Networking in the Ancient World: Conference Presentation by UWTSD PhD Student

This week’s blog is by UWTSD PhD student Chris Fleming.


My name is Chris Fleming, I am a second year PhD student in the department of Classics. My research focuses on interstate relations in the ancient world. To this end, I am using current theories from political science to create a new framework in order to explore aspects of diplomacy in a Hellenistic context.

On 28th Nov, I was delighted to attend a conference at the University of Liverpool entitled ‘Networking in the Ancient World: Tracing Trade and Social Networks, 1400BC-AD400’. This event offered postgraduates over a wide field to come together and discuss theories behind the formation, maintenance and decline of networks, with each paper acting as a case study. These ranged from the trade of Parian marble throughout the ancient Mediterranean, to a comparison between epigraphical and papyrological evidence that gives us a glimpse into the collegia of the ancient Roman Empire.

networking-in-the-ancient-world-blog-pic-2I had the opportunity to present a paper which explored the mechanics of diplomacy by carrying out a close-reading of one diplomatic meeting (the Conference of Nicaea, 197BCE). This allowed me to collate my ideas so far, gather some initial feedback on these ideas and some suggestions on areas that are not fully developed. It also served as a valuable platform for postgraduate students to meet and network with peers.

Attending this conference gave me some new perspectives on how to approach ancient networks. For example, one paper on the impact of Rhoma festivals in the Greek world demonstrated a good example of network empire theory. In a broader context, this discussion of Roman imperialism links to my area of research via the diplomatic ties Rome attempted to establish in its relationship with the Greek poleis.

I hope that, in turn, I have highlighted the complexity of diplomacy in the ancient world at this conference. I intended to draw scholars’ attention away from the results of diplomatic meetings by looking at the process by which these decisions were made. This was received positively in the discussion following the paper, as there is very little thought given to the mechanics of this process and how this might have affected the outcomes of diplomacy.

I am very grateful to the Wiedenmann Trust for financing my journey to Liverpool, and also contributing towards my accommodation there. I would also like to thank the organisers of the conference, Juliet Spedding and Kate Caraway, the University of Liverpool for hosting the event, and all those who attended the conference for making it such an interesting day.

Posted in Ancient World, Humanities, Research, Student Life Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Gateway to the Humanities at UWTSD: Opening Higher Education to All

dsc_0044For various reasons, you may be thinking about making a change in your life, or would like to take up something new.

At UWTSD, we support adults who would like another chance at education, which is why we offer the Gateway to the Humanities course. The Gateway is purposely designed for individuals from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, to embark upon a fresh challenge and learn something new which will hopefully open up many exciting (and perhaps unexpected) future opportunities.

Classes start gently with a regular weekly timetable of only a few hours a week to get you used to being a student and to fit around your other commitments. You are taught in small groups and are given one-to-one tutorial support to get you going. You will become part of a fantastic community of students from various walks of life who are all keen to learn in a collaborative, stimulating and – most importantly – fun environment.

Anyone can apply and enrol on the course and with successful completion of the year you will be furnished with a set of skills that will have both broadened your outlook and your abilities. You can always continue your studies and embark upon a degree in a subject of your choice!

I happened to be walking through the university when I came across Jason, who I had met at last year’s Gateway to the Humanities Open Day. I hadn’t seen him since then, so it was a great opportunity to catch up and see how he was getting on. My first question – ‘how is uni?’ – was met with a huge smile and Jason filled me in on his experience over the year.

His experiences make me feel very proud of UWTSD and the Gateway programme. Jason’s tale is a prime example of how Gateway can help transform and enhance lives… I’ll pass it over to Jason!

“I come from west London originally and have been working in the Care sector for around 25 years in a supporting role to colleagues and patients.

I love my job but always wished I could have gone further and made something of myself academically. Unfortunately, though, growing up I never excelled academically and always felt there was something wrong with me but could never put my finger on it. I knew I suffered with lack of confidence and was always being treated as though I was not good enough.

