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DEPARTMENT OF ART: Feature News Stories

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Baylor Students
Uncover Lost Mosaics

This summer (June 2013) Baylor seniors Amy Welch (University Scholar) and Xander Gardere (Art History) traveled with Dr. Nathan Elkins, Assistant Professor of Art History (Greek and Roman), to participate in the University of North Carolina-led excavations of a Late Roman period synagogue at Huqoq, Israel. Dr. Elkins is a staff member at the excavations, responsible for the identification and publication of the coin finds. Huqoq is located on a hill overlooking the west coast of the Sea of Galilee near Tiberias. The site is very close to Migdal, the hometown of Mary Magdalene, and Capernaum, which lay at the center of Jesus' ministry.

Last year excavations uncovered a mosaic depicting Samson and illustrating a scene from the Book of Judges in which the tails of foxes were tied together with torches. This season two more mosaics were uncovered; one depicts Samson with the city gate of Gaza over his shoulders and the other is divided into registers with elders, warriors, and war animals, including a war elephant.

Amy worked in the square that discovered this year's second mosaic and she is pictured in a group photograph in the Huffington Post. Xander worked in the village area of the synagogue.

At the conclusions of the excavations, Amy and Xander visited historically and archaeologically important sites such as Petra, in the Kingdom of Jordan, and Masada and Jerusalem.

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Baylor Art History Students
Explore Roman Emperor's Political Ideology

For the 2013-2014 academic year, Dr. Nathan T. Elkins (Assistant Professor of Art History, Greek and Roman Art) received an Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Activities (URSA) Grant from Baylor University for the project "Coinage and Power in the Reign of Nerva, AD 96-98." URSA grants provide up to $5,000 to support an undergraduate research assistant involved in a faculty research project; students are expected to participate actively in the research and to present at URSA Scholars Week. When possible, students are also encouraged to present at professional conferences and to publish an aspect of the research.

The student selected to work on Dr. Elkins' grant project is Xander Gardere (senior, Art History major). The research project explores the political image that Nerva, who ruled for only sixteen months, projected on his imperial coinage. In the absence of other forms of state-sanctioned art that survive in abundance and only sparse historical sources that dwell on his succession crisis, the iconography on the coinage provides one of the best means to approach the political image that he wished to convey to his subjects.

During the academic year, Xander is working approximately 10 hours per week collating information on the find spots of Nerva's coinage. At the end of the data collection process, both Dr. Elkins and Xander will begin to analyze trends in the distribution of Nerva's coin iconography in order to identify patterns in audience targeting. In July 2013, Xander spent 11 days in Frankfurt, Germany gathering information on the distribution of Nerva's coin finds at the Goethe Universitšt Frankfurt while Dr. Elkins conducted other research with the photo archive. When the university was closed, both visited Cologne and Trier, which were Roman settlements with substantial ruins and important museums.

Amy Welch (senior, University Scholar) has also been invited to contribute to the research project once the analysis phase begins. Dr. Elkins, Xander, and Amy will present their preliminary findings at the 115th Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in Chicago in January 2014. The title of their paper is "Coinage and the Communication of Power in the Reign of Nerva, 96-98 CE."

News_Nerva_CoinBronze sestertius of Nerva from AD 96. Obverse: Laureate head of Nerva right. Reverse: Libertas standing to left, holding scepter and pileus (the cap of a manumitted slave).

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