A Peloponnesian Odyssey
Ph.D. student Shannon Dunn travels to Greece to research border sanctuaries.
Shannon M. Dunn, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology, is writing her dissertation on the topic of sanctuaries and other sacred spaces along territorial boundaries in the Peloponnesian peninsula of Greece.
With support from a number of fellowships, Dunn has spent time during the past two academic years in the Peloponnese cataloging these border sanctuaries and looking for patterns across regions in terms of engagement with the frontiers; the effect of political changes on cult
practice; who has access to these sites; and the types of deities, landscapes, and rituals that inhabit border zones.
“A lot of writing and researching is done at home, but I also go to the Peloponnese on a regular basis to visit the sites in my catalog and to study the remains and the topography. In the fall I was there working in the territories of Ilia, Messenia, and Arkadia. In the spring I will go back to study more sites in Arkadia and in the Argolis. Many of my sites are quite off the beaten track, so this project has taken me to a lot of incredible places that I might not have seen or even known about otherwise.”
Dunn credits her advisor, Associate Professor Astrid Lindenlauf, and the supportive environment of the archaeology department, for providing the balance of structure and freedom that has allowed her to thrive as a researcher.
In addition to helping support Dunn’s travel for research, the department has also supported travel to various conferences to present research.
“The tradition of Bryn Mawr’s archaeology program, especially the legacy of our graduate program, has inspired me to be part of a long line of Bryn Mawr archaeologists,” says Dunn. “I always run into our alumnae, and it’s an instant bond.”
Last year, Dunn was a fellow at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens and worked with then-director Jenifer Neils ’72 on turning an exhibition that Neils curated at the school into a recently released book called Hippos: The Horse in Ancient Athens.
Dunn will be presenting part of her dissertation research at a conference this summer at St. Andrews University in Scotland organized by the Society for Ancient Mediterranean Religions. The theme is “Godscapes,” and Dunn’s paper will focus on the sacred landscapes of the Neda River in the western Peloponnese. The river has long been the traditional boundary between Ilia and Messenia, and the headwaters are in a mountainous area where Ilia, Messenia, and Arkadia meet.