Tag Archive for Lauren Caldwell

Students Catalog Roman Gems during Museum Internship

Margot Metz '18 holds a tiny intaglio gem from the early Roman Empire that appears to be made of carnelian or sard, and depicts an athlete holding a strigil (a tool for scraping oil and sweat from the skin during exercise). Metz, Maria Ma '17 and Emma Graham '19 spent four weeks this summer cataloging about 200 gems during an internship at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford. 

Margot Metz ’18 examines a tiny intaglio gem from the early Roman Empire that appears to be made of carnelian or sard, and depicts an athlete holding a strigil (a tool for scraping oil and sweat from the skin during exercise). Metz, Maria Ma ’17 and Emma Graham ’19 spent four weeks this summer cataloging about 200 gems during an internship at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford. An intaglio is made by grinding material below the surface of the gem, leaving an inverse image.

During the Roman Empire, the art of gem carving or intaglio provided a way to characterize one’s self, family or acquaintances.

This summer, three Wesleyan students with an interest in classical studies worked with a Roman intaglio collection previously owned by J. Pierpont Morgan (father of J.P. Morgan) at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford.

As interns, Maria Ma ’17, Margot Metz ’18, and Emma Graham ’19 collaborated on documenting and cataloging about 200 intaglio gems, which made the collection accessible to a wider audience of scholars and museum visitors. The gems were hidden from public view for decades.

The student researchers determined this Roman intaglio (at right) pictured Ajax carrying Achilles over his shoulder. An arrow is sticking out from the top of Achilles' foot. By using The Handbook of Engraved Gems by C. W. King, the students were able to find an illustration of a similar gem. "This is how we came to the conclusion that it is Ajax carrying Achilles," Margot Metz said. 

The student researchers determined this Roman intaglio (at right) pictured Ajax carrying Achilles over his shoulder. An arrow is sticking out from the top of Achilles’ foot. By using The Handbook of Engraved Gems by C. W. King, the students were able to find an illustration of a similar gem. “This is how we came to the conclusion that it is Ajax carrying Achilles,” Margot Metz said.

“It’s so exciting that our students had the opportunity to work in the local community and to employ what they know about Greek and Roman antiquity in a partnership with a wonderful museum like the Wadsworth Atheneum,” said Lauren Caldwell, associate professor of classical studies.

Graham, a College of Letters major, felt the internship would perfectly combined her two intellectual passions: classics and art history.

“I have always been interested in how these two areas of study overlap and influence each other,” Graham said. “Also, I have always been a great lover of museums and I was interested in what goes on behind the scenes at a museum.”

The students would frequent the museum three days a week for about six hours a day. During their time, they documented the gems’ measurements, material and imagery.

“The subject matter of the gem determined how long we spent on each one. For example, we were able to identify animals very quickly but other gems, such as badly weathered gems or gems with more complex imagery, took more much time,” Graham said.

In order to determine the symbolic meaning of each gem, the students worked together and consulted intaglio collections online owned by the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and The British Museum, as well as a huge collection of imprints of intaglio gems housed at Cornell University.

“We were able to personally work with every gem in the collection, which was truly an amazing experience,” Graham said.

Metz was interested in the internship because she wanted to explore another area of ancient civilization. “It was fascinating being able to apply what I had learned in the classroom at Wesleyan in a practical manner at the museum. We were able to identify generic figures as gods and goddesses, such as Neptune and Ceres, by using the objects they were pictured with in gems and comparing them to stories in mythology,” she said. 

The internship, which concluded June 23, was jointly supervised and organized by Wesleyan faculty and Atheneum staff including Caldwell; Clare Rogan, curator of the Davison Art Center; Linda Roth, the Charles C. and Eleanor Lamont Cunningham Curator of European Decorative Arts; and Johanna Miller, school and teacher programs specialist at the Wadsworth Atheneum. The Watson Squire Fund in the Department of Classical Studies supported the students’ room and board expenses. Students applied and interviewed for the internship through the Atheneum.

“The interns did a great job and their work will be entered into our database and made available to the public through our website,” Roth said. “There already is a small selection on view now in a gallery devoted to Art and Curiosity Cabinets.”

Children Learn about Greek Mythology through Student-Led WesMyth Program

MacDonough Elementary School students Norma, Aiden and Marrisaana proudly display their Greek gods and goddesses during the WesMyth program, taught by Wesleyan student volunteers Sarah McCully '16 and Jack Spira '16. 

