Dr Ruth Westgate
My research is primarily concerned with art and architecture in the ancient world, especially the architecture and decoration of houses.
Greek mosaics of the Classical and Hellenistic periods. I am working on a monograph about decorated mosaics in the Greek world from the fifth century to the early first century BC, covering pavements of pebbles, tesserae, stone chips and various combinations of materials. This will be the first comprehensive study of Greek mosaics since the 1930s, ranging from the pebble mosaics of the Classical period to the late Hellenistic pavements of Delos and Pompeii, and including a corpus of decorated mosaics which will enable scholars to get a reliable overview of this material for the first time. The book will survey the techniques, materials and design of the mosaics, and will re-evaluate the prevailing models of their stylistic and technical development, considering each pavement in its architectural and regional context. But it also goes beyond conventional art-historical concerns to explore the changing ways in which mosaics and other decoration were used to structure the space in houses, and thus to gain insights into social and economic trends in the Classical and Hellenistic periods.
Domestic space in Archaic–Hellenistic Greece. Another strand of my work examines the relationship between domestic space and socio-political organisation in the Greek world. At present I am exploring the ways in which the development of social and political complexity in the Aegean was played out in the architecture of houses from the Early Iron Age to the Classical period, looking at how social roles and status distinctions within and between households shaped the architecture and decoration of houses.
I am particularly interested in Classical and Hellenistic houses in Crete, which are strikingly different in their form and appearance from the courtyard houses found elsewhere in the period. The differences may be related to a different form of social organisation on Crete, which is attested by the literary sources; the austere, backward-looking appearance and furnishings of Cretan houses in this period suggest a desire to suppress or deny social change.
My research on houses arises from an AHRB-funded project on houses and settlements in Greece and the Aegean from the Middle Bronze Age to the late Hellenistic period, entitled 'Strategies, Structures and Ideologies of the Built Environment: Regionalism and Continuity in the History and Prehistory of Greece', directed by Nick Fisher and James Whitley. The aim of the project was to investigate the structures of domestic space and the internal arrangement of settlements in three regions of the Aegean (central Greece, Crete and Macedonia) between 2000 and 100 BC.