Then, one day my partner saw a Gateway advertisement in the county advertiser. Knowing how I felt, she said to me why not have a read. For some reason after reading I felt this could be my opportunity of gaining some basic skills that might even take me further.

When I came to the Open Day I was very nervous, but it wasn’t long before I was approached by one of the staff that made me feel very welcome.

Slowly I started to feel less nervous as more members of staff started to explain what the Gateway was all about, how they wanted to help us to do well. I spoke to a member of staff and asked was there any support? To my surprise I was led to someone who could help set up lines of support straight away.

After doing some assessment tests to see what areas of help I needed most, it turned out I have dyspraxia. Full support and equipment was put in place for me to help achieve my goal and throughout my Gateway experiences I was supported through the challenges and I can only thank them for their patience and tolerance.

I completed the first semester of The Gateway to the Humanities and transferred straight to the first year of a degree programme. I am now enjoying my chosen degree course of BA Nautical Archaeology. This is an area of study I never thought I would end up doing, but when growing up in London it was always a boyhood dream of mine. I never thought at the age of forty-six I would actually end up doing it.

All I can say is I would definitely recommend trying the Gateway. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Dreams really can come true. Go for it.”

Posted in Archaeology, Student Life Tagged with: , , ,

Field Trip to the Centre for Alternative Technology

This week’s blog is by Frances McManus, a second-year student taking a BA in Anthropology and Chinese Studies


At the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, we had an overnight stay which was both educational and (for me) very refreshing. We were given a tour of the grounds, background information on CAT, a lecture on the goal of a Zero Carbon Britain, as well as informal talks about sustainable buildings and gardening.

img_6131CAT was started in the 70s by a group who wanted to show a different, more sustainable way of living. The site was originally a shale quarry and today still most of the grounds sit on shale waste, which many of the buildings made use of. Today CAT is an institute with a great focus on education, offering both short courses and a Graduate School for many topics within sustainability.

We walked up to see the reservoir which provides the water that CAT consumes AND uses to create some of its energy needs. We learned about how the water for consumption is piped down to sand-beds for filtration, after which UV light is used to kill bacteria. This is unlike most of Britain’s domestic water supplies which go through multiple stages and (usually) the addition of chemicals. After use the drained water from CAT is piped further down the hill (all movement uses gravity which does not require labour or energy) into reed-beds which naturally clean the water, removing things like phosphates and nitrates, so that the water quality is good enough to return to the river.

img_6118The water system is one shining example CAT offers as to how we, and countries like the UK, can change our methods to create more sustainable and efficient living systems. Many of the other examples we saw on site were buildings, such as the WISE (Welsh Institute for Sustainability Education) building which we spent the night in. I loved the WISE building. From the moment we entered, everything felt clean and fresh in a way that is absent in my own home, or in my uni hall. The building features wooden floors, doors, and outdoor walkways, all of which is untreated wood sourced locally. The walls are made from more sustainable materials than is the norm – lime is used instead of cement, hemp for insulation – meanwhile the design of each room maximises daylight to reduce the need for electricity. The theatre is a major feature, as it is the tallest ‘round earth’ structure in the UK. It is a circle of high red-brown walls which are very heat efficient (absorbing and releasing it slowly), while also ensuring that one day when the building is torn down or abandoned, the walls can simply return to the ground with no need for treatment.

theatre-1We shared twin en-suite bedrooms which were impressively warm at night, showing just how efficient the building is. This was a highlight of the visit for me, as it was wonderful to have a long night’s sleep during reading week to recover for the second half of term. I slept more on this trip than any night so far this year, I would have loved to stay longer.



Posted in Anthropology, Field Trip, Humanities, Student Life Tagged with: , , , ,

Bread making and Archaeology

This week’s blog is a guest post by Heather Hayes-Bowlzer, who is studying Archaeology at UWTSD Lampeter. 

The class begins the bread making process.

The class begins the bread making process.

So last week in my lecture we made bread. Yep, you heard me right we made bread. But not just any sort of bread, we made bread that the people from ancient Crete would have made. And we made it using similar ingredients that they would have used at the time.

Kneading the bread.

Kneading the bread.