MacDonough Elementary School students Norma, Aiden and Marrisaana proudly display their Greek gods and goddesses during the WesMyth program, taught by Wesleyan student volunteers Sarah McCully ’16 and Jack Spira ’16. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

“Bubbletrapper” is the goddess of bubblegum and is always nice — except to bad guys.

“Bubblegum is her weapon,” said Marrisaana, a fifth grader at MacDonough Elementary School in Middletown. “When she’s mad, she traps bad guys in a bubble.”

5th grader Aiden shows off his mystical god, "Lione."

5th grader Aiden shows off his mystical god, “Lione.”

On Feb. 19, Marrisaana and four other classmates participated in Wesleyan’s WesMyth program, which provides fifth graders at McDonough with an introduction to Greek mythology. The program, taught by Wesleyan student volunteers, is held for one hour every week throughout the academic year.

On this particular day, the WesMyth participants created their own Greek gods and goddesses based on mythical creatures they’ve studied in weeks past.

“What will you name your god or goddess? What powers will he have? What will his personality be like? Would he be friends with Aphrodite?” asked WesMyth volunteer Sarah McCully ’16.

Fifth grader Aiden sketched a god named “Lione” who is half lion and half human. “Lione is the god of lightning, fire and nature. He’s cruel and likes to destroy things,” Aiden explained.

In New Book, Caldwell Investigates Roman Girlhood and the Fashioning of Femininity

Lauren Caldwell, assistant professor of classical studies, is the author of a new book titled Roman Girlhood and the Fashioning of Femininity, published by Cambridge University Press in December 2014.

Elite women in the Roman world were often educated, socially prominent, and even relatively independent. Yet the social regime that ushered these same women into marriage and childbearing at an early age was remarkably restrictive. In the first book-length study of girlhood in the early Roman Empire, Caldwell investigates the reasons for this paradox. Through an examination of literary, legal, medical and epigraphic sources, she identifies the social pressures that tended to overwhelm concerns about girls’ individual health and well-being. In demonstrating how early marriage was driven by a variety of concerns, including the value placed on premarital virginity and paternal authority, this book enhances an understanding of the position of girls as they made the transition from childhood to womanhood.

Caldwell Presents Paper on Paternal Authority at Conference in France

Lauren Caldwell, assistant professor of classical studies, presented a paper on rhetoric and paternal authority in the Roman Empire at the conference “Lire la déclamation latine,” Feb. 14  at Université Paris IV – Sorbonne. She also gave a lecture on Roman ideas about justice and natural growth at “Ancient Law, Ancient Society: A Conference in Honor of Bruce W. Frier,” Oct. 26, 2013 at the University of Michigan.

Caldwell’s Op-Ed: Akin Uses Science of Ancient Romans

In an Aug. 24 op-ed for The Hartford Courant, Lauren Caldwell, assistant professor of classical studies, says that U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin’s reference to women being able to consciously prevent conception during rape is relying on “facts” presented by the ancient Roman physician Soranus of Ephesus in the Second Century, A.D. Caldwell also says, “The next time I teach my course, I will be able to bring in the example of Rep. Akin to illustrate the ways in which ‘medical understanding’ continues to be used with the aim of social control,” which was also an objective of Roman rulers in the second century.

Caldwell Receives Grant from U.S. Department of Education

Lauren Caldwell

Lauren Caldwell

Lauren Caldwell, assistant professor of classical studies, received a faculty grant for course development in Middle Eastern Studies from the Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program of the U.S. Department of Education. Caldwell, whose research specialties include Greco-Roman medicine, used the grant for summer travel to the Wellcome Library for the History of Medicine, in London, England, and to Cambridge University.

The grant allowed Caldwell to consult the Wellcome Library’s substantial collection of texts on ancient and medieval medicine. “The transmission of the writings of Galen, the most famous of Roman imperial physicians, into medical theory in Baghdad in the 8th and 9th centuries is a key moment in the Western medical tradition,” Caldwell says. “As a graduate student, I became interested in how many medical texts from the Roman Empire, originally written in Greek, were translated into Arabic in the medieval period. More generally, I have been eager to gain a better understanding of the overlap between the approaches of ancient and medieval physicians. The topic of translation–both of texts and of ideas–is one in which historians of antiquity are becoming increasingly interested.”

With the grant, Caldwell was able to take advantage of the resources at the world’s top research center for the history of medicine.

“Now I have a better sense of how medieval Islamic medicine can broaden my future research and teaching,” she says.

Caldwell plans to add a multi-week unit on medicine in the middle ages to her Classical Civilization course, Medicine and Health in Antiquity, and hopes to link the course to the Middle Eastern Studies program.