Archaia (formerly YISAP, the Yale Initiative for the Study of the Ancient and Premodern World) is a collaborative forum that brings together one of the largest groups of scholars in the world working on early civilizations. Scholars in the Humanities and Social Sciences join with those working in the Yale Divinity School, the Yale Law School, the collections and the university libraries. While admiring and encouraging traditional modes of work and traditional fields of scholarship, we build a new inter- and multi-disciplinary framework that redefines old disciplinary boundaries.
Very few programs anywhere bring together around the table in sustained dialogue literary scholars and archaeologists, art historians and cuneiformists, legal historians and anthropologists, papyrologists and numismatists. Via description, analysis, and comparison the Archaia collaboration allows for broader exposure to new ideas and methods that will stimulate new research agendas across disciplines encompassing the whole of the premodern world. We aim to enhance an already world class graduate education by exposing students early in their careers to a wider intellectual world, and to understand in new ways the value of antiquity, from the Mediterranean to Japan, and its rich cultural heritage for our own world.
Archaia, with its university-wide reach, is housed within Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and is generously funded by the FAS Dean’s Office, the MacMillan Center, the Departments of Classics and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and the Judaic Studies Program with additional support from the Departments of East Asian Languages and Literatures, History of Art, Religious Studies, Yale Divinity School, and the Yale University Art Gallery.
Mick Hunter Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures
Laura Nasrallah Buckingham Professor of New Testament Criticism and Interpretation
Steering Committee (2022-2023)
Maria Doerfler Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
Milette Gaifman Professor in the History of Art and Classics
Sonam Kachru Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
Denise Leidy Ruth and Bruce Dayton Curator of Asian Art; Head of the Department of Asian Art
Noel Lenski Professor of Classics and History
Susan Matheson Molly and Walter Bareiss Curator of Ancient Art, YUAG
Nadine Moeller Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Laura Nasrallah Buckingham Professor of New Testament Criticism and Interpretation
James Patterson Language Program Director for the Classics Department
Kevin van Bladel Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Literatures
Jacqueline Vayntrub Associate Professor of the Hebrew Bible at the Yale Divinity School
Molly Zahn Associate Professor of the Hebrew Bible at the Yale Divinite School
Participating Departments and Schools
East Asian Languages and Literatures
History of Art
Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Yale Divinity School
Department of Anthropology
Yale University Art Gallery
Yale Archaia Postdoctoral Program
Yale is currently searching for a new Archaia postdoctoral fellow. The appointment is for two years and the interfolio application link can be found at: http://apply.interfolio.com/121632.
Our past postdoctoral fellows are:
Anne Hunnell Chen (2020-2022), now assistant professor of Art History and Visual Culture at Bard College. In relation to her work at Yale, Prof. Chen received $350,000 by the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) to fund her project, the International (Digital) Dura-Europos Archive (IDEA), a digital archive of materials related to the archaeological site of Dura-Europos, Syria, a multicultural center of the ancient world that has been threatened in recent years by looting and conflict. With Lisa Brody of the Yale University Art Gallery, she was organizer of an international conference Dura Europos: Past, Present, and Future. She continues to be a Research Associate at Yale and co-teaches a Digital Humanities course with Prof. Holly Rushmeier, the subject of an article in the Yale News.
Carolyn Laferrière (2018-2020), now assistant curator of Mediterranean Art at the Princeton University Art Museum. While an Archaia postdoctoral fellow at Yale, Dr. Laferrière curated an exhibit in the Yale University Art Gallery titled Sights and Sounds of Ancient Ritual, which was on view at the Yale University Art Gallery from November 9, 2018 to March 3, 2019. The exhibition took a sensory approach to its investigation into ancient ritual practice by focusing upon objects that would have engaged the worshippers’ senses of sight and sound, since both visual and sonic modes of perception were routinely enhanced within religious ritual. Objects from cultures representative of the entire ancient world, including Mesoamerica, the Mediterranean, Egypt, the Near East, India, and Asia, were displayed, and the exhibition examined points of contact among ancient religious practices, examining how ancient cultures used visually and sonically evocative works of art to create powerful experiences of the sacred. The exhibit was reviewed in the Wall Street Journal, as well as other media venues.
Yale has unmatched material resources in its libraries and its collections. We list below a few of those most closely associated with Archaia, that will serve students as places of discovery and collaboration.
The Archaia library guide. The Yale University Library system provides unparalleled resources for the study of the ancient and premodern worlds all over the globe. In addition to comprehensive collections of secondary scholarship, Library collections include primary-source material ranging from cuneiform tablets to medieval and Renaissance manuscripts and early printed books. Several library departments curate such collections and can provide guidance for their access and use. Contact the Archaia library liaison, Colin McCaffrey.
