ArticlePDF Available

Scholar asks how Mesopotamians lived, felt.

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

It is a tragic irony that one of the most troubled areas of the world is also the cradle of Western civilization: the Middle East. Despite its turbulent present, there are scholars who know that there is much to learn about the region and its cultures by studying its exalted past. One of those scholars is Allison Thomason, a professor in the department of histori-cal studies at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. A native of Riverside, Calif., she obtained her bachelor's degree in Old World archaeology and art from Brown University in Rhode Island, a master's in Near Eastern languages and civilizations from The University of Chicago and a doctorate in history in art archaeology and history from Columbia University in New York. As many other people who have ded-icated their lives to academia, Thomason's interest in her field began early on. "It started with my middle school social studies teachers," she said. "They sort of got me interested. That is when you start studying world history. Then I got to exca-vate in my undergraduate career and that's when I fell in love with objects and material culture." From the beginning she said that she enjoyed art works from around 900 B.C. in Mesopotamia. "They were the Neo-Assyrian reliefs," she explained. "They are just incredibly detailed and have so much information in these interesting scenes." After her junior year in college she went to England and was able to look at the reliefs close up in a British museum. That is where she said she fell in love with the topic. Her work today intersects three disci-plines: archeology, history and art. "I am sort of the ancient historian here in the department at SIUE," she said. "I have to cover Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, and all points in between. You have to be able to understand archeological arti-facts and how excavations work in order to appreciate where the objects you are study-ing are coming out of." As many other people interested in his-tory, she kept tracing back what she was learning until she decided that she needed to begin from the beginning and that is why she specializes today in ancient civi-lizations. "I am just so amazed by the develop-ment and complexity of the Mesopotamian and Near Eastern civilizations of such an early time period in history," she said. "The pre-classical even. I thought, well the Greeks and Romans got it all from the Near East, so I wanted to study the Near East." The Mesopotamian area has been called the cradle of civilization not only because of its art, but also that is the area of the world where we see the first examples of domestication of plants and animals. One wonders if the two things go together. Did the ability of humans to exploit nature and know nature help to generate art? "Those experiments with early agricul-ture and food production took thousands of years and they were just experiments," Thomason explained.
No caption available
… 
Content may be subject to copyright.
Regional
Page 3Friday, November 21, 2014 — www.theintelligencer.com
It is a tragic irony that one of the most
troubled areas of the world is also the
cradle of Western civilization: the Middle
East. Despite its turbulent present, there are
scholars who know that there is much to
learn about the region and its cultures by
studying its exalted past.
One of those scholars is Allison Thomason,
a professor in the department of histori-
cal studies at Southern Illinois University
Edwardsville. A native of Riverside, Calif.,
she obtained her bachelor’s degree in Old
World archaeology and art from Brown
University in Rhode Island, a master ’s in
Near Eastern languages and civilizations
from The University of Chicago and a
doctorate in history in art archaeology and
history from Columbia University in New
York. As many other people who have ded-
icated their lives to academia, Thomason’s
interest in her field began early on.
“It started with my middle school social
studies teachers,” she said. “They sort of
got me interested. That is when you start
studying world history. Then I got to exca-
vate in my undergraduate career and that’s
when I fell in love with objects and material
culture.” From the beginning she said that
she enjoyed art works from around 900 B.C.
in Mesopotamia.
“They were the Neo-Assyrian reliefs,”
she explained. “They are just incredibly
detailed and have so much information in
these interesting scenes.”
After her junior year in college she went
to England and was able to look at the
reliefs close up in a British museum. That
is where she said she fell in love with the
topic. Her work today intersects three disci-
plines: archeology, history and art.
“I am sort of the ancient historian here
in the department at SIUE,” she said. “I
have to cover Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece,
Rome, and all points in between. You have
to be able to understand archeological arti-
facts and how excavations work in order to
appreciate where the objects you are study-
ing are coming out of.”
As many other people interested in his-
tory, she kept tracing back what she was
learning until she decided that she needed
to begin from the beginning and that is
why she specializes today in ancient civi-
lizations.
