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Dr. Jennifer Tobin

Fee Range1: $ 3000 - $6000

Leading Archaeologist






Dr. Jennifer Tobin

Leading Archaeologist

Jennifer Tobin is an archaeologist who has participated in excavations in Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories.  With degrees from Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania, she has held teaching positions at Arizona State University and Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey.  She is now Professor Emerita at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she has won several teaching awards.  In addition to her numerous scholarly publications, Professor Tobin has recorded a series of lectures for Modern Scholar, a division of Recorded Books: The Glory that was Greece, The Grandeur that was Rome, The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and From Troy to Constantinople.  A highly demanded study leader, she has led tours to Greece, Turkey, North Africa, and the Black Sea region for such companies as the Smithsonian and Road Scholars.  Professor Tobin’s research focuses on ancient architecture, investigating construction techniques and design.  However, her work never strays far from the human equation, exploring questions of who built these monuments, what role they played in society, and how they were experienced in antiquity. Professor Tobin’s lively examination of ancient monuments in their original contexts provides a window into the ancient world, rendering the people of the past tangible to us in the present.


The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: Monumental Power, Politics and Pride 

Although most people today are aware of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, few can name all seven.  Perhaps fewer still realize that throughout much of its history the list was never static.  From the time of its creation in the 3rd century BCE until the Renaissance when the list finally became canonized, “Wonders” were added and removed from the list according to such factors as political expediency, religious affiliation, and personal taste.  Although the list has been constantly adapted, the idea of the Seven Wonders has remained a cultural icon for human achievement to this day. Why has it maintained such popularity for over 1700 years?  Certainly, much of the appeal lies in the pleasure of contemplating buildings and statues of great size, intense beauty, and ingenious craftsmanship.  This lecture argues, however, that in the pre-modern world the list of the Seven Wonders functioned as a place to display dominance and power.  By reviewing the cultural climate in which the list was initially created together with the historical circumstances that motivated changes to the list, this lecture will explore how the list of the Seven Wonders has promoted notions of cultural, political, and religious supremacy from antiquity to the present.

The Great Pyramids: Solving the Ancient Mysteries 

No monuments from the ancient world enjoy greater fame than the three pyramids at Giza.  These tombs mark the culmination of a century of trial and error, as previous architects attempted to design the ideal structure to house the body of their pharaoh and secure his soul’s afterlife with the gods.  At Giza, pyramid construction reached its apogee, witnessing the largest and most elaborate sepulchers ever erected.

Archaeologists have long studied these magnificent structures, puzzling out a history that stretches back over four millennia.  Drawing on centuries of research, this presentation explores who designed and built the pyramids, how such massive buildings were constructed, and what role they played within ancient Egyptian society and religion. 

Alexander the Great: His Career, Character, and What Made Him “Great” 

The meteoric career of Alexander the Great is the stuff of legends.  As a precocious child he tamed the mighty horse Bucephalus, in his teens he led the Macedonian cavalry and before the age of 20 he was proclaimed King of Greece.  Through ingenious military tactics and crafty diplomacy, he forged the largest empire the ancient world had ever known, but by the age of 32 he lay dead in Babylon.

While the outlines of his life are well known, the motivations that drove Alexander’s extraordinary trajectory are less clear.  This presentation explores the forces that propelled Alexander to greatness as well as the demons that drove him to his early death. 

The Earliest Cult Centers in the World: Göbekli Tepe and its Contemporaries

Since the time of their discovery in 1996, the ruins at Göbekli Tepe, near Şanlıurfa, Turkey, have generated heated discussions among archaeologists.   Excavations have revealed a series of large, circular structures, whose two central T-shaped pillars supported wooden roofs.  Other, smaller T-pillars were incorporated into the buildings’ stone walls.  Carvings of animals adorned these pillars – birds, bulls, foxes, spiders, snakes, and scorpions – suggesting that cultic activities occurred here.  Remarkably, these buildings were constructed in the 10th millennium BCE, at a time when the builders had not yet adopted the arts of agriculture and animal husbandry.  Do these structures represent the earliest religious structures in the world? This presentation reviews the controversies surrounding the function of the buildings, as well as the circumstances of their construction and demolition.  It will also demonstrate that Göbekli Tepe is not a unique phenomenon, by presenting a recently discovered contemporary site, Karahan Tepe.  

Impelled by God: Female Pilgrimage to the Holy Land in Late Antiquity 

When Constantine the Great sent his mother Helena to the Holy Land to identify and develop Christian holy sites, he unwittingly set into action a movement among religious women throughout the Roman Empire. Emulating the queen mother, their goal was to explore their religion by visiting places mentioned in scripture.  During the 4th-6th centuries female pilgrims of noble and not so noble birth journeyed to Jerusalem, Egypt, and the Levant, exhibiting a kind of mobility that women rarely experienced in prior centuries would not again until modern times.  Perhaps the best known of these adventurers is Egeria, who in the late 4th century CE spent three years traveling through what is now Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Israel, Turkey, and the Palestinian Territories.  She recounted her experiences in a series of letters that still survive today.  This presentation tracks the journey of Egeria, exploring the landscapes and monuments she encountered and investigating the challenges that she and other female explorers confronted.   By doing so we have the unique opportunity to observe this pivotal time in history from a female perspective.












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