The Center for Historical Enquiry & the Social Sciences (CHESS) concerns itself with the interplay between history and the present, in the belief that its work will lead to fresh solutions to seemingly intractable contemporary problems. Because the historical dimension of social life is seldom fully understood — and therefore not adequately addressed — significant theoretical developments have too often been foreclosed. We aim to change that. By forging analytical tools to systematically examine the historical constraints and possibilities confronting social actors, the Center expects to contribute to a fuller understanding of the range of possibilities for action inscribed in past and present.
Coins and medals (Yale University Art Gallery) Yale’s collection of coins and medals is among the University’s oldest, dating to the early years of the nineteenth century. By 1863 the holdings numbered some 3,000 items; two decades later the Greek and Roman portions alone totaled over 3, 200. The collection now comprises approximately 100,000 pieces and is by far the largest assemblage at any American university.
The Council on Archaeological Studies at Yale The interdepartmental Council on Archaeological Studies is composed of faculty from a broad range of disciplines, including Anthropology, Classics, Geology and Geophysics, and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. The council aims to give students a solid background in both practical and theoretical aspects of the field of archaeology.
GIS at Yale University GIS is used for many purposes that range from calculating space, analyzing spatial relationships, patterns or trends, to cartography, visualization, and site management. The Yale University Library Map Department GIS Service provides a comprehensive service that covers geospatial data searching, acquisition, data manipulation, instruction, software access, distribution, and output.
The Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, established by a transformational gift from Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin ’78, is dedicated to improving the science and practice of art conservation around the world through the use of digital and other technologies. Among other things, the Institute works closely with Yale’s Digital Collections Center to sponsor and facilitate research.
Judaica Yale has a long and rich tradition in the study of Jewish religion, history, and thought dating back to Yale’s founding, when Hebrew language was a required course of study. Now, with an undergraduate major in Judaic Studies, and a graduate program training future academic leaders, the study of Jewish life and thought is thoroughly integrated into the University’s offerings in the Humanities.
Peabody Museum Yale University’s earliest museum collection, begun in the 18th century, was a miscellaneous assortment of “natural and artificial curiosities” from around the world typical of college collections of the time. The Peabody acquired its first collection of Egyptian antiquities in 1888. Since then the collection has grown considerably, until these holdings in the Division of Anthropology are among the oldest and most extensive of university collections of Egyptian artifacts in the United States. The Anthropology collections and Archives will be of particular interest to Archaia scholars.
University Art Gallery Yale’s art from the premodern world comprises over 13,000 objects from the Near East, Egypt, Greece, Etruria, and Rome that range in date from the Neolithic through the early Byzantine periods. With approximately 6,500 objects, the Gallery’s Department of Asian art encompasses the regions of East Asia (China, Korea, and Japan), continental Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Islamic-era Near East, while the Gallery holds thousands more objects representing Ancient American and Indo-Pacific cultures.
Yale Babylonian Collection Founded in 1909 by a gift from J. Pierpont Morgan, the Yale Babylonian Collection is the largest collection of documents, seals, and other artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia in the United States, and one of the leading collections of cuneiform tablets in the world.
Yale Egyptological Institute Under the aegis of the Yale Egyptological Institute in Egypt, funded by the William K. and Marilyn M. Simpson Endowment for Egyptology, Yale currently has three archaeological projects in Egypt. The concession of the Theban Desert Road Survey (TDRS)/Yale Toshka Desert Survey (YTDS) encompasses much of the desert region between the northern edge of the Qena Bend, extending west to Kharga Oasis and south to Dunqul Oasis and the region of Aniba.
Yale Monastic Archaeology Project (YMAP) The project is organized under the executive direction of Stephen J. Davis. YMAP currently sponsors work at two centers of early Christian monasticism: the White Monastery near the town of Sohag, and the Monastery of St. John the Little in the Wadi al-Natrun. The White Monastery project involves excavation and analysis of monastic remains; restoration and conservation of wall paintings; and architectural documentation of the main church, led by Bentley Layton. The Wadi al-Natrun project has conducted excavations of a monastic midden and a large mud-brick residence, as well as archaeological surveys of almost one hundred other structures, including a central church.
The Yale Papyrus Collection at the Beinecke The Yale Papyrus Collection has formed gradually over the years since 1889, when it was founded. Many of the acquisitions consisted of unsorted fragments of manuscripts, and almost every item was in need of considerable conservation work.
Archaia: Yale Program for the Study of Ancient and Premodern Cultures and Societies
Keith Geriak (Senior Administrative Assistant)
55 Whitney Avenue
New Haven, CT 06510