“I am just so amazed by the develop-
ment and complexity of the Mesopotamian
and Near Eastern civilizations of such an
early time period in history,” she said.
“The pre-classical even. I thought, well the
Greeks and Romans got it all from the Near
East, so I wanted to study the Near East.”
The Mesopotamian area has been called
the cradle of civilization not only because
of its art, but also that is the area of the
world where we see the first examples of
domestication of plants and animals. One
wonders if the two things go together. Did
the ability of humans to exploit nature and
know nature help to generate art?
“Those experiments with early agricul-
ture and food production took thousands
of years and they were just experiments,”
Thomason explained. “But I think that
allowed societies to increase their popula-
tion and basically have specialists develop
in other labor occupations besides farm-
ing. So the thinkers became the religious
specialists, the people who could organize
people became the political specialists, and
the artists became the pottery specialists
or sculpture specialists. So that is how I
always understood it and envisioned it.”
When asked which of all the pieces she
has studied has impressed her the most, she
answered by thinking back to her doctoral
dissertation at Columbia, when she visited
the British Museum and the British School
of Archeology in Iraq.
“There were little ivory carvings made
out of elephant ivory and there were little
plaques and inlays in little miniature boxes
that were inlayed into wooden furniture.
And while the wood didn’t survive, we
have all the plaques because ivory survives
quite well even if it is burned,” she said.
“And they are carved into amazing images
and they were collected by kings.”
Thomason said that she will never forget
when she was sitting in the office of one
of the most preeminent archeologists of
Mesopotamia, the late Max Mallowan. In his
office were still his books and some of the
artifacts he excavated. One of Thomason’s
professors, who was a student of Mallowan,
opened a drawer and there were all these
ivory artifacts that she was able to touch.
“And that tactile sense, that smooth
feel, they were almost luminescent to me,”
Thomason said. “There are hundreds of
ivories and even today I fetishize them, I
have to say. They still just draw me in. I
can’t touch them now because they are in
museums, but I love them.”
When asked about her next big project
she said that she is working on textiles and
how textiles felt against the skin of people
in Mesopotamia.
“Did they comment upon that? Did they
notice it? Did they notice different tex-
tures?” she said she wonders. And that led
her to study the archeology of the senses in
Mesopotamia during her sabbatical.
“So not only what was it like to see
Mesopotamian works monumental or
minor but what was it like to be a
Mesopotamian. I’ve always wanted to
study that. I think that’s what archeologists
do. What was it like to live back then?
That’s what we want to do and want to
know,” she said. “What does it feel like?
So I’ve embarked on this archeology of the
sense of Mesopotamia.”
Aldemaro Romero Jr. is the Dean of the
College of Arts and Sciences at Southern Illinois
University Edwardsville. His show, “Segue,”
can be heard every Sunday morning at 9 a.m. on
WSIE, 88.7 FM. He can be reached at College_
Arts_Sciences@siue.edu.
Scholar asks how Mesopotamians lived, felt
Aldemaro Romero Jr.
College Talk
Dr. Allison Thomason in her office.
Photo by Michael Nathe
Continued from Page 1
The Santa House at City Park will also be open on Wednesdays and
Saturdays for visits with Santa.
“The caroling group can be as big or as small as you want,” Verheyen said.
“Groups can sing any songs they want,” she added. “We will also provide a
list of songs and a map of stores and businesses that are open.”
Several businesses are participating, Verheyen said. “We’d like to get more
in the future,” she added. “Our hope is that it will bring people downtown.
We also hope that the carolers will stay and shop or eat.”
Nine groups participated last year. “We had church groups, two groups from
the high school, and scout groups,” Verheyen said. She said that they already
had a few groups from last year that have signed up to return this year.
The dates for caroling are Wednesdays from 6 to 6:30 p.m., Thursdays from
6 to 6:30 p.m., and on Saturdays from 11 to 11:30 a.m. or 4:30 to 5 p.m., as well
as Dec. 6 from 11:30 to noon during the Winter Market.
