“The Sensoaesthetic Aspect of Ancient Materials” is a workshop organized by Maria Gerolemou (A. G. Leventis Research Associate, University of Exeter) and Thilo Rehren (A.G. Leventis Professor for Archaeological Sciences, The Cyprus Institute). It will take place on July 1st and 2nd 2021.

Within archaeological and archaeometric discussions over the physical properties of ancient materials and production techniques what is often being excluded are the sensoaesthetic properties of materials. Yet those, which are the results of both a cultural as well as a physical activity, are of great importance. For instance, visual impressions of materials appear to be directly influenced by physical characteristics such as texture, colour, reflectivity, transparency etc. Acoustic impressions depend on material properties such as density, porosity, resilience, elasticity; even the smell of some materials has an effect on the way they are perceived by their users.

On the other hand, while experiences of sound, vision, touch and smell are explored in discussions about the agency of materials led, for instance, by art-materialists, the material’s physical properties are often not related to the role that their emotional, aesthetic and sensual aspects might play in a user-artefact interaction.

This workshop seeks to bridge this gap. By studying the sensoaesthetic aspect of ancient materials, it will explore the way specific experiences of materials could offer further knowledge over their physical properties. By examining how cultural and sensory experiences of a society allow aspects of the physical properties of materials to be appreciated, it will discuss choices of materials in relation to producer’s intentions, and, consequently, artefacts’ design, and the context of their use.

Programme (times are BST/GMT+1)

Day 1: 2-5.30

1st session: 2-3[Chair: Karen ní Mheallaigh (Johns Hopkins University)]

Welcoming (5 min): Tasso Leventis

Opening Remarks (10 min): Maria Gerolemou (Exeter)

1st Keynote Speaker (15 min): Marcos Martinon-Torres (Cambridge), Aromatic metals and fake colours: some thoughts from an archaeological scientist

Discussion (30 min)

15 min. Break

2nd Session: 3.15-4[Chair: Maria Gerolemou (Exeter)]

2nd Keynote speaker (15 min): Matteo Martelli (Bologna), Shadowy Copper and Shining Silver: Metallic Shades in Ancient Alchemy

3rd   Keynote speaker (15 min): Michael Given (Glasgow), Senses of connection: stone, mud, wood, dung

Response (15 min): Sturt Manning (Cornell)

15 min. Break


Discussion in break out rooms (30 min)

Plenary Discussion (45 min)

Registration 1st Day

Day 2: 2-5.30

1st Session: 2-2.45 [Chair: Consuelo Manetta (Exeter)]

4th Keynote Speaker (15 min): Carol Mattusch (George Mason University) Recycling Bronze Statues: Your Money or Your Life

5th Keynote Speaker (15 min): Nikolas Bakirtzis (The Cyprus Institute) Reused materials and aesthetic aspects of Byzantine Fortifications

Response (15 min): Martin Pitts (Exeter)

15 min. Break


Discussion in Break out rooms (30 min)

Plenary Discussion (45 min)

15 min. Break

2nd Session: 4.30-5.30 [Chair: Barbara Borg (Exeter)]

6th Keynote Speaker (15 min): Kenneth Lapatin (The Getty Museum) A pleasure not just for the eye: sensoaesthetic responses to ancient gems

Discussion (35 min)

Closing Remarks (10 min): Thilo Rehren (The Cyprus Institute)

Discussion leaders:

Mehmetcan Soyluoglu (The Cyprus Institute)

Meghna Desai (The Cyprus Institute)

Valentina Vassalo (The Cyprus Institute)

Antonia Clark (Exeter)

Joshua Werrett (Cambridge)

Jessica Plant (Cornell)

Registration 2nd Day

Registration is open until the 25th of June