Faculty of Theology welcomes Mary Jane Cuyler, as visiting researcher

Mary Jane Cuyler received her PhD in Classics and Ancient History from the University of Sydney (Australia) with a dissertation on the archaeological remains of ancient Rome's port city of Ostia, especially the mysterious history of the sacred area of the Quattro Tempietti.

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Mary Jane Cuyler

Cuyler holds an MA in Classics (University of Texas at Austin) with a thesis on Linear B and Mycenaean archaeology. Her BA is in Classical Philology from Western Washington University (Bellingham). She is field director of the Ostia Synagogue Project.

Research that combines the fields of archaeology, epigraphy, and textual studies.

My research combines the sometimes isolated fields of archaeology, epigraphy, and textual studies. For example, in my forthcoming article “Legend and Archaeology at Ostia: P. Lucilius Gamala and the Quattro Tempietti” (winner of the 2018 BABESCH Byvanck Award) I scrutinize a long-cherished theory that some ancient temples at Ostia were built by a local citizen whose name actually appears on some inscriptions, and whose name is thought to appear in a letter of Cicero. When we look at each piece of evidence, though, the connection doesn’t add up.

I’m also interested in the ‘reality’ of architectural iconography on ancient coins. In one article, I undertook an iconographic analysis of a harbor scene on a coin of the Emperor Nero. By comparing the ships on the coins with remains of ancient shipwrecks as well as depictions on wall paintings, mosaics and reliefs I was able to identify the function of each ship on the coin.

How did you become interested in your field of research?

Having grown up in a small town in the western United States, I dreamed of travel and exploration. I later discovered a love for ancient languages, especially Latin and Greek, and realized that classical archaeology would allow me to combine my enthusiasm for languages with the opportunity to travel and work with material culture.

Why the Faculty of Theology in Oslo?

At the Faculty of Theology, I am looking forward to working with Anders Runesson, one of the foremost specialists on ancient synagogues and particularly the synagogue at Ostia, where I have worked for over a decade. I am also thrilled to be part of the new and dynamic Faculty of Theology Research Group, Biblical Texts, Cultures and Receptions

What do you imagine will be the primary focus of your research in the future?

I have a lot of irons in the fire at the moment.  I am especially keen to expand on research that I was only able to touch on in my Ph.D. dissertation, such as the foundation of a Sanctuary to the Bona Dea at Ostia. I am working with the Ostia synagogue team to complete our final publication. Looking forward, I am interested in exploring and explaining how classical archaeologists think and work. The field itself is extraordinarily conservative, and despite a veneer of scientific credibility, a lot of what we do is based on unsubstantiated evidence. Why is this, and how can we change this?

Published Sep. 20, 2019 5:10 PM - Last modified Dec. 8, 2020 10:04 AM