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Sanja Vucetic

Sexuality and Gender in Roman Provinces: Creating Identities Through Sexual Representations on moulded lamps and fine tableware

My project is an investigation into the nature of visual representations of sexuality on terracotta mould-made lamps and mould-manufactured tableware from western and eastern parts of the Roman Empire. It will define regional and temporal patterns of pictorial representations of humans engaged in sexual acts and of myths that are suggestive in nature. Examining sexualities through the study of sexual imagery from different geographical regions will offer new perspectives on the shaping of regional sexual identities across the ancient Roman world, a highly neglected field of inquiry. The study will also generate greater awareness of the importance of sexual imagery found on everyday objects for the study of past cultures. In developing improved theoretical and methodological models, the study aims to demonstrate the value of systematic analyses of well-contextualised material to create social inferences in the context of Roman provincial sexuality formation.

My study involves systematic documentation of imagery from different regions of the Roman Empire, and the use of quantitative and qualitative analyses of the resulting dataset. Quantitative analyses will allow me to plot temporal and regional patterns of variation in pictorial representations of sexuality, whilst comprehensive iconographic and stylistic analyses will provide information regarding the nature of different types of scenes on the two media. Socio-anthropological theories will guide my interpretation of both quantitative and qualitative patterns. This will enable consideration of the symbolic meaning and social significance of these images, and define differences in regional Roman sexual identity formation and development.

The study will produce the first comprehensive catalogue of sexual imagery decorating lamps and fine tableware from selected sites across different Roman provinces, allowing access to previously unpublished material. It will introduce new theoretical perspectives and methodological rigour to the study of Roman sexuality. The findings will reaffirm the significance of imagery found on everyday objects in the study of key social aspects of past cultures. Fundamentally, this pioneering study will establish novel parameters and define new systematic and statistically valid approaches for the future inquiry into the formation of ancient Roman sexualities.

Funding organisation

  • UCL ORS

Supervisors

 Educational background

  • MA, Research Methods for Archaeology, UCL, UK 2012
  • MA, Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies, Deakin University, Australia 2008
  • BA, Classical Archaeology, University of Sydney, Australia 2006

Armstrong, F. and Vucetic, Sanja. In press. Conference Review: Sharing the field — Art in the Landscape and Landscape Archaeology. Papers of the Institute of Archaeology (PIA), UCL.

Vucetic, Sanja. 2014. Roman Sexuality or Roman Sexualities? Looking at Sexual Imagery on Roman Terracotta Mould-made Lamps. In TRAC 2013: Proceedings of the Twenty-Second Annual Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference, London 2013, eds. H. Platts, C. Barron, J. Lundock, J. Pearce, J. Yoo. Oxford: Oxbow. 140-158.

Conference presentation:

2013 ‘Sexual identity(ies) and Roman lamps: Exploring iconography of human sexual activity and mythological erotic pursuits on terracotta mould-made lamps’. Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference, King’s College, London, UK, April 5-6.

  • Roman lamp with sexual representation of ordinary size human figures’ (courtesy of Carole Raddato, 2014)
  • ‘Roman lamp with sexual representation of ordinary size human figures’ (courtesy of Carole Raddato, 2014)
  • ‘Roman lamp with sexual representation of dwarfs’ (courtesy of Carole Raddato, 2014)

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