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Professor Jennifer Trimble (Stanford) "Looking at Roman Slave Collars" at Stanford Archaeology Center

Prof. Jennifer Trimble is presenting her current research, "Looking at Roman Slave Collars," at the Stanford Archaeology Center on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:15pm. Refreshments served at 5:00pm.

This lecture is free and open to the public. The Archaeology Center is in Building 500.

Roman slave collars are direct evidence of the workings and experience of ancient slavery, but the material we have is powerfully mediated by a long modern history of scholarship. Starting in the late 16th century, Roman slave collars were collected as material objects but published as Latin inscriptions; antiquarian scholarship ultimately produced a dematerialized set of texts, a ghostly corpus. 20th century histories of Roman slavery strongly rejected the antiquarian tradition, but in so doing, also sidelined that tradition's serious engagement with the material record of the past. For slave collars as for other material evidence, this modern history of scholarship has helped produce the current debate about what, if anything, archaeology can contribute to our understanding of ancient slavery. This paper is in part a response to that question. I propose a different way of looking at Roman slave collars, employing a two-pronged approach. First, I foreground the very different interests and experiences of the people involved, including the slave-owners who imposed the collars, the viewers and readers who saw and responded to them, and the slaves who were forced to wear them. Second, I emphasize the visual operations of these collars and the ways in which that visuality was closely linked to practices of apprehension, literacy and violence. Approaching Roman slave collars in this way helps us better to understand the experiences and practices these objects activated. In turn, this has broader implications for the visual culture of Roman slavery.