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Astrid Van Oyen

Assistant Professor

Goldwin Smith Hall

av475@cornell.edu

Overview

Astrid Van Oyen is a Roman archaeologist with a special interest in material culture, which she explores both empirically and theoretically. She has worked on material sources as varied as terra sigillata pottery in France, grain silos in Spain, and Vesuvian houses in Italy, and has written about questions of postcolonial archaeology, material agency, typology, and morality. She joined Cornell in 2016 after holding a Junior Research Fellowship at Homerton College, University of Cambridge.

Astrid is currently co-editing Materializing Roman Histories with Martin Pitts (University of Exeter), a volume that scrutinizes how Roman archaeology marries the detail of artefact studies with big historical narratives. She is PI of the Marzuolo Archaeological Project – in collaboration with Gijs Tol (University of Melbourne) and Rhodora Vennarucci (University of Arkansas) – excavating the multi-craft rural site of Marzuolo (Tuscany, Italy) to explore innovation and craftsmanship in a rural community. Her new book project extends the topic of innovation in the Roman Empire from the bottom-up perspective of material culture.  

Departments/Programs

  • Classics

Research

Astrid Van Oyen’s research seeks to change the way material culture is used in historical narratives, in particular in relation to the economy and society of the Roman Empire. Her first monograph, How Things Make History. The Roman Empire and Its Terra Sigillata Pottery (Amsterdam University Press, 2016), re-evaluated Roman archaeology’s most emblematic artefact category: the omnipresent bright red terra sigillata pots. It traced how standardized terra sigillata pottery became a category – the ‘Coca Cola’ of the Roman world – and how this created particular consequences for its trade and consumption.

Terra sigillata pottery will continue to be of interest to Astrid as she directs the excavation of an as yet unknown rural production site in the Marzuolo Archaeological Project, in collaboration with Gijs Tol (University of Melbourne) and Rhodora Vennarucci (University of Arkansas). The fieldwork component opens up questions on product innovation that Astrid will explore in a wider cross-craft setting in her new book project. 

Astrid’s recent focus has been on storage in a selection of imperial Roman contexts, as a point of joint redefinition of objects and their social relations. This analytical entry point has led to novel observations on Italian villas and elite morality (JRA), time and imperialism, and household organisation. In addition, she is co-editing Materializing Roman Histories (Oxbow) with Martin Pitts (University of Exeter), a volume that scrutinizes how Roman archaeology marries the detail of artefact studies with big historical narratives.

Astrid’s research has been supported by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Homerton College, a Cambridge Humanities Research Grant, and a Cotsen Excavation Grant from the Archaeological Institute of America. Her PhD dissertation (Cambridge, 2013) has won the Hare Prize. 

For more information, see Astrid’s personal webpage at https://cornell.academia.edu/AstridVanOyen.

 

Courses

Publications

Books:

  • How Things Make History. The Roman Empire and its Terra Sigillata Pottery.  Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. 2016

Edited volume:

  • Materializing Roman Histories: Beyond Instrumentalism and Representation.  Ed. with Pitts, Martin.  Oxford: Oxbow. 2017

Academic Articles:

  • Historicising material agency: from relations to relational constellations.  Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory.  23:354-378. 2016
  • Actor-Network Theory’s take on archaeological types: becoming, material agency, and historical explanation.  Cambridge Archaeological Journal.  25:63-78. 2015
  • Deconstructing and reassembling the Romanization debate through the lens of postcolonial theory: from global to local and back?,  Terra Incognita.  5:205-226. 2015
  • The Roman city as articulated through terra sigillata.  Oxford Journal of Archaeology.  34:279-299. 2015
  • The moral architecture of villa storage in Italy in the 1st c. B.C..  Journal of Roman Archaeology.  28:97-124. 2015

Chapters:

  • Networks or work-nets? Actor-Network Theory and multiple social topologies in the production of Roman terra sigillata.  The Connected Past. Network Studies in Archaeology and History. Ed. Brughmans, Tom.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press. 35-56. 2016
  • Knowledge systems in the production of terra sigillata. Moving beyond the local/global paradox.  TRAC 2011. Proceedings of the Twenty First Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference, Newcastle 2011. Ed. Duggan, M.  Oxford: Oxbow. 2012

Reviews:

  • Globalisation and material culture: the road ahead, review of M. Pitts and M.J. Versluys (eds) (2015) Globalisation and the Roman World. World History, Connectivity, and Material Culture, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Journal of Roman Archaeology 28, 641-646. 2015
  • Review of C. Orton and M. Hughes (2013) Pottery in Archaeology. Second Edition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Journal of Roman Studies 104, 261-262. 2014
  • Review of C. Knappett (2011) An Archaeology of Interaction. Network Perspectives on Material Culture and Society, Oxford: Oxford University Press, Archaeological Review from Cambridge 27 (2), 220-228. 2012

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