ROM Ideas: Ancient Cultures

Posted: May 2, 2014 - 14:30 , by Amanda Girgis
ROM Ideas

To let you in on the latest insights and discoveries from behind the scenes, ROM Ideas, formerly the ROM Colloquium invites its patrons to step into the realm of ROM researchers, technicians, and other experts who perform ground-breaking work in our labs, collections areas, and at field sites all around the world.  This free two-day event (May 3rd & 4th) highlights the latest global discoveries and ongoing research within each of our eight Centres of Discovery, delivered in TEDx-style 12-15 minute talks. The eight centers work collaboratively to capture the ever-changing natural and cultural worlds we live in, and to help you, our audience, understand these changes. Each Centre is animated by collections and research staff, programmers, educators and other experts who create memorable visitor experiences and build partnerships across communities.

Explore civilizations of the past with ROM Ancient Cultures, featured this Sunday, May 4th at ROM Ideas. From our early human ancestors in China to the technological innovations of Mesopotamia to the global economy of ancient Rome, ancient cultures help us understand the diversity of human experience. ROM Ancient Cultures staff work all around the world—and right here at the museum—to learn more about life in the past and its relevance today. Here’s a sneak peak of what you’ll hear at ROM Ideas:

How do curators use the ROM’s collections in their research?

Rae Ostman, Managing Director, ROM Ancient Cultures: Some of the objects in our collections came from previous fieldwork campaigns by ROM archaeologists. For example, David Pendergast excavated the famous Maya site of Altun Ha in the 1960s, and objects from that work are included in our New World Archaeology collections. Dr. Pendergast will share his experiences excavating in the tropics during ROM Ideas.

The ROM has an excellent collection of Ontario archaeological material, which has been studied both by ROM researchers and visiting scholars from other institutions. During the ROM Canada session of ROM Ideas, Peter Storck will reflect on his career in Ontario archaeology.

Our galleries feature objects excavated or collected by ROM researchers. For example, during ROM Ideas Krzystof Grzymski will be presenting a new interpretation of a mysterious object his team excavated in Meroe, Sudan, which is now on display in our Galleries of Africa: Nubia.

ROM curators also use the objects in our collections to create special exhibitions. Clemens Reichel drew on the ROM’s Mesopotamian collections when he curated Mesopotamia: Inventing Our World in 2013. During ROM Ideas, Dr. Reichel will discuss his archaeological research in Iraq and Syria.

What type of work do Ancient Cultures researchers do in ROM laboratories?

Rae Ostman, Managing Director, ROM Ancient Cultures: Chen Shen examines ancient stone tools in the ROM’s collections to learn about life in the past. Sometimes, for example, he looks at microscopic patterns of wear to find out how tools were used. During ROM Ideas, Dr. Shen will discuss human evolution in East Asia.

Another interesting example is Robert Mason’s research on ancient pottery. Dr. Mason uses petrographic analysis to identify mineral inclusions in the clay, which allows him to identify where pottery was made. Dr. Mason is presenting his research on Persian pottery during the World Art & Culture session of ROM Ideas.

What are ROM curators learning about how ancient cultures are relevant today?

Rae Ostman, Managing Director, ROM Ancient Cultures: Justin Jennings studies early states in the ancient Andes. He has argued that globalization is not a modern phenomenon, but is actually a recurring event in history. Early cities, such as those of the Wari civilization in Peru (where Dr. Jennings does his research), greatly transformed life by creating long-distance exchange of ideas, peoples, and goods—much as modern cities such as Toronto do today. Studying the new cultures that emerged out of globalization in the past can also inform our understanding of current events. Dr. Jennings will be presenting his research on early empires at ROM Ideas