Ted Peña joins the Department as Professor of Archaeology

October 7, 2009

As of July 1, 2009, J. Theodore (Ted) Peña joined the Classics Department as Professor of Archaeology.  Peña received his PhD from the Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology at the University of Michigan, and has taught for the last twenty-four years in the SUNY system in New York.  He is the author of two books and co-editor of a third, as well as author of more than twenty substantial articles.

Perhaps the best way to describe Peña’s larger project is that he is putting the people back into the ancient pottery record, where they are too often still sadly invisible or ignored. Thus his first book, The Urban Economy during the Early Dominate: Pottery Evidence from the Palatine Hill (British Archaeological Reports, 1999) provides a virtuoso treatment of the ceramic evidence and addresses itself to a critical but largely neglected period in the economic history of the Roman empire (ca. 290-315 CE). The principal conclusions have to do with the provenience of the various ceramic wares collected on the Palatine, shedding important light on empire-wide patterns of trade and resource distribution.

With his second book, Roman Pottery in the Archaeological Record (Cambridge University Press, 2007), Peña raised the discourse within the entire field of ceramics studies to a whole new level.  Roman Pottery provides a highly innovative account of what can and should be done to read the pottery deposition record contextually, framing a general model of the life cycle of pottery from manufacture through several potential stages of use and reuse, eventual destruction and discard, followed often by reclamation or post-use function. Peña thereby reshapes the entire approach to ceramics—too often restricted merely to issues of style and stratigraphy within Classical Archaeology—and develops a complex and flexible model to get at issues of human agency, economics, circulation, and use patterns, as these impact the material record. Peña’s study has already made a substantial impact in studies of different cultures throughout the Mediterranean because he presents a model for the formation of the archaeological record adaptable far beyond the Roman context to almost any place and time.  Evidence of the tremendous importance and impact of the book is the fact that Mark Lawall of the University of Manitoba and John Lund of the National Museum of Denmark organized a three-day international conference on Peña’s book at the Danish Archaeological Institute in Athens in summer 2008, with Peña himself as the keynote speaker.

In the field, Peña had been involved in excavations at Statonia and the East slope of the Palatine Hill in Rome, where he is responsible for the study and publication of ca. 20 metric tons of Roman pottery. He is already planning a new project to assess the refuse of Pompeii for what it can reveal to us about social interactions, economics, trade, and other exchange patterns in early Imperial Italy.

To the Classics Department and AHMA, Peña thus brings an extraordinary range of expertise including the archaeology of Roman and pre-Roman Italy, economic history and archaeology, material culture studies, and anthropological archaeological methods and theory—all welcome and exciting new directions for our programs and students!  Peña has hit the ground running at Berkeley, teaching this semester a freshman seminar on the history of Rome and a graduate Seminar on Ancient Ostia.