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Paul Stephenson

“A Natural History of Late Roman and Early Byzantine Art”

portrait of Paul Stephenson

Independent scholar, Byzantine Studies Visiting Scholar

This project explores the consequences of the production of Late Roman and early Byzantine art on the natural world, the environment, flora and fauna, and human health. It addresses human responses to and interactions with things fashioned from natural materials, elements, and alloys: lead and silver, copper and bronze; stone, wood, soil, sand, and clay; shell and bone. Each element of the project begins with a biography of a thing or things, which will serve as a point of entry into a fuller study of the natural and material world of Late Rome and early Byzantium, the environmental consequences of the production of precious things, and the devastation that attends to the creation of beauty.

Paul Stephenson is author or editor of ten books, most recently The Serpent Column, published by Oxford University Press in the Onassis Series in Hellenic Culture, and New Rome, forthcoming from Harvard University Press. He has held teaching and research posts at universities, museums, and institutes in seven countries, including four professorial chairs (Wisconsin, Durham, Nijmegen, Lincoln). He has served as a Dean with oversight of departments of art history, classics, conservation, history, and philosophy. Stephenson’s research has been supported by the British Academy, Dumbarton Oaks, Humboldt Foundation, Mellon Foundation, National Hellenic Research Foundation, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Onassis Foundation, Princeton University, Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, University of California at San Diego, and University of Wisconsin–Madison.