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Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2014/2015

Term: 1

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Martin Beckmann

Email: beckmam@mcmaster.ca

Office: Togo Salmon Hall 714

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23381


Office Hours: Wed. 11-12

Course Objectives:

This course will investigate not only the iconography but also the social and cultural meaning of ancient mosaics.  While surveying the development of mosaic iconography in Greece and Rome, we will also focus in detail on four particular mosaic groups: the House of the Faun in Pompeii, the black and white mosaics of Ostia, the mosaics of Piazza Armerina, and the mosaics of Antioch in Syria.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

K.M.D. Dunbabin, Mosaics of the Greek and Roman World. Cambridge 1999.

Students are expected to become thoroughly familiar with the contents of the textbook, paying special attention to Dunbabin's method of description, her approach to dating and interpretation of iconography, and her handling of differing scholarly opinions and arguments.

Method of Assessment:

Quizzes                                   33% (6 quizzes, see below for content and grading)

Reading Summaries                22% (11 x 2%)


Outline of presentation           P/F   Due 7 days before presentation

Class presentation                   20%

Outline of essay                      P/F   Due 7 days after presentation

Essay                                       20%  Due 4pm Tuesday December 16


Informed participation            5%


Total                                        100%

  • Outlines of presentations and essay will be graded pass/fail.  A passing outline must be submitted before presentations are made or essays submitted.
  • Informed Participation: The class can only succeed as a seminar when everyone participates thoughtfully in the discussion, especially in the discussion of student presentations. Participation will be evaluated based on the frequency of informed comment and contribution to class discussion. Asking questions about parts of the reading you did not understand is also considered demonstration of preparation.
  • Participation also includes completion of lecture recall exercises (each class)
  • Quizzes will test information from Instructor Seminar Presentations and Quiz Readings (specified in outline below).
  • Quizzes are CUMULATIVE, with all Presentation and Reading material up to that date eligible for testing. To reflect the increased amount of information being tested, the grading structure of the quizzes is as follows (Quiz # - value as portion of final grade):
    • Quiz 1 - 3%
    • Quiz 2 - 4%
    • Quiz 3 - 5%
    • Quiz 4 - 6%
    • Quiz 5 - 7%
    • Quiz 6 - 8%

Turnitin: In this course we will be using a web-based service (Turnitin.com) to reveal plagiarism.  Students will be expected to submit their completed essay electronically to Turnitin and in hard copy so that it can be checked for academic dishonesty.  Students who do not wish to submit their work to Turnitin must still submit a copy to the instructor.  No penalty will be assigned to a student who does not submit work to Turnitin.  All submitted work is subject to normal verification that standards of academic integrity have been upheld (e.g., on-line search, etc.).  To see the Turnitin.com Policy, please go to www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

September 9    Introduction: Nature of mosaics; terms; craftsmen, technique and repertory; course structure and expectations.

                        Reading for Quiz: none this week

                        Reading for Discussion: none this week


September 16  Greek Mosaics. 

Reading for Quiz 1: Dunbabin Chs. 16-18.

Reading for Discussion: D.M. Robinson, "The Villa of Good Fortune at Olynthos," AJA 38 (1934) 501-510. [JSTOR]


September 23  Hellenistic Mosaics. 

Reading for Quiz 2: Dunbabin Ch.1-2. 

Reading for Discussion: K.M. Phillips, "Subject and Technique in Hellenistic-Roman Mosaics: A Ganymede Mosaic from Sicily," Art Bulletin 42 (1960) 243-262. [JSTOR]



Reading for Quiz 3: Dunbabin Ch. 3.

Reading for Discussion: R.I. Curtis, "A Personalized Floor Mosaic from Pompeii," AJA 88 (1984) 557-566. [JSTOR]


October 7        Roman North Africa.

Reading for Quiz 4: Dunbabin Chs. 4, 19.

Reading for Discussion: R.J.A. Wilson, "Roman Mosaics in Sicily: The African Connection," AJA 86 (1982) 413-428. [JSTOR]


October 14      Mosaics of Roman Syria.

                        Reading for Quiz 5: Dunbabin Ch. 7.

                        Reading for Discussion: A. Retzleff, "The Dresden Type Satyr-Hermaphrodite Group in Roman Theaters," AJA 111 (2007) 459-472. [JSTOR]


October 21      Mosaics and Scholarly Writing. Presentation Tips.

                        Reading for Quiz 6: Dunbabin Ch. 10.

Reading for Discussion: B.A. Robinson, "'Good Luck' from Corinth: A Mosaic of Allegory, Athletics, and City Identity," AJA 116 (2012) 105-132. [JSTOR]


October 28      Presentations 1 and 2. 


November 4    Presentations 3 and 4.


November 11  Presentations 5 and 6.


November 18  Presentations 7 and 8.


November 25  Presentations 9 and 10.


December 2     Presentations 11 and 12.