Is Classics really so antiquated?

I’m reading up on morphometrics at the moment, in preparation for a geometric morphometrics summer school I’ll be attending at the beginning of July. Basically, morphometrics is the study of shape, how to quantify it and analyze it statistically. Modern morphometrics techniques are currently being used in biology and paleontology to do really neat comparative studies, such as of hominin cranial shape, of ontogeny and morphological integration (i.e. sets of traits that are developmentally and/or functionally related). One important method for comparing shape is what is called a Procrustes analysis, in which one shape is essentially fit onto another. To quote Dryden and Mardia (1998, p. 83), “Procrustes methods are useful for estimating an average shape and for exploring the structure of shape variability in a dataset.”

Where does Classical education come in? A little known Zach Fun Fact is that I studied Classics for a considerable part of my earlier undergraduate career. So it is sad that I didn’t know the significance of Procrustes. To quote Dryden and Mardia, again (p. 42): 

“In Greek mythology Procrustes was the nickname of a robber Damastes, who lived by the road from Eleusis to Athens. He would offer travellers a room for the night and fit them to the bed by stretching them if they were too short or chopping off their limbs if they were too tall. The analogy is rather tenuous but we can regard one configuration as the bed and the other as the person being ‘translated’, ‘rotated’ and possibly ‘rescaled’ so as to fit as close as possible to the bed.”

So one of the most important morphometric methods is a sick Classics joke. I mean that’s seriously morbid. And that’s why Classical Studies might not be so bad, after all.

One thought on “Is Classics really so antiquated?

  1. JK Rowling also studied classics… and she went on to write a book series that has made her richer than the queen of england! I think I would have taken a crack at it if I had even known it was an option – when I started my undergrad, I didn’t know people still studied that kind of stuff. Ah, I was so naive…

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