Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts
Department of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies

Welcome to Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies (CAMS) at Penn State!

CAMS is the study of cultures that arose and flourished around the Mediterranean basin (including Egypt, Greece, Rome, Anatolia, Israel, Mesopotamia, and North Africa) from ancient Mesopotamia (ca. 4000 BCE) to the end of Greco-Roman antiquity (ca. 600 CE). CAMS investigates the whole scope of the ancient Mediterranean world and trains students to interpret the linguistic, historical, and archaeological evidence of its cultures.

Committed to Diversity

The Department of Classics & Ancient Mediterranean Studies (CAMS) at Penn State is devoted to fostering an environment of diversity, equity, and inclusion for all who study the ancient world. As an open and welcoming academic community, we embrace a view of the ancient Mediterranean and its legacies as the common heritage of all people, regardless of gender, color, race, nationality, religion, age, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

In keeping with our conviction that scholarship on antiquity benefits from a multiplicity of voices and perspectives, CAMS supports diversity in research areas, classroom activities, and above all in its membership, especially among groups historically under-represented in the field.

We affirm Penn State’s commitment as a public institution of higher education to effectively serve the members of our communities at all levels – on campus, across the state, and beyond – and we welcome the input of our students, colleagues, and friends as we pursue this goal.

Featured Graduate

LeMhai Baity selected student marshal in CAMS

Congratulations to LeMhai Baity, our spring 2023 Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies student marshal in Penn State’s College of the Liberal Arts!

LeMhai is the daughter of Regan Mckinney-Baity and LeMorris Baity of Akron, Ohio. A Paterno Fellow and Schreyer Scholar, she is graduating with bachelor of arts degrees in Anthropology and Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies. At Penn State, LeMhai worked in Professor Jose Capriles and Laurie Eccles’ Radiocarbon Lab, Professor David Puts’ Behavioral Endocrinology and Evolution Lab, and the Matson Museum of Anthropology. She was also a member of Lambda Alpha PSU, the central Pennsylvania chapter of the Archaeological Institute of America, and Penn State Archery Club. After graduation, LeMhai plans to attend graduate school at a university abroad to pursue a master’s degree in classical archaeology.

CAMS/AFR/AFAM 497: Greece, Rome, and Africa

TuTh 3:05-4:20

Prof. Mathias Hanses

Explore African cultures in the Ancient Mediterranean! This brand-new class examines Egypt, Carthage, and Nubia in interaction with Ancient Greece and Rome. Join us as we explore both the ancient primary evidence and the modern discourses that have excluded, and at times reintegrated, African cultures in studies of Ancient Mediterranean history.

Dr. Hannah Smagh hired as Assistant Teaching Professor

Meet the newest member of the CAMS faculty: Dr. Hannah Smagh specializes in Greek archaeology and the material culture of Greek religion. She has excavated at several projects in the Mediterranean, including Samothrace, Corinth, and the Molyvoti, Thrace, Archaeological Project in Greece and Selinunte in Sicily. Her research interests include gender, identity, and ethnicity in the Mediterranean world, slavery in the ancient world, Greek urbanism, cultural exchange, and digital humanities. Her current book project focuses on the practice of religion in the Greek house. Welcome, Dr. Smagh!

Welcome, Dr. Michael Beshay!

We are happy to announce that Dr. Michael Beshay will be joining the CAMS faculty in the Fall of 2022. Dr. Beshay writes: “I’m a scholar of religions of late antiquity who specializes in the history of early Christianity. My research centers on several interconnected topics, including the development of authoritative traditions; their transmission and reception in diverse artifacts and across confessional boundaries; the significance of ritual and “magic” for the production of novel religious idioms; and the legacies of so-called “heretical” Christians within the beliefs and practices that emerge as “Orthodox.” I explore these dynamics relative to the ritual traditions surrounding the Virgin Mary and King Solomon–two prominent figures whose authorities span multiple religious communities and represent layers of cultural innovation and conflict.”