Any groups interested are asked to call the parks department at 692-7538.
For more information about Downtown in December, see the city website at
www.cityofedwardsville.com or call the parks department at 692-7538.
Continued from Page 1
"I really appreciate the verbatim minutes that you had in the packet.
For those of us who can't get there for a meeting, it’s nice to understand
the conversation. I think you started something that is great and you
should be commended, especially when it’s something of this magni-
tude, this size and this importance," Alderman Tom Butts said.
In getting to the point where the committee is, Louer thanked his fel-
low committee members Alderman Janet Stack and Alderman Jeanette
Mallon as well Alderman Will Krause for their help in the process.
A motion and second were made and the resolution was approved
unanimously.
Meanwhile, the council unanimously approved a facade application
from JG Property Management LLC for 120 North Main St.
"I think it's worth noting as Mr. (Scott) Hanson was quoted in tonight's
paper, these folks hit the ball out of the park a couple different times.
This is for an expansion of the Gori Julian Law Firm," Butts said.
City Planner Scott Hanson told the council that this was one of the
largest applications he has seen in his time with the city.
"This is the largest one in the six years that I've been here that I've seen
in terms of what the applicant is doing. Basically the applicant is refur-
bishing the entire facade of 120 North Main," Hanson said.
He also said the work has already begun and that usually the appli-
cation should be submitted before work starts, but in the past this has
been allowed.
When a facade application is received, the eligible costs are reviewed
and this application far exceeded those requirements Hanson said.
As a result of this, the applicant is eligible to receive $7,500 from the
city.
In total there were almost $200,000 in eligible cost.
For Alderman Barb Stamer the improvements to the building are very
attractive but it being a law office instead of retail space is disappointing.
In response to Stamer's comments Mayor Hal Patton said that he had
a conversation with Director of Economic and Community Development
Walt Williams, who is working on popup fronts for the retail space avail-
able in downtown.
Finally, the council approved a preliminary engineering services
agreement with Crawford, Murphy and Tilly to complete a drainage
study along East Lake Drive for $6,700.
City Engineer Eric Williams explained the proposal is to complete a
detailed drainage study on the crossroad culverts under East Lake Drive
near East Park Drive.
"We've been experiencing some localized flooding in this area. There
are at least two cross road culverts we'd like to have drainage study done
to evaluate the capacity of those and possibly replace them with one
larger diameter culvert. So, part of the study is to assist us in determin-
ing that culvert size," Williams said.
This portion of East Lake Drive has not had any work done previously.
Williams said this might be completed as early as this winter depend-
ing on the size of the culvert.
A motion and second were made and the agreement was approved.
CITY
HOLIDAYS
Continued from Page 1
The concept behind Restore Decor
is basic but ingenious. People in the
community donate unwanted furni-
ture and home accessories which are
either dropped off at the store or can
be arranged to be picked up. The
Restore Decor team of volunteers
then gather typically on Thursday
and Friday evenings to repaint the
items – giving them a fresh look and
a completely new life. The furniture
and accessories are then sold at the
store for a fraction of what new
furniture or home accessories would
cost. One-hundred percent of the net
proceeds from the sales goes back
into the community through either
Habitat for Humanity or to those
identified in the community as need-
ing assistance.
While many people simply donate
their unwanted furniture to Restore
Decor, the organization also takes
furniture, accessories and art on con-
signment. “So people will bring
in finished pieces. We have about
seven people now that are finishing
their own items at home, painting
them up beautifully, and bringing
them in already finished and then
they get a portion of the proceeds
and Faith Coalition gets a portion,”
Adams explained. “And that's really
helped us keep up with inventory
because really we have a greater
need for items than - not necessarily
we have the donations but just
time to get them all done. Right now
it's hard to do just painting on even
We dn es d ay, T hu r sd ay a nd F ri da y
nights and have the store ready and
full on Saturday mornings so the
consignors have really helped with
that.”