Okay, let me explain. My name is Heather and I am an Ancient History and Archaeology student here at UWTSD Lampeter. The lecture, taught by Dr Louise Steel, was all about what people on Crete did during their normal daily routines. One of the things that they did was make bread, and that was when we got our hands stuck in! It was really fun getting our hands sticky with making the bread.

The ingredients we used were emmer wheat, honey, warm water, live yeast and a pinch of salt and they were similar to what the people in ancient Crete used. Since we didn’t really know how they did this, a little guess work was needed. It was very messy but it was so much fun and we enjoyed learning about how the people of ancient Crete would have made their bread, which is something we take for granted today, but it was something that they would have relied heavily on in the past. I especially enjoyed the part when we kneaded the bread, as I found that it was very therapeutic.

The results: baked emmer wheat bread.

The results: baked emmer wheat bread.

After we made the bread we left it to prove whilst Dr Steel taught us all about the activities that the people of ancient Crete would have taken part in the household. It was extremely interesting; and I enjoyed learning about how the people of ancient Crete carried out their day to day activities. After the lecture we were surprised to find that the bread had doubled in size.

Dr Steel said that she would take the bread home and bake it. The next day we went to the lecture to the warm smell of bread and we found the bread that we had made in class yesterday. The bread had a dense texture, similar to that of soda bread and it had a thin crust. It smelt lovely and we were all eager to try it. However when we did, we found that it tasted absolutely awful!

Despite the taste

, I found the whole process of making the bread was extremely enjoyable, and I loved doing it.





Posted in Ancient World, Archaeology, Humanities, Student Life Tagged with: , , , , ,

Anthropology at UWTSD: Dr Luci Attala’s Research into Water Supplies in Rural Kenya


This autumn Senior Lecturer in Anthropology, Luci Attala, returned to Wales having completed the first part of her research with the Giriama in rural Kenya. Supported by the Wenner Gren Foundation, Luci is funded to explore the social and economic consequences of piped water coming into a community that has until nine months ago relied exclusively on rain-fed water supplies.

picture3In an area where the climate is dramatically altering and water supplies are dwindling as drought sets in, the implementation of a water pipeline into the area should be celebrated as a success. However, initial research shows the pipeline to be fraught with material and economic concerns, not least because for the first time this community must now find money to buy their water.

Horticulturalist-pastoralists like the Giriama typically subsist without a regular income. Money, earned from small amounts of casual labour that might come into the area, may need to be found for costs such as school uniforms, but, other than various sundries families can survive through their direct relationship with the environment.

picture5Furthermore, until recently, water acted as a social leveller because water practices were not mediated through any economic system. Water fell free into the landscape and access to water was determined in relationship with the landscape rather than financially. Consequently, water as a commodity means relationships with water are altering, creating a broad social distinction between those that have the ability to purchase against those that do not have the money to do so.

Luci is set to return to continue her research in the New Year.


Posted in Anthropology, Research Tagged with: , , , ,

New Chinese School Established by UWTSD Confucius Institute

On September 4th, the new Chinese School established by the Confucius Institute for Chinese Heritage Studies at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David opened its doors for the first intake of students. 70 pupils aged between 4-14 are currently registered for the courses and are going to study Chinese language and culture on Sundays between 10am-12pm and 1-3pm. The Chinese School, which is based on the University’s Swansea Townhill Campus, currently offers three different classes ranging from absolute beginners to students who are fluent in spoken Chinese. The demand is such that another class will be opened soon.

%e6%96%af%e6%97%ba%e8%a5%bf%e4%b8%ad%e6%96%87%e5%ad%a6%e6%a0%a1_4The school provides children from the Swansea Chinese community with Mandarin language lessons and Chinese cultural activities. However, among the pupils are also children from non-Chinese backgrounds who are interested to learn Mandarin Chinese and explore Chinese culture in greater depth. In addition to language classes, the Swansea Chinese School aims to offer a wider curriculum including calligraphy, Taijiquan or learning a Chinese instrument. The school will also have Chinese text books and a small library of Chinese books and films donated by the Confucius Institute.

