Manhattanville Professor Publishes Edited Volume on Clothing in Antiquity


Manhattanville Professor Publishes Edited Volume on Clothing in Antiquity

April 21, 2017 • Anonymous

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Megan Cifarelli, Ph.D., teamed up with Laura Gawlinski, Ph. D., the Archeological Institute of America (AIA), and the Kress Foundation to publish the latest installment of “Selected Papers in Ancient Art and Architecture.”

The volume is titled “What Shall I say of Clothes? Theoretical and Methodological Approaches to the Study of Dress in Antiquity,” and features an essay from the Manhattanville College professor as well. To the delight of all who worked on this volume, it showcases many full-color illustrations of clothing and dress in antiquity. While publishing full-color volumes of academic texts can be costly, the Kress Foundation supported Cifarelli and Gawlinski in their efforts to present the information as it should be experienced.

“We’re writing about dress, and some of the papers were just about color. You actually have to see it. Words are an imperfect substitute for images,” Cifarelli said.

Her essay “Costly Choices: Signaling Theory and Dress in Period IVb Hasanlu, Iran” applies costly signaling theory, which has its roots in evolutionary biology, to women who were buried in Hasanlu, Iran. These women were found wearing long, sharp pins that would have made their daily activities extremely difficult.

“It’s almost as if there was some kind of social trade off going on with these pins,” said the professor of art history. “The women who were buried with these pins also had lower incidents of trauma to their bodies from what we would recognize as spousal abuse. They gave up some of their comfort in exchange for physical protection.”

Cifarelli began her archeological research in Northwestern Iran, where she mostly studied burial sites. Originally, she intended to simply establish a connection between burial goods and the construction of personal identity. After discovering the varied range of objects adorned to the body that had withstood centuries, she started thinking about how these objects would have been incorporated into an individual’s clothing and dress.

“My work isn’t just about clothing. It’s about the cultivation of appearance,” said Cifarelli. “This idea of how the way people in society craft individual appearances is an important method of communication.”

For those looking to one day pursue research of their own, Cifarelli has a word of advice that helped to shape her own research in Northwestern Iran: “The best work that I’ve done, I’ve done completely by accident every single time,” the professor said. “It’s always fruitful to let your mind wander a little bit and not be too rigid about what you think your research is going to produce.

School of Arts and Sciences

Art HistoryMegan Cifarelli