the bequest of the late Lily Byvanck-Quarles van Ufford, who has for many years been the driving force of our periodical BABESCH (formerly Bulletin Antieke Beschaving). The foundation set up in her name aims to further the scholarship of Archaeology and the quality of the publication she held so dear - in other words for the past to have a future, and so continue her work.

The subject of the Byvanck Lecture alternates each year between Greek and Roman.

The Byvanck Lecture is organised in conjunction with the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities, and thanks to the Byvanck Foundation the admission is free.

We look forward to sharing the past with you in the future.

Below we list all lectures from the first to the latest, but certainly not the last.

Lecture 1, held on October 26th 2007
Alexandros Mazarakis Ainian (University of Thessaly), ‘Inside the Adyton of a Greek Temple: Excavations at Kythnos’.

Lecture 2, held on December 15th 2008
Simon Keay (University of Southamton), ‘Rediscovering Portus: The Port of Imperial Rome’.

Lecture 3, held on November 24th 2009
Cemal Pulak (Texas A&M University), 'The Uluburun Shipwreck and Late Bronze Age Maritime Trade in the Eastern Mediterranean'.

Lecture 4, held on November 16th 2010
Andrew Wallace-Hadrill (University of Cambridge), ‘Herculaneum: Living with Catastrophe’.

Lecture 5, held on November 1st 2011
Maria Bonghi Jovino (Università degli Studi di Milano), ‘The Archaic Temples of the Etruscans’.

Lecture 6, held on November 20th 2012
Dyfri Williams (British Museum, London), ‘Up Close and Personal: A New View of the Parthenon’s East Pediment’.

Lecture 7, held on November 19th 2013
Susan Alcock (Brown University, Providence), ‘What to do with a Wonder of the World: The Puzzle of Jordan’.

Lecture 8, held on November 25th 2014
Lawrence Stager (Harvard University), ‘Rites of Spring in the Carthaginian Tophet’.
A short review of the lecture can be read here.
Thanks to the Byvanck Foundation this lecture has been published and handed out to the audience for free. A digital copy of the lecture can be downloaded for free here: download

Lecture 9, held on December 15th 2015
Olga Palagia (University of Athens), ‘The Impact of Alexander the Great on the Arts of Greece’.
Thanks to the Byvanck Foundation this lecture has been published and handed out to the audience for free. A digital copy of the lecture can be downloaded for free here: download

Lecture 10, held on November 29th 2016
Guy D. R. Sanders (American School of Classical Studies at Athens), ‘Recent Finds from Ancient Corinth: How Little Things Make Big Differences’.
A short review of the lecture can be read here.
Thanks to the Byvanck Foundation this lecture has been published and handed out to the audience for free. A digital copy of the lecture can be downloaded for free here: download


Lecture 11, held on November 28th 2017
R. J. A. Wilson (University of British Columbia), ‘Dining with the dead in early Byzantine Sicily: excavations at Punta Secca near Ragusa’.
Thanks to the Byvanck Foundation this lecture has been published and handed out to the audience for free. A digital copy of the lecture can be downloaded for free here: download