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On Thursday, May 12 at 6 pm ET, the AIA’s Student Affairs Interest Group (SAIG) and SCS’s Graduate Student Committee (GSC) will hold the 2022 SAIG/GSC Dissertation Lecture! This annual talk is a collaborative effort intended to highlight the work of a senior doctoral candidate whose research features interdisciplinary work between the fields of archaeology and Classical philology, and to support the student networks between these related fields.

Amanda Gaggioli, doctoral candidate at Stanford University and second SAIG/GSC Dissertation Lecturer, will present “Earthquakes and the Structuring of Greco-Roman Society: the longue durée of human-geological environment relationships in Helike, Greece.” This virtual talk integrates data from archaeology, history, and ancient languages with those from environmental sciences to discuss how earthquakes and other geological hazards affected human-ecological interactions in the ancient world. Full details are available below.

Earthquakes and the Structuring of Greco-Roman Society: the longue durée of human-geological environment relationships in Helike, Greece

Amanda Gaggioli, PhD Candidate, Department of Classics | Stanford Archaeology Center, Stanford University

May 12, 2022 | 6pm EST via Zoom

Registration is required at the following link:

Earthquakes have been linked with societal collapse in various places throughout the past, most notably in the eastern Mediterranean with the end of the Late Bronze Age (c. 1200 BCE) and the division and decline of the Roman Empire from the fourth to sixth centuries CE. Archaeological evidence of widespread destruction, complemented by an inflation of historical earthquake records for late Roman contexts, points to periods of higher seismicity coinciding with political and economic weakening and socio-cultural downturn. However, since ancient times, humans living with persistent earthquake hazards have demonstrated forms of resilience. I show how earthquakes traditionally perceived as ‘natural’ disasters are not ‘natural’ but social and a critical factor in political ecological relationships through the case of Helike, Greece from the third millennium BCE to fifth century CE.

New methods from geoarchaeology and soil micromorphology combined with evidence ranging from Greco-Roman perceptions on earthquakes in textual records combined with destruction, innovation, and invention in settlement architecture and soft sediment deformation structures (SSDS) in soil thin sections prove such ‘catastrophe’ theories to be either false or simplistic. The results expose the persistent factor of earthquakes and other geological hazards in the resilience and political ecology of human-environment relationships in the Greco-Roman society and culture.

The case of Helike demonstrates how factors of earthquakes and other geological hazards persistently shaped and were shaped by socio-cultural, economic, and political developments. The use of innovative methodological approaches and techniques to new types of data confronts catastrophe narratives and reveals a resilience and political ecology of human-earthquake relationships.