Pompeii in the 21st Century Talk May 4

I am pretty excited to announce that Prof. Eric Poehler will visit campus on May 4th and give a talk entitled: “Pompeii in the 21st Century”.  The talk will be in the East Asia Room of the Chester Fritz Library at 6 pm in the evening.

Here’s an abstract for his talk:

How does one ask a novel question about a site that has been studied, nearly continuously for over 250 years? How does one come to new realizations when almost all new excavation is not permitted? This is the challenge for Pompeian scholars in the 21st century, finding what the great minds of the past overlooked without being able to add large sets of new evidence. Paradoxically, a solution has been propelled by the moratorium on excavation into the areas still buried by ash of Vesuvius. Unable to discover new parts of the city, archaeologists turned to examine those parts already uncovered in both greater detail and in a wider context. They have found a goldmine of information about Roman urbanism and municipal administration generally as well as the particular (and peculiar) history of Pompeii’s development from the earliest, scant traces in the Bronze Age to its destruction in AD 79 and even beyond to the city’s rediscovery in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The resurgence in Pompeian studies in the last 20 years has not merely benefited from the birth of the information age, it has embraced it often at a deep methodological level. Pioneering works of the 1990s set the stage for a statistical approach to the vast and untapped urban dataset, driving a new paradigm in historical argument about the site. Since 2000, the explosion of personal computing power – especially in commercial statistical, database, and spatial tools – has expanded the ways we approach these questions from counting and cataloging aspects of the urban fabric to using the space of the city itself to derive new visualizations, new queries and new syntheses. The 2011 season of the Pompeii Quadriporticus Project will wholy replace the trowel, drawing board and tape measure with the iPad, photogrammetry, and Geographical Information Systems software. Within 10 years these tools will also put entire libraries of reference material at our fingertips while inside the ancient city, dissolving the the distinction between fieldwork and library work.


Professor Poehler teaches at the University of Massachusetts but has local roots. He did his undergraduate work at Bemidji State University before heading to the University of Chicago and then University of Virginia for his Ph.D.  I’ve had the pleasure of working with Eric at the site of Isthmia in Greece where he and a team from the University of Cincinnati are working to reconstruct the mysterious and confusing East Field.  He’s one of the up and coming stars in the field of Mediterranean Archaeology.

His visit to campus is sponsored by Department of History, the Cyprus Research Fund, and the Working Group in Digital and New Media.

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