There is a saying that Balkans, sometimes rightly compared to a “powder keg”, is a place where the East offered a hand to the West but the West refused to shake it. The Balkan Peninsula is a land bridge between Europe and Asia, through which pass major cultural boundaries. The Balkans are a border, and an arena, between two different cultural spheres with contrasting world views, value systems, aesthetics, and artistic tendencies: Rome and Byzantium, the Habsburg Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire, West and East, Modern and Oriental. And we cannot forget that there are deep divisions within the Balkans, particularly between north and south. These divisions have unfortunately manifested themselves as open warfare but have also been expressed in the politics of Yugoslavian Egyptology.
Figure 1: Scarab excavated in Serbia. Photo courtesy of B. Anđelković.
Archaeological objects from the Near East appeared sporadically in Serbia and can be classified in four chronological and contextual settings. The first – represented by a glazed composition scarab found in a local Iron Age ruler’s grave mound (dated 550-520 B.C.) in Southwestern Serbia – corresponds to prehistory (Figure 1). The second, the era of Roman domination, includes a number of artifacts, chiefly figurines, lamps, and inscribed altars, connected to Egyptian or syncretistic deities, chiefly Isis, Isis-Fortune, Harpocrates, Anubis, Hermes-Thoth, and others. These are mostly of Roman rather than Egyptian manufacture, though during the construction of Roman emperor Galerius’ palace in Eastern Serbia (ca. 300 A.D.) a number of architectural elements including some columns and statuary were made of Aswan red granite and other Egyptian stone (Figure 2). Continue reading →
By: Oleksandr Symonenko, Institute of Archaeology, Kyiv, Glassman Holland Research Fellow
The main purpose of my project was the study of Near Eastern artifacts from Sarmatian graves. The Sarmatians were Iranian-speaking nomads who inhabited the territory stretching from the Altai Mountains up to the Danube from the 3rd – 4th centuries CE. The Near Eastern artifacts objects came to the Sarmatians in two main ways, as military trophies and as traded merchandise.
Spoils of war included Montefortino- and Pilos-type helmets and fragments of body armor found at Sarmatian sites. The helmets came to the Sarmatians during the Mithridates’ wars against Rome between 88 – 63 BCE. They were used by the Galatian soldiers of Mithridates’ army and were passed on from them to the Sarmatians. The Roman scale armors of the lorica plumata type, found in Sarmatian graves, were most probably seized by the Sarmatians during the war of 47 BCE in Asia Minor. Fragments of Parthian type armor were found in Sarmatian kurgans in the second half of the 1st – early 2nd centuries CE. Such trophies fell into Sarmatian hands during their battles with the Parthians in 72 CE. Continue reading →
The transformative political events in the Middle East over the past two years have had, among many other unexpected outcomes, profound effects on the direction of research in Near Eastern archaeology.War and civil unrest act as both a carrot and a stick, forcing the cessation of fieldwork in some areas, while promoting new investigations in places that might otherwise have gone unexplored. The geopolitics of the post-Arab Spring world are changing where we are able work, and by consequence they will shape the research questions we investigate, as well as the regions where future generations of scholars will likely specialize. But the present moment of realignment is far from unique—our discipline has been shaped from the beginning by the tumultuous political history of the Middle East.
In the spring of 1920, James Henry Breasted and a group of scholars from the University of Chicago’s newly founded Oriental Institute embarked on a survey of major archaeological sites in Mesopotamia and Syria. It was Breasted’s hope that the return of political stability under British rule after the end of World War I would facilitate renewed investigations in Mesopotamia. Having traveled by steamer from Egypt, via Bombay, to Basra in southern Iraq, the team began making their way up the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, visiting many of the most prominent sites in the region, including Uruk, Babylon, and Nineveh.
Oriental Institute expedition team members pose with British officers at the west gate of Dura Europos, May 1920. (Image reproduced courtesy of the Oriental Institute Museum’s Photographic Archives http://oi.uchicago.edu/museum/collections/pa/).
Fig 1: The seminar poster (graphics by Qais Tweissi)
By: Micaela Sinibaldi
On the 9th and 10th of February 2013 I had the great pleasure to organise a seminar entitled: The History and Material Culture of Ottoman Palestine at the Kenyon Institute in Jerusalem. The seminar consisted of a day of papers and a roundtable discussion at the Kenyon and a day of tours of the Old City led by some of the seminar scholars.
