A real stinker is about to be unleashed by Julia Castner '18 at the seventh annual Undergraduate Classics Conference at the University of Tennessee.
More specifically, Julia’s latest research will be unleashed: a new study of the scent map of imperial Rome. Julia’s paper, "Experiencing the Cloaca Maxima: A Smellscape of Imperial Rome," looks at how ancient Romans experienced the scents and aromas of their unique city. Julia will be traveling to Knoxville in February to present her research with the help of funding from the Dean’s Office at Bryn Mawr College.
“I’ve done some research on the psychology of smell, which ties into the cultural implications of experiencing smell, and how smell is culturally and socially impacted,” Julia says. “It’s very phenomenalized; for instance, throughout human history there is no single smell that has been universally considered unpleasant.”
An archaeology and fine arts double major, Julia created a cursory scent map of the ancient city with research from a wide variety of fields, which she says gives a more complete view of the Romans’ relationship to smell than from an archaeological perspective alone.
Julia thanks her longtime professor and mentor, Associate Professor Astrid Lindenlauf, for encouraging her to look at her topic from a wide variety of perspectives.
“She encouraged us to dive deep into questions about the ancient world,” says Julia, “and gave frequent suggestions for reframing and recontextualizing the archaeological record.”
While Julia may never know exactly how imperial Rome would smell to a modern visitor, despite her extensive research, she can take a good guess: “We have examples of excavations uncovering finds from places such as mass graves and the amphorae at Monte Testaccio.”
So what? “Well…they were still really, really smelly.”
Also presenting at the conference will be Megan Mulkern '18 ("Leave Your Sandals at the Door: Prescriptions, Prohibitions and the Social Landscape of Greek Sanctuaries") Catherine Rowen '18 ("Containing Fear: Acadian Pan in the Athenian Wilderness"), and Jessica Urban HC '18 ("Water and Wealth: Water as an Elite Symbol in the Domestic Landscape of the Bay of Naples").
Looking for a whiff of funding for your own research? Visit the Dean’s Office funding page.