Miguel John Versluys
Director of the Graduate School/Professor of Classical & Mediterranean Archaeology
My research and teaching explore the cultural dynamics of the Hellenistic-Roman world (roughly 200 BC – AD 200) from the point of view of Eurasia. I investigate these dynamic processes from local, regional and global perspectives and by means of a variety of methodologies and techniques derived from the Social Sciences & Humanities as well as the Natural Sciences.
Interdisciplinarity is key to my research in all respects. As Classical & Mediterranean archaeologist, I actively work together with (pre)historians, art historians, classicists, Egyptologists, Near Eastern scholars, anthropologists, sociologists and scientists, as I believe that this approach is the only way to arrive at a better and comprehensive understanding of the big picture I am interested in.
In doing so, my research has two distinct focus points: the interconnection of cultures and their various identities (”Globalisation”), and the interdependence of objects and people (“Material Culture Studies”)
The period between 200 BC – AD 200 is pivotal for World History and many of the cultural dynamics that emerged at that time continue to define us up until the present day. My research and teaching actively engage with the presence of the past and the importance of long-term history for our present-day societies.
Currently I am heading the NWO-funded VICI project Innovating objects. The impact of global connections and the formation of the Roman Empire (ca. 200-30 BC) (2016-2021) LINK and, as one of its six main coordinators, the GRAVITATION program Anchoring Innovation funded by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (2017-2027).
I have published 2 monographs, 10 edited volumes and over 50 (refereed) articles and book chapters. I have successfully supervised 5 PhD dissertations. At present, my research group consists of 5 PhD students and 5 Postdocs, amongst whom a Marie Curie fellow. From 2011 onwards I have (co-) organised 6 major international conferences and 9 smaller workshops or conference sessions. I am one of the editors of the Brill series Religions in the Graeco-Roman World (RGRW ).
Follow this link vor my full CV
2001 PhD Leiden University, Aegyptiaca Romana. Nilotic scenes and the Roman views of Egypt (cum laude).
2002-2004 Amsterdam Archaeological Centre, Postdoctoral research fellow & project manager of the International Nemrud Dağ Project
2005- Assistant Professor, Leiden University, Faculty of Archaeology
2011 Guest professor at the Université Toulouse – Le Mirail/Jean Jaurès (Toulouse)
2011-2015 NWO VIDI grant for the project Cultural innovation in a globalising society. Egypt in the Roman world & Associate Professor.
2014 Co-founder of the Leiden Material Agency Forum.
2016 Senior research fellow with the Excellence Cluster TOPOI (Berlin).
2016-2021 NWO VICI grant for the project Innovating objects. The impact of global connections and the formation of the Roman Empire (ca. 200-30 BC) & Full Professor.
2017-2027 GRAVITATION grant for the program Anchoring Innovation (one of the six main coordinators).
2018 Scholar in residence at the Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles).
Research interests, development and output
I obtained my PhD degree from Leiden University in 2001 for a study of images of Egypt in Roman visual material culture and, in broader terms, the meaning of Aegyptiaca Romana. To further explore how “Egypt” and “Rome” constituted dialectical history, I organised, together with Laurent Bricault (Toulouse), a series of conferences on the Egyptian/Hellenistic/Roman goddess Isis between 2005 and 2011. This has resulted in four edited book volumes (Bricault/Versluys 2007, 2010, 2012 and 2014) that explore the entanglement of the local and the global with regard to Isis and the Egyptian gods from a wide variety of perspectives. Simultaneously, extensive fieldwork in Commagene (south-east Anatolia) broadened my range beyond the Nile and Tiber – and subsequently led me to rethink what cultural interaction in Antiquity was about by taking the perspective of the Euphrates. This resulted first in an exploration of Globalisation theory to better understand the connectivity that characterised the Roman world (Pitts/Versluys 2015) and, subsequently, in The Routledge Handbook of Archaeology and Globalization, which encompasses a worldwide scope throughout time. Together with others I also investigated the consequences of living in a world characterised by increasing interconnections as well as our conceptual apparatus for understanding such a context. For instance, we critically evaluated and applied the concept of “The invention of tradition” to Roman Europe and the Mediterranean (Boschung /Busch/ Versluys 2015). Making a similar conceptual shift from culture to concept, a recent volume argues for the crucial importance of the notion of Persianism, as parallel to Hellenism, in order to understand the cultural dynamics of Hellenistic and Roman Eurasia beyond “East’ (versus) “West” containers (Strootman/Versluys 2017).
Things have become increasingly central to these investigations. Specifically, the concept of things shows that objects intrinsically consist of (culturally) multi-layered know-how and meaning and that they affect humans and human society because of this. For that reason, I have come to place both Globalisation and Material Culture Studies (“beyond representation”) at the heart of my agenda for Hellenistic and Roman archaeology.
My 2017 monograph on Nemrud Dağ and Commagene under Antiochos I, entitled Visual style and constructing identity in the Hellenistic world, applies this approach in-depth to a remarkable archaeological case study.
To explore and evaluate “the material turn”, I co-founded the Leiden Material Agency Forum together with colleagues from Art History and Anthropology in 2014. The volume Beyond Egyptomania is one of the outcomes of this interdisciplinary cooperation, in which the transmission of the idea of Egypt throughout time is studied from the perspective of material agency (Versluys/van Eck 2018). Albeit more traditional and applied than the above volume (for good reason), a new book on the Iseum Campense in Rome also investigates how past and present are bridged by the historical layeredness of objects (Versluys, Bülow-Clausen, Capriotti-Vittozzi 2018).
My current projects build on my previous (fieldwork) experiences in (present-day) Italy, Turkey and Egypt and combine my two research focus points - the interconnection of cultures and identities, and the interdependence of objects and people – approached through the concept of innovation. The general aim of these projects is rewrite the history of the Hellenistic and Roman world from the perspective of increasing connectivity and developments that took place in (wider) Eurasia – as part of World History – and to do so on the basis of objects and their affordances.