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Water after Antiquity: The Transformation of Roman Water Management in the Late Antique Eastern Mediterranean

Jordan Pickett, University of Pennsylvania, Junior Fellow 2013–2014

During my fellowship, I focused on my dissertation, which is concerned with the ideology and material practice of water management in the Eastern Mediterranean in Late Antiquity. Instead of engaging with the functionalist question of the survival or destruction of aqueducts and baths, my dissertation considers how monumental water architecture was a space for sociocultural conflict and change, in which a new palette of water supply and consumption options evolved over the course of several centuries, well before the seventh-century horizon for the survival of many Roman cities and water systems into the Middle Ages. These evolving systems reflected a changing society, and they were important components in a constellation of ideas pertaining to the relationship of the Byzantine Empire with nature, industry, and public health. The unparalleled resources of the library at Dumbarton Oaks allowed me to finish a critical survey of the archaeology of water architecture in Eastern Mediterranean cities and to write large parts of four dissertation chapters. I spent considerable time with Roman and Late Antique books of law, medical treatises, epigraphy, saints’ lives, and historiography. In addition to the work of my dissertation, I also presented a conference paper, wrote two book reviews and a number of entries for the Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity, submitted a journal article, and served as a guest lecturer in the Department of History at Georgetown University and as a guest docent in the Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections exhibition at the National Gallery of Art.