Karen B. Stern to Present “Graffiti and the Forgotten Jews of Antiquity” on Apr. 4, 2019

Karen Stern

On Thursday, April 4, Professor Karen B. Stern (Brooklyn College of CUNY) will present the Gene and Georgia Mittelman Lecture in Judaic Studies: "Graffiti and the Forgotten Jews of Antiquity." A kosher lunch will be provided.

The talk will be held from 12:30 - 1:30 pm in Werth Tower 112 and is free and open to the public. It is made possible by the UConn Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life, the Humanities Institute, the Anthropology Department, and the Department of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages. 

If you require an accommodation to participate, please contact Pamela Weathers at 860-486-2271 or pamela.weathers@uconn.edu.

About the Talk

Few direct clues exist to the everyday lives and beliefs of ordinary Jews in antiquity. Prevailing perspectives on ancient Jewish life have been shaped largely by the voices of intellectual and social elites, preserved in the writings of Philo and Josephus and the rabbinic texts of the Mishnah and Talmud. Commissioned art, architecture, and formal inscriptions displayed on tombs and synagogues equally reflect the sensibilities of their influential patrons. The perspectives and sentiments of non-elite Jews, by contrast, have mostly disappeared from the historical record. Yet just like their neighbors throughout the eastern and southern Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, Arabia, and Egypt, ancient Jews scribbled and drew graffiti everyplace—in and around markets, hippodromes, theaters, pagan temples, open cliffs, sanctuaries, and even inside burial caves and synagogues. In this talk, Prof. Stern reveals how these markings can tell us more than we might expect about the men and women who made them, people whose lives, beliefs, and behaviors eluded commemoration in grand literary and architectural works. Drawing analogies with modern graffiti practices, she documents the overlooked connections between Jews and their neighbors to shed new light on the richness of their quotidian lives and on how commonly popular Jewish practices of prayer, mortuary commemoration, commerce, and civic engagement crossed ethnic and religious boundaries.

About the Speaker

Karen B. Stern, Associate Professor of History at Brooklyn College of CUNY, conducts research across disciplines of archaeology, history, and religion and teaches courses on Mediterranean cultural history, visual history, and the material culture of Jews in the Greek and Roman worlds. She has conducted field research throughout the Mediterranean and has excavated in Petra (Jordan), Sepphoris (Israel), and ancient Pylos and the Athenian Agora (Greece). Having taught at Dartmouth College, USC, and Brown University, she has served as a research fellow of the NEH, Albright Institute of Archaeological Research (Jerusalem), and the Getty Villa. She is the author of Inscribing Devotion and Death: Archaeological Evidence for Jews in North Africa (Brill 2008) and Writing on the Wall: Graffiti and the Forgotten Jews of Antiquity (Princeton University Press, 2018). Multiple media outlets, including the Daily Beast, Atlas Obscura, NPR, Guardian, Ha'aretz, and Chinese CCTV, have featured her research.


map South Garage to Werth TowerWerth Tower is a short walk from South Parking Garage (2366 Jim Calhoun Way)*
• Exit the garage through the ground floor exit onto Jim Calhoun Way and cross Jim Calhoun Way toward Gampel Pavilion.
• Staying to the left of Gampel Pavilion, turn onto Gampel Service Drive.
• Turn left before the sports field, and walk up the ramp located at the end of the sidewalk.
• Peter J. Werth Residence Tower is located at the top of the ramp on the left.

*Due to construction on campus, South Parking Garage on Jim Calhoun Way can be accessed from Hillside Road or Alumni Drive. Separatist Road should not be used because a portion of Jim Calhoun Way is closed to traffic.

Click here for a printable PDF version of these directions