Fellow: Awarded 2013
Field of Study: Classics
Competition: US & Canada
Susan Rotroff is a classical archaeologist whose research focuses on ancient Greek ceramics, from the 6th through the 1st centuries B.C.E. Educated at Bryn Mawr (B.A., 1968) and Princeton (M.A., 1972; PhD., 1976), she began her academic career at Mount Allison University in Canada. Subsequently she moved to Hunter College in New York City, and she now teaches at Washington University in Saint Louis, where she is the Jarvis Thurston and Mona van Duyn Professor in the Humanities. Throughout her career she has maintained a strong connection with the Agora Excavations, in Athens, publishing three books on Hellenistic ceramics from the excavation (Athenian and Imported Moldmade Bowls , Athenian and Imported Wheelmade Table Ware and Related Material , and The Plain Wares ), as well as a monograph on a deposit of pottery from the public dining room of the chief magistrates of the Classical city (Debris from a Public Dining Room in the Athenian Agora, with John Oakley ). A second monograph, on a series of deposits dating from the 5th to the 3rd century and, in her view, reflecting the ritual behavior of ancient craftsmen, is slated for publication in 2014 (Industrial Religion: The Saucer Pyres of the Athenian Agora). She has also studied and published pottery from excavations and surveys at Corinth, Delos, Karystos, Samothrace, and Mt. Lykaion in Greece, and at Sardis in Turkey. In 1988 she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, and in 2011 she received the Gold Medal of the Archaeological Institute of America.
Two related themes run through her research. The first is ceramic chronologies: how they are constructed and how they can be used to investigate events and developments in the past. This involves not only the creation of chronological frameworks for ceramic types, but also the investigation of the routes by which, and the rates at which, new ceramic forms appear in the archaeological record. Her project, an exploration of the early chronology of Athenian red-figure pottery, will explore both of those issues in the context of one of the most intensively studied ceramic types of Greek antiquity. A second theme is a broader interest in what objects—and especially pottery—can tell us about the past, particularly those aspects of the past that have escaped description in ancient texts.