Bryan Burns

Professor of Classical Studies

Archaeologist leading an excavation in central Greece, studying cultural interaction and trade in the ancient Mediterranean, pursuing digital technology in teaching and research.

My teaching and research focus on the archaeology of Greece, from the Bronze Age through the Classical periods. I am committed to making study of ancient Mediterranean cultures accessible to all students at Wellesley. I advocate for the support of LGBTQ+ students and scholars through my position with the Lambda Classical Caucus and strive to develop global, comparative approaches to the past through current initiatives with the Archaeological Institute of America.

I spend every summer leading an excavation at ancient Eleon, just an hour north of Athens, where we have uncovered houses and tombs of the Mycenaean period (1700-1100 BCE), and a religious shrine of the Classical period (500 BCE). Together with colleagues, I have recently published an open-access report on our excavations from 2011-2018 (AJA 2020), and I have co-edited a volume of specialized studies (Mouseion 2021) 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. I wrote a book that studied the significance of objects and materials that traveled from Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean to Greece. These works of ivory, glass, rare stones, and precious metals became symbols of local power as well as foreign origins. 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 topics I teach at Wellesley include the representation of myths in Greek art, interaction between regions of the ancient Mediterranean, and the changing methods of archeological research. My goal is for students to formulate their own understanding of the way that material culture preserves information about past societies and is still significant as archaeological heritage in today’s world. I love introducing students to the diverse Mediterranean artifacts we have at Wellesley, including the collection of pottery, coins, lamps, and figurines maintained by the Classical Studies Department. It’s even better when we get to study together in Greece, through summer programs or our Wintersession course.


  • B.A., University of North Carolina
  • M.A., University of Michigan
  • Ph.D., University of Michigan