As an archaeologist who works on the Islamic period, I know from my fieldwork and research, which has been especially focused on Petra (Jordan), that it is particularly the later periods which are still largely unexplored by archaeology, particularly the Ottoman period. During my recent work for Brown University, for example, as a co-director of excavations at Islamic Bayda (Petra region), a village whose occupation spans the whole Islamic period, it appeared from my preliminary research that the latest and most extensive phase is Ottoman; however, almost no material is currently available in the region for providing the excavation results with some archaeological parallels. One of the reasons for a very recent interest in the archaeology of the Ottoman period is that, partly because of the wealth of both documentary and monumental architectural sources available, the study of material culture has naturally focused on buildings such as the impressive ones preserved in Jerusalem in the al-Haram al-Sharif and in other areas of the Old City of Jerusalem, rather than on rural sites or on the use of archaeology to help solve chronological questions. Continue reading →
By: Jolanta Mlynarczyk, University of Warsaw, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow
The aim of my research at the Albright was to study an assemblage of ca. 200 oil lamps discovered at Qumran by archaeologists from the Ecole Biblique at the settlement itself and in the caves (1951-1956) as well as at Ein Feshkha (1958). The importance of this cluster of sites for our understanding of the late Second Temple period is indisputable, yet in the past many lamps have not been properly described within their archaeological context. Hence, the first stage of my research was focused on completing a description of the lamps and extracting the relevant contextual information. The second stage involved working out the typology. Conceived as a part of the general typology of the Qumran ceramics, the lamp typology consists of two series, each one dependent on a different technique employed in lamp-making: wheel-throwing and moulding. In the former group, the types have been distinguished on the basis of shape; and in the latter, the criterion of shape is combined with that of decoration. Continue reading →
By: Xinhui Luo, Beijing Normal University, China, Noble Group Fellow
During my fellowship at the Albright, my main project was entitled “Ideology of the Early State: East and West.” The goal of this project was to examine the ideologies of the early states in Mesopotamia and in China, and to find the similarities and the differences between the two.
The first step was to compare the ideology reflected by royal images. I collected relevant materials on the image of the kings of the Western Zhou Dynasty (ca 1046 BC-771 BC), and compared them with the image of Gudea, the ruler of the state of Lagash in Southern Mesopotamia (ca. 2144-2124BC). Continue reading →
By: Shuo Geng, Peking University, China, Noble Group Fellow
My project at the Albright Institute during the academic year, 2011-2012 was entitled “Chinese and Western Cultural Exchange in Archaeology：Focusing on Western Glassware Found in China from the First Century B.C. to the Sixth Century A.D.” It was during this period that China initiated wide-ranging cultural contacts with the western world, resulting in large numbers of western artifacts being found in China at sites and in tombs, such as gold, silver, and glass ware, as well as pottery, brass objects, textiles, seals, and coins, etc. with glassware being one of the most important of these finds. Previous research on glass-ware has achieved significant results. Studies by Chinese scholars, however, have generally lacked in-depth research on the primary data of Western ancient glassware. Continue reading →
By: Ebru Fatma Fındık Research Assistant Hacettepe University, Faculty of Letters, Department of Art History, Beytepe, Ankara / TURKEY
Fig. 1: The house of a Turkish villager
The ancient city of Myra (mod. Demre) is situated in a plain of Lycia, surrounded by the Taurus Mountains to the north and by the Myros River (mod. Demra Çayı) to the east. Located to the south-west, on the banks of the Andrakos River, is its ancient harbour Andriake (mod. Çayağzı). The city has a large rural territory and during the Byzantine period the city had close religious, social, and economic ties with its territory (Foss 1996: 315).
Since 1989, the excavation and restoration work of the most important ecclesiastical building of the ancient city, the Church of St. Nicholas, has been carried out by the Art History Department of Hacettepe University. On the other hand, the excavations in the ancient city have been carried out by the Archaeology Department of Akdeniz University since 2009. Continue reading →
Sensational discoveries of mosaics periodically make the headlines of newspapers in Turkey. After being discovered, unearthed, cleaned, and removed, these ancient floors slowly make their way to museums or private collections. For this month’s ASOR Blog on the Archaeology of Anatolia, I wish to examine the curious afterlife of mosaics in, out of, and more recently, back to Turkey. I want to analyze their transformation from buried and forgotten things in the ground, to sanitized artifacts, aesthetic masterpieces, and contested objects of desire.
Unearthed in the late 1990s at Zeugma in Southeastern Turkey during rescue excavations before the construction of the Birecik Dam, the 2nd century AD mosaic below is now displayed in the newly built Mosaic Museum of Gaziantep. It shows Achilles on the island of Skyros leaving for the Trojan War. Thetis, Achilles’ mother, knowing that her son would die by joining the Greek army, dresses him as a girl and sends him to live with a king and his beautiful daughters on the island of Skyros, far away from the war.
