Current Research

Megan Daniels, Ph.D., Classical Archaeology

Book Project: "The Queen of Heaven and a Goddess for All the People: Models of Kingship between Greece and the Near East"

In his monograph, Kingship: The Politics of Enchantment, Francis Oakley starkly reminds us that “it has been kingship and not more consensual governmental forms that has dominated the institutional landscape of what we today would call political life.” (2006: 4). My current monograph project, stemming from my 2016 PhD dissertation (Stanford University), explores this axiom in relation to the Greeks ca. 800 to 500 BCE, whose history is largely overshadowed by the scholarly focus on the more egalitarian governments that emerged in this period. This monograph traces the evolution of the ideologies of divine kingship within the cultural groups of western Asia and the eastern Mediterranean across the Late Bronze and Iron Ages through textual and material sources concerning the worship of deities known as the Queen of Heaven. Using a range of case studies to understand the shifting meanings of these deities and their relation to kingship, I argue that the Iron Age Greeks, even as they experimented with novel egalitarian forms of rule, engaged with and transformed discourses of divine kingship through mythical and ritual practices that critiqued and reoriented human beings’ relationships with the gods. Through this monograph, I argue for a long-term historical and large-scale geographical approach to understanding how the Greeks in the Iron Age/Archaic period (ca. 1100-500 BCE) interfaced with and transformed longstanding ideas about divine sovereignty, particularly in the formative periods of city-state development.

Scarce Data and Big Histories: Religious Practice as Proxy for Socio-Economic Change in the Iron Age Mediterranean (1000-500 BCE)

This research project, currently in the development phases, analyses religion’s role in socio-economic change in the Iron Age Mediterranean (ca. 900-500 BCE) through quantifying and visualizing trends in religious dedications from sanctuaries. It forms a case study in the final chapter of my current monograph project (see above), and serves as a pilot study for a larger project, currently in preparation for ARC funding. This project aggregates data on votive patterning housed in excavation reports of large, cross-cultural eastern Mediterranean sanctuaries into digital formats to compare trends in wealth investment, ideology, and social change in Iron Age Greece. Using quantification and visualization of fragmented data, it develops theories concerning religion’s role in the social and commercial activities that arguably spurred one of the most prosperous periods in pre-modern history (ca. 800 BCE-200 CE).

Along with this project is a co-edited volume with Sandra Blakely (Emory), currently in preparation and under contract with Lockwood Press entited Data Science, Human Science, and Ancient Gods: Conversations in Theory and Method, which stems from two panels held in 2017 and 2018 at the Archaeological Institute of America Annual Meeting, which explored social sciences approaches to ancient religion (2017) and data science approaches (2018).

The Zita Project in the Anthropology, Archaeology, and Ethnography of Southern Tunisia

The Zita Project focuses on survey and excavation of an urban mound in southern Tunisia near the modern city of Zarzis, on an ancient trade route from Carthage to Tripoli. The site contains a Roman forum as well as a Carthaginian tophet. Investigations of these two areas commenced in August 2013. During the 2013-2015 field seasons, I assisted in excavations of the tophet and sorting and dating pottery from systematic survey and excavations. I helped supervise students in a 2014 field school. I am now preparing co-written chapters on Chronology and Ceramic Seriation and the Tophet Excavations.

Homo Migrans: Modelling Migration and Mobility in the Archaeological Record

Human history is created, in large part, through movement: whether in short fits or gradual developments, as a singular event or in multiple stages, the story of our origins is one of dispersal, displacement, and diaspora. Yet this story is dauntingly complex. To quote Timothy Earle and Clive Gamble (“Migration” in Deep History, 2011: 192): “Even with the first settlement of regions, new migrations continued often at even greater rates, displacing earlier settlers, forcing removals and relocations, creating regional movements of marriage partners and workers, funnelling vast populations through colonial and postcolonial global economies, and creating diverse, intermingled diasporas.” This whirlwind explanation, encompassing prehistory to modern-day, captures well the blurriness not only of migrations themselves, but also their concomitant causes and effects. Certainly the matter of migration and its hard-to-predict consequences is on the minds of modern governments worldwide given the political, social, and economic turmoil in multiple areas around the globe.

With its propensity to model and account for long-term social development, archaeology has much to offer to discourses on human mobility and migration, particularly when used alongside genetics, historical linguistics, paleoclimatology, and demographic modeling. Nowadays, the study of migration in human history is moving from serving as an explanatory tool to account for cultural change to a phenomenon worthy of study in itself, which involves characterizing the complex interweavings of local and global processes of movement with indigenous developments. Theoretical advances in the social sciences, such as social network theory, have further bolstered movements towards finding more dynamic models and sophisticated theories of human migration in the archaeological record.

The 11th IEMA Visiting Scholars Conference will bring together researchers working on human movements in the archaeological record, who are operating at differing scales and employing diverse methodologies, to discuss the most fruitful ways to advance the study of mobility and migration. This conference will focus on how we study human mobility holistically, from scientific and computational approaches, to texts and objects, to landscapes and environments. Above all, it aims to suggest new methods for integrating these various scales and methodologies, utilizing the unique backdrops of the Mediterranean and European worlds, to produce robust studies that can enable theorizing comparisons on migration and mobility across time and space.

Accompanying this conference will be a 2018 Spring Semester graduate seminar, as well as an edited volume through SUNY Press.

Past Research

Burgaz Harbors Project

The Burgaz Harbors Project is run by Elizabeth Greene (Brock University) and Justin Leidwanger (Stanford University) in collaboration with Numan Tuna (Middle East Technical University - METU) and the Institute of Nautical Archaeology. The METU team has been conducting excavations of the terrestrial site of Burgaz (thought to be the early settlement of Knidos) since 1993, uncovering evidence of occupation from the Geometric to the early Hellenistic periods. Since 2011, exploration and excavation of the harbour complexes has taken place, with one of the primary goals being to understand the integration of the town within its local, regional, and interregional maritime economies.
My work at Burgaz includes managing all of the incoming finds from their desalinization to drying, sorting, and cataloguing, to photography and drawing. Additionally, I conduct finer-grained examinations of pottery focusing on distinguishing fabric groups through visual and XRF analyses. I developed a reference collection from our assemblages of different local fabrics which will aid us in sorting incoming finds according to fabric groups and allow for quantification to understand the relative ratios of local to imported fabrics at Burgaz. Furthermore, I worked with a Bruker portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) machine to measure and record the elemental profiles of the various fabric groups. This will allow us to test the accuracy of visible identifications and to build up a “library”, so to speak, of chemical profiles of local fabrics. Overall, such analyses will contribute assessing the changing maritime connections of an Aegean harbor settlement at the local, regional, and interregional scales.