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Carlo Severi (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris)
"Semasiography, Picture-Writing and the Amerindian Arts of Memory"

Wednesday, October 30, 2013 at 5:30 pm
Mencoff Hall, 68 Waterman Street, Second Floor Seminar Room

In this paper, Severi argues that the logic of Native American Indian mnemonics (pictographs, khipus) cannot be understood only from comparison with writing, but requires a comparative anthropology. Rather than trying to know if Native American techniques of memory are true scripts or mere mnemonics, we can explore the formal aspects both have in common, and compare the mental processes they call for. In this perspective, techniques of memory stop being hybrids or imprecise, and we will better understand their nature and functions as mental artifacts. This interpretation of picture-writing system can provide for a new perspective on Amerindian semasiographies, both in theoretical and in empirical terms.

Carlo Severi is an anthropologist of memory who serves as the Director of Studies at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris and the Director of Research at CNRS. He pursued his doctoral degree under the tutelage of Claude Levi-Strauss at EHESS, first studying indigenous theories of mental illness and the transmission of shamanistic knowledge among the Kuna of Panama. His work has considered psychology, image,and memory from an anthropological lens, with recent publications including Paroles en Actes: Anthropologie et Pragmatique (2010), El Sendero y la Voz: Hacia una Antropologia de Memoria (2010), and Traditions et Temporalités des Images (2009).


Why Do We Watch Stupid Cat Videos? How Do Pets Amuse?

Thursday, December 6, 2012 at Noon
Rhode Island Hall, Room 108

Organized by: Susan E. Alcock, John Bodel, and Stephen Houston (Brown University)

Come be introduced to Brown's Mellon Sawyer Seminar, "Animal Magnetism: The Emotional Ecology of Animals and Humans" (organized by the Program in Early Cultures).

Watch some of Brown faculty members' favorite YouTube clips of cat and other animal antics, and hear perspectives on why we find them funny, compelling, or even addictive.

The audience will vote on submissions in the student competition to create a logo for "Animal Magnetism".

Pizza and soda will be served, or feel free to bring a lunch.


Logo Design Competition! Animal Magnetism Seminar

Submission deadline: December 1, 2012 by 5:00 pm
Prize: $250 for winning design; $50 each for two semi-finalists
Eligibility: Open to all undergraduate students at RISD and Brown University

The Program in Early Cultures at Brown University solicits submissions for a logo.  The logo should express the subject of a year-long Mellon Sawyer Seminar at Brown: “Animal Magnetism: The Emotional Ecology of Animals and Humans.”  The successful logo is intended for use in all Seminar publicity, both on College Hill and elsewhere.

How humans live with animals and fold them into their emotional lives as pets, companions, and even family.  The framework in time is the ancient world, from the Old World and New: Greece, Rome, South and Central America, China, Africa.

Winning Logo 
The submission will encapsulate these deep ties of affection by graphic means.  It should include the words, “Mellon Sawyer Seminar” and “Animal Magnetism.”  Further, it should reference such ties in the ancient world, as inclusively as possible. The design should be bold, eye-catching, and legible.

Time Frame    
-- submission of designs: December 1, 2012 by 5:00 pm
-- final selection: December 10, 2012

Please submit a high resolution .jpg, .gif, or .pdf to AND


Being Nobody?
Understanding Slavery Thirty Years after Slavery and Social Death

April 13-15, 2012
Organized by: John Bodel (Brown University) and Walter Scheidel (Stanford University)


The Gift in Antiquity

“The Gift in Antiquity” was an international conference that took place at Brown University on May 2-4, 2010. The conference was organized by Michael Satlow. For more information, visit the Conference website.


Theoretical Archaeology Group (TAG) 2010

The 2010 TAG operated around the general theme of ‘The Location of Theory’ -- an intentionally open ended rubric. The conference was held April 30-May 2, on the Brown campus. For more information, visit


Kirk Lecture Series

Made possible by generous grants from the Kirk Foundation, this annual interdisciplinary lecture series in the Program in Ancient Studies examined topics of broad interest involving the ancient world and was held from 2001-02 through 2005-06.

Topics for previous years:

  • Geography, Ethnography, and Perceptions of the World in Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance (2005-6)
  • Writing and History in the Ancient World (2004-5)
  • Origin and Function of Writing in Ancient Civilizations (2003-4)
  • War, Peace, and Reconciliation in the Ancient World (2002-3)
  • Perceptions and Representations of the Past in Ancient Civilizations (2001-2)