Color photograph of a medium skinned woman with dark hair wearing a bright red sweater; she is outdoors in front of a brick building, smiling at the camera

Mary C. Danisi

Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Rome Prize
September 1, 2023–July 5, 2024
PhD Candidate, Department of Classics, Cornell University
Project title
Rovings: Wool and the Ancient Ecology of a Cosmic Medium
Project description

My dissertation investigates the crafting and ritual applications of fillets—sacred textile bands—in Greco-Roman cult. Often consisting of swaths of unspun wool called rovings, these ribbons were enmeshed within the socioreligious fabric of the ancient Mediterranean. These materials, however, have remained on the fringes of classical studies due to their stigmatization as products of utilitarian, female activity. Taking seriously the bands’ material and behavioral complexities, my research at the Academy aims to address the gender ecologies of wool during the Hellenistic and early Imperial periods by drawing awareness to the critical intermedial operations of fillets in contemporary portraiture. I also will contextualize fiber technologies from antiquity within the discourse of modern Italian folk art traditions to articulate how band-makers across time have constructed worlds of belonging, especially among communities of women. 

The photograph of Mary C. Danisi was taken by Evan Allen.