The initiative by the Confucius Institute at the UWTSD has the full support of the Chinese Community Co-op Centre, the
charitable body that looks after the interests of Swansea’s Chinese ethnic communities. Swansea has a thriving Chinese community with a growing number of Chinese school age children. The new school aims to enable these youngsters to keep in touch with their Chinese roots and heritage, and to provide them with the excellent Chinese language skills they will need in the increasingly globalised world of work.

%e6%96%af%e6%97%ba%e8%a5%bf%e4%b8%ad%e6%96%87%e5%ad%a6%e6%a0%a1_12The Confucius Institute has nearly ten years’ experience of providing Chinese language and culture courses and workshops in Welsh schools, universities and the community. It will offer a range of courses at the new school from Mandarin GCSE and A for older pupils, to courses that build expertise in Chinese reading, writing speaking and listening for primary school age children.

Confucius Institute UK Director, Dr Thomas Jansen said: ‘The Confucius Institute is pleased to support the Chinese community in Swansea with this vital educational service.  The collaboration will open up new educational opportunities for the local Chinese community, both in Wales and in China. As the Confucius Institute for Chinese Heritage Studies we are looking forward to working together on a range of initiatives relating to the history of the Chinese community in Wales and the long-standing contacts between the two nations.”

%e6%96%af%e6%97%ba%e8%a5%bf%e4%b8%ad%e6%96%87%e5%ad%a6%e6%a0%a1_18Parents commented on the opening of the school by saying: “Thank you for bring Chinese school to Swansea. Wishing you prosperity for many years to come!”

Mrs. Wai Fong Lee MBE, Chairperson of the Swansea Chinese Community Co-op Centre commented: “Our organisation has been supporting the local Chinese community for over 20 years. We are very delighted to be collaborating with the Confucius Institute to open a new Chinese School that promises to deliver a high standard of education.”

For more information, please contact Krystyna Krajewska, Executive Director:

Posted in Chinese Studies, Humanities Tagged with: , , ,

Global Waters: Sustainability, Harmony and Awareness Day

pic-1As rainfall patterns change in association with Climate Change, water inequalities and insecurities are set to mount. Recognising the current significance of water to global justice and planetary survival, Anthropology lecturer Luci Attala, with the support of The Rotary and WaterAid, organised another interdisciplinary event on the theme of water (this event followed a similar day delivered exactly a year ago).

The day delivered a dynamic series of talks that explored water from a variety of perspectives.  Dr Jane Fisher from The Centre of Alternative Technology offered fascinating information from a hard science perspective, whilst other speakers approached water philosophically, historically, geographically, from a religious or humanitarian point of view. Cumulatively, the day not only provided a rich, wealth of information to stimulate discussion but also highlighted the educational value of approaching a topic thematically.
pic-4Other speakers included Martha Muzona Holman and student Lucinda Walker from the charity LoveZimbabwe; Andy Bevan, lecturer in ethical and political studies who explored global challenges; Marie Curie Fellows in nautical archaeology, Miguel Martin and Selena Ali on their work underwater; Xanxia Zhao who explained a Daoist approach to water; Dr Katharina Zinn exploring the significance of water in Ancient Egypt and Luci Attala who detailed the research she has been doing in rural Kenya where climate change induced drought is deepening. (Luci’s work is funded by The Wenner Gren Foundation).

For more information contact

Posted in Ancient World, Anthropology, Humanities, Religion, Research Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

UWTSD Student to Present at International Conference in October

Jenna-Marie Heard in the field.

Jenna-Marie Heard in the field.

Jenna-Marie Heard, who is studying for an MArts in Archaeology at UWTSD, has been accepted to give a paper at the Egyptology Graduate Conference at Brown University. On 15th October she will be presenting her work, ‘Child’s Play or Goddess Worship? A Comprehensive Study of the Re-Discovery of Paddle Dolls from the Cyfarthfa Castle’, which she has undertaken as research towards her dissertation.

