Archaeology Professor Kathleen Lynch Gave Talk in Honor of Chemistry Professor Lale Burk’s Retirement

Olivia Goodman '14News Editor 

On March 27, Professor Kathleen Lynch, archeologist from the University of Cincinnati, came to Smith to give a lecture entitled “Greeks Bearing Gifts: Athenian Potters and their Anatolian Customers” – sponsored by the department of chemistry, the Lecture Committee, the Smith College Museum of Art, the departments of art and classics and the archaeology program – in honor of Chemistry Professor Lale Burk’s retirement at the end of this year.

The title of the lecture may beg the question, “Why would an archeology lecture be given in honor of a chemistry professor’s retirement?” Professors Burk and Lynch formed a friendship while on an academic cruise together, and Burk’s work in chemistry extends to her interest in archeology, an interdisciplinary field that involves much chemistry. Burk co-teaches the course “Chemistry of Art Objects” with Professor David Dempsey for the Smith College Art Museum: “Chemical analysis is integral to the field of archaeology. In our course we cover the chemistry of different art media including ceramics; the latter is Professor Lynch’s area of expertise. I am originally from Turkey and having a lecture by an expert on the subject of Athenian red-and-black ware seemed like the perfect choice for celebrating my oncoming retirement from the college, and from this course in particular,” Burks said.

Kathleen Lynch is an archaeologist with a specialty in ancient ceramics and looks at how pottery from archaeological excavations can inform us about its ancient users and their culture.

“The talk I gave in honor of Professor Burk considered a type of pottery made in Athens during the Archaic and Classical periods. The main point of my talk was that there is a huge difference between the shapes and decorative themes on the pots made for the home market versus the export market, which, interestingly, targeted non-Greek cultures,” said Lynch.

“Since our celebrant is from Turkey, the heart of my talk focused on the appreciation of Athenian pottery by the ancient cultures of Anatolia, the central part of modern Turkey. Professor Burk’s research and interests are models of interdisciplinary study, and so I tried to put something for everyone in the talk. I wanted the audience to see how naturally interdisciplinary archaeological inquiry is, since it borrows tools from other disciplines such as chemistry.”

Lynch met Burk and her husband, John, last summer while on a Smith travel cruise of the Mediterranean called “The Journey of Odysseus.” Lynch was the archaeology lecturer representing the Archaeological Institute of America and the Smithsonian Institute. After their time together on the cruise, where Burk was “most impressed with the four talks [Lynch] gave on the trip,” she invited Lynch to give the retirement lecture in her honor, calling Lynch “an amazing young scholar, a dynamic and wonderful lecturer, and a great role model for our students.”

Lynch had never been to Smith before and had positive things to say about her visit and Smith students in particular: “I had a wonderful time at Smith. I was particularly impressed with the questions students asked after my talk. They addressed my research with insightful and clever questions that demonstrated both breadth and depth of understanding. From my short visit, I could see the great impact Professor Burk has made on Smith. She is a much loved professor who will be dearly missed, and I feel very lucky to know her and call her a friend.”