Aaron D. Brown

Classical Archaeology PhD Program
Research Interests: 
Classical art and archaeology; Roman and Etruscan/Italic material culture; Pompeian studies; foodways and the archaeology of consumption; household archaeology; social boundary formation and transculturation; visual culture; urbanism.
B.A. 2013 Florida State University
M.A. 2015 University of California, Berkeley
adbrown [at] berkeley.edu
Taste and Technique: Food Preparation Strategies & Social Negotiation within the Pompeian Home, ca. 300 BCE – 79 CE
Dissertation Advisor: 
J. Theodore Peña

As a student of material culture, my research aims to elucidate the various relationships forged between humans and objects. In particular, I seek a better understanding of how the Romans, Etruscans, other ancient Italic peoples engaged with the material world which they inhabited. How did individuals, especially those not in power, forge collective identities through material culture? How were objects used in the negotiation of the self and in one’s self-presentation? What do objects tell us about the structure of ancient societies, and what roles did they play in the structuring of social interactions? These are a few of the basic questions informing my research.

I am currently working on a dissertation which investigates how food preparation strategies change within the Pompeian home from ca. 300 BCE to 79 CE and how those changes may reflect individual households’ socio-cultural affiliations and the changing demographic, political, and economic realities of the town. To assess how culinary traditions change during this period, one marked by colonization and increasing Roman influence in the town, I will attempt to reconstruct the standard pre-colonial batterie de cuisine – while simultaneously exploring variability between households – and compare it with that of the Roman period. I will document changes in the morphology and frequency of ceramic and metal cookwares, utensils, and fixtures for domestic food preparation from select contexts at Pompeii and use this information in conjunction with use alteration analysis to paint a picture of changing culinary habits among the town’s diverse residents. Through the lens of foodways and a focus on domestic contexts (i.e. the “private sphere”), I hope to better our understanding of how the Pompeians personally situated themselves within the changing cultural milieu of the town and to what extent the social fabric of the community was altered by Roman colonization.

I have been a member of the Pompeii Artifact Life History Project since 2014 and have excavated at the following sites in Italy: Cerveteri, Morgantina, Cetamura del Chianti, and Rofalco. In the spring of 2018, I served as a Mellon Curatorial Intern at the Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia in Rome. 

In addition to studying ancient culinary traditions, I also have an abiding interest in the regional cuisines of modern-day Italy and love attempting to make obscure shapes of pasta a mano

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