John earned his bachelor’s degree in CAMS in 2004 followed by certificates in intensive Latin and classical language from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Pennsylvania, respectively. He later earned a master’s degree in forensic archaeological material analytics from the United Kingdom’s Sheffield University and a juris doctorate from Drexel University, whose magazine named him to its “40 under 40” list of impressive alumni. Today, John is the director of legal and commercial for New Jersey Wind Port and Infrastructure at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. The New Jersey Wind Port project is the nation’s first purpose-built offshore wind marshaling and manufacturing port. Prior to that role, John served as a New Jersey deputy attorney general supporting the state’s climate resiliency efforts, safe drinking water and groundwater policies, and archaeological and historic site preservation. John is also an adjunct faculty member at Drexel University, where he teaches master’s courses on nonprofit governance and environmental law and policy. He is a member of the Ellis Island Advisory Commission.
Katherine Burlingame graduated in 2011 with bachelor’s degrees in CAMS and History. A member of the first cohort of Paterno Fellows, she studied abroad in Egypt and in Athens, Greece. In 2014, Katherine completed a master’s degree in World Heritage Studies at Brandenburg Technical University in Germany, and in 2020, she earned her doctorate in Human Geography at Lund University in Sweden. Her dissertation, “Dead landscapes—and how to make them live,” was awarded an outstanding thesis prize. Today, Katherine is a lecturer and postdoctoral researcher on “Relics of Nature,” a project funded by the Norwegian Research Council at the University of Oslo. With a focus on landscapes in the High North, the project investigates the intersections between natural and cultural heritage in a changing climate. Katherine is an active member of the International Council on Monuments and Sites and the Association for Critical Heritage Studies, and she serves on the International Editorial Advisory Board for the journal Landscape Research. Her parents Susan and Philip Burlingame accepted the award from Dean Clarence Lang on her behalf.
April 7, 2023
4:00 pm
102 Weaver and on Zoom
Abstract: What are some of the challenges and rewards of interpreting Phoenician art and iconography in the context of cultural contact? Through two concrete case studies, this talk will illustrate the difficulties in teasing out Phoenician art from the “Orientalizing” adaptations of it made by local groups. We will also appreciate the resilience of symbolic meanings and modes of cultural contact captured in artistic expression. [The lecture will be held in person in 102 Weaver. Those who want to attend on Zoom MUST register here:]
March 17, 2023
4:00 pm
121 Borland and on Zoom
The Manichaean Codices from Madinet Madi, Egypt—discovered in 1929—constitute one of the greatest troves of ancient manuscripts preserved to this day. Less well known than other discoveries such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Library, only half of these codices have been published due to their precarious materiality. The problems posed by these texts are a result of their preservation, but great steps are being taken by relying on modern technologies, such as Multispectral Imaging and X-ray tomography. The renewed visibility of the ink has led directly to new insights on Manichaean religion. Professor Dilley will show how the codices of the Medinet Madi Library illuminate the religious beliefs and practices of Mani’s followers in their remarkably global context. [Event held in-person. Zoom attendees must register here.]
February 24, 2023
4:00 pm
Weaver 102 and on Zoom
Numerous gods were worshipped in the ancient Greek house, but few if any permanent sacred spaces were set aside for their rituals. Rather than permanent architecture, sacred space in the Greek house appears to have been defined by the performance of rituals using small portable objects or multi-functional structures. By using a spatial approach to analyze the effects of these objects involved in ritual performance, we can gain a richer understanding of the domestic religious landscape and investigate its relationship with religious practices on the larger public stage. [The lecture will be held in person in 102 Weaver. Those who want to attend on Zoom MUST register here:]
January 27, 2023
4:00 pm
102 Weaver and on Zoom
Gods and goddesses in ancient Mesopotamia were embodied in statues that were brought to life through mouth-opening and mouth-washing rituals. Subsequently, the deities required daily nourishment, and it was the temple’s obligation to provide this care. The ritual presentation of foods could only be performed by a select group of ritually pure temple officials, which, in early Mesopotamia, also included women. A closer look at this daily ritual offers fascinating perspectives on Mesopotamian religious beliefs and practices. [Event held in person. Zoom attendees must pre-register here.]