One of the organization's recent
featured consignment artists is
Dominic Cusanelli's Tattooed
Trees a unique wood burning
art. Other artists with pieces avail-
able for purchase at Restore Decor
include Erin Gray's (Alice Art) mixed
media paintings and Angela Pifer's
(SPINgraphics) custom artwork.
A group of local middle school
girls who call themselves B.F.F.
(Blankets for Friends) also sell their
hand-made fleece blankets at Restore
Decor. The group, spearheaded by
Adams daughter, Emilee, has been
selling their blankets at the store
since it opened.
For every blanket the B.F.F. girls
sell, they take their proceeds, pur-
chase more fleece and make one
blanket that they donate to places
like Cardinal Glennon, Children's
Hospital or the Hospice of Southern
Illinois. “They donated some of their
blankets to the Edwardsville Police
Department,” Adams noted. “Every
patrol car in Edwardsville has a blan-
ket in the back in case the police
officer encounters a child in a crisis
situation. Last year at Christmas
time they donated blankets to Good
Samaritan House in Granite City.
They've also donated some to just
local families that we hear are in
crisis. When there's a fire and we
know the family has children, we try
to reach out and donate a blanket to
those kids. And kids in foster care
when they arrive in their new loca-
tion or adopted kids – same thing.”
The B.F.F. Girls are currently taking
custom blanket orders for Christmas,
and several of their blankets are on
display and available for purchase at
Restore Decor. In addition, the B.F.F.
girls welcome any other area girls 10
and over to come help them make
blankets on Saturdays at Restore
Decor.
Adams emphasized that the work
Restore Decor does couldn't be pos-
sible without the tremendous effort
of volunteers in the community. “I
don't even have a number on the
number of volunteers. Thursday and
Friday are our definite paint nights.
We 'v e s ta rt e d a dd in g We d ne sd a ys a s
well – intermittently,” Adams said.
“On some evenings there are three
of us and on some evenings there are
close to 30 of us. We've had several
ladies groups come, also the EPIC
group from the high school has come
in and helped as well as the B.F.F
girls come to help us paint and deco-
rate as well.”
But she also pointed out that they
are always looking for more volun-
teers to paint and work in the shop
when it's open. “We need volunteers
for everything – to help in the shop,
people with trucks and strong bodies
to move furniture that is donated,”
Adams stressed. “People willing to
pick up the furniture – that's prob-
ably our biggest need right now is
people that are willing to go pick
up furniture donations. And we
could use additional storage space.
And if someone had a climate con-
trolled work-space where we could
go paint.”
“You know, everything that we
need, we have gotten. It totally
always falls into place,” Adams
added.
Anyone interested in being a con-
signor or who would like to volun-
teer is welcome to contact Adams at
618-980-2018.
Restore Decor will be extending
its hours over the upcoming holiday.
Regular hours are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on
Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on
Monday, but they will also be open
Black Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. as
well as open Fridays on Dec. 5 and
Dec. 12 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
To ring in the holiday season,
Restore Decor is having a special
treat on Dec. 12. Carriage rides will
be provided 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Also,
starting Saturday, Nov. 22, custom-
ers who bring in a canned good,
will have their name entered into a
drawing for a $100 Restore Decor gift
certificate. The winner will be drawn
at 9 p.m. on Dec. 12.
Restore Decor, located at 111 N.
Second St., will be open Dec. 13 but
this will be the last day of the year the
store will be open. They are closing
their doors from Dec. 14 to Jan. 17 so
that their volunteers can spend time
with family and friends and enjoy
the holidays. But Restore Decor will
re-open Jan. 17, 2015, and be open
only on Saturdays until the spring.
Watch their Facebook page for the
latest furniture and accessories avail-
able as well as details about the new
spring hours.
“We're very grateful for the sup-
port of the community,” Adams said.
“Facebook has been our primary
means for disseminating information
about us. It's really amazing. We
have over 2,800 likes on our page.
It's just crazy.”
DECOR
The Restore Decor staff. In front are, from left: Dana Adams and Susan Payne. In back are, from left: Joe Russo, Diane
McKaig, Carole Clevenger and Glynda Lavelle.
Julia Biggs/Intelligencer
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.