Jenna’s paper explores the function of Egyptian paddle dolls, which have often been argued to be either concubines or children’s toys. Using two previously undisclosed examples from Cyfarthfa Castle Museum and Art Gallery, Jenna will debunk theories that paddle were crafted in fulfilment of companionship for the afterlife or simply as child’s play, and, instead, show the evidence of Goddess worship, arguing that these paddle dolls may be equated to fertility figures.

More information about the conference and Jenna’s paper can be found at

Posted in Ancient World, Archaeology, Religion, Research, Student Life Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Materiality of Foodstuffs – publication by UWTSD staff

Examples of Late Bronze Age 'kitchenalia' from Arediou, Cyprus.

Examples of Late Bronze Age ‘kitchenalia’ from Arediou, Cyprus.

Staff from the Faculty of Humanities and Performing Arts are involved in publishing the results of an interdisciplinary project funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation,which examined the materiality of foodstuffs. This project brought together an international team of scholars from diverse fields of Archaeology, Egyptology, Anthropology, Geography and Food Studies for two workshops in Lampeter (May 2014 and January 2015), the results of which have begun to appear in press. The focus was on the objects used to prepare, wrap, package and serve food as much as on the substances consumed.


Dr Steel with Papa Charalambos at Arediou, examining finds from the excavation

Dr Steel with Papa Charalambos at Arediou, examining finds from the excavation

In the most recent edition of the Food Studies journal Gastronomica (published by California University Press) Dr Louise Steel (Reading in Mediterranean Archaeology) explores daily household experiences with food and drink in Bronze Age Cyprus, how these household practices shaped people’s identities and how these intangibles are visible to the archaeologist in the form of pots and pans, querns and grinding stones. Much of Louise’s article, Kitchenalia in Bronze Age Cyprus, focuses on the rich material remains (pottery and groundstone tools) from her excavations at the Late Bronze Age settlement of Arediou.


Offering plate from the Egyptian collection at Cyfarthfa Castle Museum

Offering plate from the Egyptian collection at Cyfarthfa Castle Museum

In the forthcoming volume, Exploring the Materiality of Foodstuffs (Steel and Zinn eds., published by Routledge) Dr Katharina Zinn examines magical substitutes for food in ancient Egyptian funerary ritual. The focus of her chapter is a miniature clay offering plate from the Egyptian collection at Cyfarthfa Castle Museums and Art Gallery, Merthyr Tydfil. This vessel was a used by the ancient Egyptians to provision and sustain the dead during the afterlife, typically being placed outside the tomb in the cult chapel where it received “symbolic” offerings of food and drink.


Posted in Ancient World, Anthropology, Archaeology, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

Prime Patterns: the Ceredigion Art Trail at the Roderic Bowen Library and Archives

Stefan Samociuk with his artwork at the RBLA

Stefan Samociuk with his artwork at the RBLA

Throughout August, Ceredigion Art Trail organised exhibitions by local artists across the county. In Lampeter there was artwork displayed in Victorial Hall, showcasing a mixture of professional, student and community art, and at the library at UWTSD Lampeter.

The exhibition hosted by the Roderic Bowen Library and Archives was called Prime Patterns and was created by local artist Stefan Samociuk, whose work is inspired by Islamic and Arabic design and is based on Euclidian geometry. With a background in physics, Samociuk uses computers to express mathematical patterns derived from prime numbers in the form of images. The artwork he displayed in the RBLA included ceramic tiles, textile prints, a giant mosaic and a video of the artist’s work.

The copy of the Qu'ran used in the exhibition.

The copy of the Qu’ran used in the exhibition.

With its fantastic collection of historial materials, the RBLA was able to display Samociuk’s work alongside artefacts which help to explain the cultural background of this work. Samociuk’s artwork was accompanied by exhibits from the RBLA which told the story of the preservation of Euclidian geometry by Arab scholars and its rediscovery by Western scholars during the Renaissance. The RBLA items on display included a centuries-old manuscript of the Qu’ran (right) and an early printed copy of Euclid.

More images from the exhibition can be  seen in this video:

Posted in Religion Tagged with: , , , , ,