Rebecca Levitan Summer Dispatch: Polychromy in Athens

16 Aug, 2019

Rebecca Levitan Summer Dispatch: Polychromy in Athens

Each year, the Berkeley Center for New Media is thrilled to offer summer research awards to support our graduates in their cutting edge work. Below, Rebecca Levitan describes how she used the funds for fieldwork on polychromy in Athens.

Thanks to funding from the Berkeley Center for New Media, I was able to continue my fieldwork in Athens, Greece and lay the groundwork for two digital projects to be undertaken in the upcoming academic year. The first of these is systematic study of preserved polychromy on fragments of architectural sculpture of the 5th century. This initiative will be conducted as part of the larger research project on the High Relief Frieze from the Temple of Ares by Andrew Stewart. Preliminary attempts at scanning a sample of fragments from using Ultraviolet Fluorescence Imaging (UVF) and Visible-Induced Luminescence Imaging (VIL) show promising evidence of the presence of ancient pigments. Further calibration of this process using fragments with extensive preserved polychromy will be necessary.

I also began a study about a dozen examples of figural graffiti from the Agora, including depictions of mythological figures, portraits, and sculpture. Because this material does not fit neatly within the categories of scholarship present in the Agora Volumes (the graffiti are neither epigraphical/letterform nor are they statues themselves), this group of objects has never been subject to systematic study. However, recent studies of representational graffiti at other sites in the Roman world has been valuable in understanding later interpretations of classical monuments and changing use practices of public spaces. The figural graffiti from the Agora may be equally useful, and therefore deserve further attention. If funding allows, I hope to use Reflectance Transformation Imaging to document and analyze this ancient graffiti further in 2019-2020.