Bryan Markovitz

Archaeological Semblance and the Remaking of Roman Pottery Practice

Marzuolo Archaeology Project, Cinigiano, Italy, 2017.


For my masters thesis in cultural anthropology, I conducted fieldwork with the Marzuolo Archaeology Project (MAP), a multi-year excavation of a rural Roman craft production complex dating to the first century AD. The project's principal investigators have been working at the site to uncover evidence of early experimental pottery-making practices that challenge archaeological assumptions about terra sigillata, a ubiquitous form of pottery that is used to produce knowledge about the Roman economy. 

Through an ethnographic analysis of the dig, my thesis demonstrates how MAP's investigators are using concepts drawn from science and technology studies to revise historical narratives about Roman pottery and its production. I also addresses a ubiquitous, yet overlooked aspect of archaeological excavation — aesthetic appearing. Functioning like a theatrical stage, the archaeological site is shaped by semblance, where affective scenarios are performed with material evidence, and used to produce knowledge about the past.

Sonic Atmospheres: GIS as a Tool for the Visual Reenactment of Acousmatic Sound

Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, 2016.


In 2013, I began to conduct research on an archaeoacoustic event that took place in Ansacq, France in 1730. The archival record of the occurrence was recently rediscovered by music theorist Brian Kane, who describes it in Sound Unseen: Acousmatic Sound In Theory and Practice. I was intrigued by the performative aspects of this event, as well as the conundrums that it creates for historical representation.

Along with an article-length historical essay about the event, I also produced a ten-channel sound installation with composer John Berendzen, and a series of drawings that visually re-imagine the event (inspired by the photographs of Axel Hoedt).

Most recently, I simulated the event by using GIS software to visualize historical sound data as a geospatial representation.

In the spring of 2016, I presented my simulation at the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society (IBES) as part of their Atmospheres Conference. The video below summarizes my research and the simulation. Viewing in HD with headphones is best.


Atmospheres (Earth, Itself 2016 Conference) - Institute at Brown for Environment and Society (IBES), Brown University


Reanimating Phenomenal Others: How to Bring Museum Objects Back to Life

At Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, 2015.


Are museum methods for collecting phenomenal forms of otherness missing the point? What is lost when objects of wonder and magic are put into hibernation on museum shelves? Anthropologist Emily Avera and I wanted to find out. In collaboration with the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology and a group of ten students at Brown, we created a performance-based research project that brought archival objects back into the world by re-making them as replicas.

In response to the Symposium’s theme of museological loss, we searched the Haffenreffer for objects that were unknown, or open to speculation. For example, we studied a Baoulé mouse oracle from the Côte d’Ivoire, a phrygian cap from the French Revolution, and a dilapidated owl found in the museum's attic. Our research included video walks among the collections, sketches and photos, literature related to the objects, and even XRF spectroscopy scanning. In the design studio, we worked together to make replicas, or “surrogates” of the objects that we could interact with beyond the museum’s walls.

By making surrogates, we were able to adapt the objects, manipulate their qualities and forms, and find ways to reinterpret their meaning in relation to our lives in the present. The surrogates took on a number of forms, from paper maquettes and illustrations, to songs and scenarios performed around campus and the city. This unusual approach allowed us to address myriad historical and ethical questions that govern the care of museum collections, while giving the objects themselves new experiences in life.


Lost Museums Symposium - Brown University
To Search  - RISD Museum
AAA 2015 Annual Conference - Denver, CO