Katherine Harrington is a Senior Associate Member at the American School of Classical Studies. She received her Ph.D. from Brown University’s Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World.
Q: What is your particular field of interest?
A: I study the archaeology of everyday life. My dissertation, which I finished last spring, was about domestic production and household industry. So basically about people making things in their houses. In the past there wasn’t such a strict division between industrial and domestic space, and that really hadn’t been acknowledged enough for Ancient Greece. So I looked at the contribution of ordinary households to the ancient economy, and the players involved.
Q: How did you get interested in this?
A: So my undergrad thesis was about pebble mosaics, and those mostly occur in houses, so I got interested in houses through that. And one of the things I love most about archaeology is that I get to study all different fields—so as a grad student I got to study literature and art but also science and politics. So I took a class that was taught by an engineer and I got really interested in craft production and what we can learn about it. And I‘ve always been interested in what material culture can teach us about people who weren’t in the written record. In homes there were women, there were children, there were resident foreigners who were important in industry, and all these other people that are often left out of the ancient literature. It's another avenue for looking at people in the past.
Q: What brought you to the ASCSA?
Q: I was a regular member in 2012 -13. I love being in Athens. Today I am the Jacob Hirsch fellow. Being here I have the opportunity go to Corinth and look first hand at some of the materials for my dissertation, or to apply for some permits for other sites and look at things in storerooms. And finally so many people are coming through the school its a good opportunity to talk to people and think about why your work is important to them, and you can think about the broader consequences of your work.
Q: And what are you working on at the moment?
A: So the thing you have to do after you write a dissertation is write a book. So I’m doing preliminary research towards writing a book and more research on articles related to my dissertation research. So I’m in the next step. Currently I’m working in the libraries and working towards some permits to see material from some of the case studies I used in my dissertation. Hopefully I’ll be doing that in the spring. And I went on the first trip partially for fun, but also there’s also a lot of stuff on that trip that relates to domestic life.
Q: Why is it important to see these sites in person?
A: I think particularly because so much of classical archaeology had focused on monumental archaeology and public space the more minute traces of daily life don’t get recorded in as much detail. It’s always best if you can to do autopsy and to see things in person. Your interpretation might be different than the scholar that wrote about it and you can make different connections than if you were in the library. Especially when thinking about craft production you really need to hold something, turn it around, see how it was made.
Q: What is your favorite place in Athens?
A: I have to say that probably this week my favorite place is the top of lykavittos because I’ve been trying to walk up it every day when I have a caffeine headache after too much time in the library. I worked for the Agora for 5 years and I found the summer in Athens a little overwhelming. So Athens in the winter is also my favorite.
Q: Where else in Greece would you like to visit?
A: Oh everywhere. I started coming to Greece in 2005 and I mostly have been coming here for fieldwork. I once spent 36 hours on Malta but I want to really go. I’ve never been to Egypt. I’ve only spent a little bit of time in Italy, and there are always more places to explore in Greece, I’d love to get to more islands.
Q: What is your favorite restaurant in Athens?
A: There is a vegetarian restaurant called Avocado that I really like. It’s an interesting experience to be able to choose anything on the menu when you’re a vegetarian in Greece. They have nice guacamole and other veggie things that I like.
Q: If you had to be a Greek God, which would you be?
A: I guess Hephaestus because of the industry connection and I feel like he doesn’t get enough credit, in Homer the gods are always laughing at him and stuff.
Q: What do you get from your experience at the ASCSA?
A: I think my regular year was one of the most fun times of my life. I just got to get up early in the morning and go to sites and museums with people that I like and go to a nice dinner and those are all of my favorite things. I have incredibly fond memories. At this point in my career, during this transition to “real life” it’s nice to be back here and have this sense of community.