Podcast Season 2, Episode 3 – Portrait of a Palmyran Man: Ancient Syrian Identity with Blair Fowlkes Childs

Photo of Dr. Blair Fowlkes Childs in front of trees and greenery.
Dr. Blair Fowlkes Childs

In Season 2, Episode 3 of the Peopling the Past podcast, we sit down with Dr. Blair Fowlkes Childs, who holds a Ph.D. in classical art and archaeology from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. Dr. Fowlkes Childs was a research associate in the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for seven years, and recently completed a fellowship at Yale’s University Institute of Sacred Music. She has also excavated in Italy, Syria, and Cyprus.

Listen in, as Dr. Fowlkes Childs takes us through her exciting research on funerary art from Palmyra in Syria, highlighting some of the important elements of Palmyrene art that emerge from the thousands of portraits stemming from this site.

Interested in learning more? Check out this museum exhibit co-curated by Dr. Fowlkes Childs:

Exhibition website for The World between Empires: Art and Identity in the Ancient Middle East

Portrait of a Lady: Discovering Seianti with Judith Swaddling Peopling the Past

Countless faces of real people survive in ancient portraiture, but how often do we know their names, or anything about their lives? In this episode, Dr. Judith Swaddling joins Melissa and Chelsea to talk about Seianti Hanunia Tlesnasa, an Etruscan woman who lived over 2000 years ago in Italy. Seianti is an incredible person to get to know, since we have a full-sized portrait of her lying atop her sarcophagus, as well as the physical remains of her skeleton. Listen in as Dr. Swaddling reveals the layers of Seianti's past and discusses the limits to how much we can actually know about any one person from the ancient Mediterranean world.
  1. Portrait of a Lady: Discovering Seianti with Judith Swaddling
  2. Nevertheless, She Persisted: Boudicca and Imperial Resistance with Caitlin Gillespie
  3. Sisters are Doing it for Themselves: Mesopotamian Free Women with Stephanie Budin
  4. Call the (Roman) Midwife: Ancient Delivery and Childbirth with Tara Mulder
  5. So Long as There is Hope: Wonder Women in Classics and Comics with Natalie Swain
Looking for a transcript of this episode? Click here.
Aerial view of the archaeological site of Palmyra, including the including the Great Colonnade.
Archaeological site of Palmyra (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Relief stele of a reclining man in the foreground, with two smaller attendants carrying vessels at his feet.
Banquet relief of Malku with two Attendants. From Palmyra, Syria. Ca. early third century. Limestone. 46 x 58 x 13 cm. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology, Philadelphia, Babylonian Expedition to Nippur II, 1890 (B 8902). 
Photo courtesy of the Penn Museum, object no. B8902.

Blair Fowlkes Childs. Forthcoming 2021. “Protecting Libya’s Archaeological and Cultural Heritage a Decade after the Arab Spring.” in Libya in 2021: What Went Wrong, What Comes Next. Perim Perspectives on Middle East Policy, eds. Ethan Chorin and Aya Burweila. Pendle Press. 

Blair Fowlkes Childs. 2016. “Palmyrenes in Transtiberim: Integration in Rome and Links to the Eastern Frontier,” in Rome and the Worlds beyond Roman Frontiers: Proceedings of the 11th Workshop of the International Network Impact of Empire, Impact of Empire 21, eds. Danielle Slootjes and Michael Peachin, pp. 193-211. Leiden and Boston, E.J. Brill

Blair Fowlkes Childs and Michael Seymour. 2019. The World between Empires: Art and Identity in the Ancient Middle East. Exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press.

Palmyra Portrait Project (with additional bibliography)

Interested in learning more about diverse mortuary practices across the Mediterranean world? Check out this video by Dr. Carrie Arbuckle on Egyptian coffins and this podcast by Dr. Liana Brent on Roman burials and grave reuse.

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