Bryan Burns

Bryan Burns
(781) 283-2632
Classical Studies
B.A., University of North Carolina; M.A., Ph.D., University of Michigan

Bryan E. Burns

Professor of Classical Studies

Archaeologist directing excavations in central Greece, studying cultural interaction and trade in the ancient Mediterranean, pursuing digital technology in teaching and research.

My teaching and research and focus on the archaeology of Greece, from the Bronze Age through the Archaic and Classical periods. I spend every summer with a research team at ancient Eleon, just an hour north of Athens, where we excavate Early Mycenaean tombs (1700 BCE), Late Mycenaean houses (1100 BCE), and a religious shrine of humble character (500 BCE). The project involves students in every aspect of the fieldwork experience, which is largely about careful documentation, includes many hours of physical labor, and sometimes features very exciting moments of discovery.

I’m interested in how ancient Greek societies made connections across space and through time. In my 2010 book, Mycenaean Greece, Mediterranean Commerce, and the Formation of Identity, I studied the use of imported artifacts in Bronze Age communities. These object included works of ivory, glass, rare stones, and precious metals that were distinguished by their exotic material and uncommon style. Though the excavations at Eleon, I am now studying how overlapping trade networks enabled people to claim connections with various sources of power, and how those resources changed over time.

The courses I offer at Wellesley cover a broad scope of topics including the methods of archeology, thematic inquiry into shared activities and spectacles, and the representation of myths in text and art. My goal is for students to combine historical information from written texts with the material data produced through excavations. Working with the diverse Mediterranean artifacts at Wellesley – including the collection of pottery, coins, lamps, and figurines maintained by the Classical Studies Department — students learn about the ancient people as well as methods of analysis relevant to all culture studies.

Digital technologies have become central to my teaching and research, and we are fortunate to have excellent resources for new technologies at Wellesley. Several of my courses guide students to employ digital mapping to advance archaeological research and understanding mythic imagery. It’s also exciting to help students connect to evidence for life and death in ancient Greece through the Virtual Reality experience and 3D models that we’ve created for ancient Eleon.