Arnold Alahverdian (Ph.D. Candidate)

Arnold Alahverdian's dissertation deals with the fifth-century Sasanian world. In it he contextualizes a fifth-century revolt in the Caucasus within broader developments in the Sasanian world (invasions, socio-political developments, ideological developments), focusing mostly on Sasanian-Armenian relations. He works on mostly Armenian, Syriac, and Middle Persian sources, especially literature dealing with the reigns and "persecutions" of Peroz I and Yazdgerd II. A segment of his dissertation also studies a narrative of sanctified warfare (especially its gendered rhetoric) within broader late antique developments (this includes elements from the Iranian epic tradition). Areas of Interest: Late Antique history, Sasanian History, Armenian History, Iranian Epic Tradition, Religion, identity, and violence in late antiquity, World History, Near Eastern / Middle Eastern History.


Agnik Bhattacarya (Ph.D. Candidate)

  • Advisor: Matthew P. Canepa

Agnik Bhattacarya (BA, Sanskrit University; MA, Presidency University, Kolkata) joined the PhD Program in Visual Studies as the Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Graduate Fellow in Ancient Iranian Studies working under Prof. Canepa. Mr. Battacharya works on eastern Iran and ideas of nationhood in Afghanistan. He plans to research the visual and spatial politics of the formation of the Kushan Empire, which encompassed eastern Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia and Gandhara. His particular interest is the history of archaeology and role of Kushan Empire in the formation and contestation of nationhood and identity in modern Afghanistan.


Ileana de Giuseppe (Ph.D. Candidate)

Ileana de Giuseppe received her B.A. (Summa cum laude) in Cultural Heritage from Alma Mater Studiorum University of Bologna (Ravenna) and M.A. (Summa cum laude) in History, Preservation and Enhancement of the Artistic and Archaeological Heritage and Landscape, with a specialization in Archaeology). Ileana has excavated for several seasons at Persepolis with the Italian-Iranian project at Tol-e Ajori as well as numerous sites throughout the Mediterranean. Her research focuses on problems of the materiality, visuality and practices of transculturation in changing identities across the lands of the former Achaemenid after Alexander.


Mark Gradoni (Ph.D. Candidate)

Mark Gradoni is a doctoral student at the University California, Irvine, in the department of History, where he focuses on the history of the Sasanian Empire. He holds a M.A. in the Humanities with a concentration in Art History and Archaeology from Hood College, as well as B.A.s in History and Ancient Studies from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. His academic training is interdisciplinary, combining archaeological, art historical, and historical methodologies. He studies Iran and the broader Near East in Late Antiquity with interests in public engagement with archaeology, and the phenomenon of pseudo-archaeology in popular media.


Nastasya Kosygina (Ph.D. Candidate)

Nastasya Kosygina earned her B.A. in Classics and B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Her research interests include archaeology and material culture of the late antique eastern Mediterranean and Western Asia; human relationships to materiality and their effect upon the material debris of praxis; etic and emic concepts of "magic" vs premodern landscapes of doing; non-luxury material culture and human intentionality; the unintelligible word and the non-legible inscription, as well as Greek and Syriac epigraphy and paleography.


Leighton Smith (Ph.D. Candidate)

Leighton Smith earned his BA at University of California, Santa Cruz and joined the PhD Program in History as the Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Graduate Fellow in the Study of the Persian/Iranian World working under Prof. Daryaee. Leighton is interested the mutual impact of Iranian political and religious cosmologies with a special focus on non-Zoroastrian Iranian religions within late antique Iran, especially Manichaeism.


Liz Wells (Ph.D. Candidate)

Liz Wells is a scholar of transcultural exchange and visualities of authority in the late antique Mediterranean, the late antique Near East, and the early European Middle Ages. Her dissertation focuses on the Visigothic Kingdom and its engagement with the visual and spatial cultures of kingship in the Mediterranean and Western Asia. It weaves together ideas, approaches, and theoretical matrices from several of these fields and disciplines and bring them to bear on art historical material that rarely receives attention outside of the limited confines of early medieval art history. Among its goals is to introduce a more capacious and more humanistic conception of the Mediterranean and Near East during the period of c. 400-800 CE.


Layah Ziaii-Bigdeli (Ph.D. Candidate)

ancient Near Eastern Art and Archaeology at Columbia University and an M.A. in Cultural Heritage and Preservation Studies with an emphasis on Islamic art at Rutgers University. Her master’s thesis examines Nishapur figural buff ware with an intention to understand the quality of modern conservation and its effects on scholarship. Currently, she is interested in problems of transition from Sasanian period to Islamic Iran. Her dissertation project studies the intersections between foodways and identities in the Sasanian and early Islamic period focusing particularly on Iranian silver and its impact on cultural practices and vessels of all mediums across Iran and Central Asia.