Odysseus (R) takes Achilles (C) away from Deidameia (L)
Basalt lion from the castle gate at Zincirli Hoyuk, in the Pergamon Museum
By: Leann Pace and Eudora Struble
When Eudora and I began graduate school together at the University of Chicago, I don’t believe either of us was planning to work on a long-term archaeological project in Turkey. Eudora was very involved with archaeology in Jordan and my limited experience led me to believe that I wanted to work on excavations in Israel. However, we were given the opportunity to join what would become the Neubauer Expedition to Zincirli. This journey began in 2006 and we are eagerly anticipating another great season in the summer of 2013. Obviously we are hooked on working at the site and on being part of the larger research community working in Turkey. Continue reading →
The issue of open access to scholarly works recently gained renewed attention following the tragic suicide of Aaron Swartz, an Internet activist charged with felony computer and intellectual property crimes involving the mass download of articles from JSTOR. ASOR uses JSTOR as a repository for the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (BASOR) and Near Eastern Archaeology (NEA)*.
Eric directs Open Context, an open data publication service for archaeology. He originally discussed open access issues in NEA (2007) with his colleagues Sarah Whitcher Kansa and Jason Schultz. He also co-edited (with Sarah Whitcher Kansa and Ethan Watrall) Archaeology 2.0, an open access book about new modes of scholarly communication published with the Cotsen Institute Press (UCLA). His most recent contributions exploring open access in archaeology are published in a special of World Archaeology (2012) edited by Mark Lake, and in the inaugural issue of the Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology and Heritage Studies (in press). Continue reading →
By: James D. Tabor, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte
On the other days they dig a small pit, a foot deep, with a paddle of the sort given them when they are first admitted among them; and covering themselves round with their garment, that they may not affront the rays of God, they ease themselves into that pit. Josephus War 2.148
This paper explores the complex and shifting dynamics of comparing texts with texts, texts with “sites,” and sites with themselves, but without texts. I use the term “sites” loosely to refer to the material or archaeological evidence that may or may not be related to a given text from antiquity. I see this as an extension of Jonathan Z. Smith’s interest and fascination with “comparisons” so evident in much of his work over the past three decades. But more particularly I have in mind the Louis H. Jordan Lectures in Comparative Religion, delivered at the University of London in 1988, subsequently published as Divine Drudgery. Fascinated by the “thick dossier of the history of the enterprise,” i.e., the comparison of “Christianities” and the religions of Late Antiquity, Smith undertakes what he calls “archaeological work in the learned literature” in order to highlight both theoretical and methodological issues. His operative question is what is “at stake” in the various comparative proposals? I am convinced that some of the same dynamics Smith finds operating in the development of the study of “Christian Origins,” namely Roman Catholic and Protestant apologetics and presuppositions, have been present from the beginning in considering the textual corpus known as the “Dead Sea Scrolls,” and in interpreting the physical site of the adjacent ruins of Qumran, as well as in the combining of the two—that is, texts and site. I want to expand a bit the comparisons of “words,” “stories,” and “settings” beyond their purely “textual” levels, and explore the methods of bringing in non-textual evidence, that is, evidence of “place.” In that sense I find Smith’s metaphor of the “archaeological” more than intriguing, and in this paper, with spade in hand (or perhaps I might say with “paddle” in hand!), I want to explore how the proverbial “mute stones” speak, or remain silent, in the presence of texts, and the ways in which the texts inform “place,” and “place” might enlighten the texts. Continue reading →
The 2012 ASOR Annual Meeting in Chicago breaks records and is a tremendous success!
A record 925 ASOR members gathered in Chicago from November 14–17 for the 2012 ASOR Annual Meeting. The annual conference is the premier gathering for scholars, students, and lay enthusiasts who conduct research or are interested in the history and archaeology of the eastern Mediterranean region. This year there were more than 450 paper presentations on topics ranging from prehistoric to Islamic periods and the present. Topics covered everything from conservation strategies and the archaeology of Anatolia to current issues in biblical archaeology. While all of the papers were presented in English, many languages could be heard in the hallways with scholars in attendance from Iran, Turkey, Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Australia, Asia, Europe, North American, South America, and Central America. The event truly has become the premier international conference of the year for the history and archaeology of the eastern Mediterranean. Continue reading →
By: A. Bernard Knapp Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute, 11 Andreas Demetriou, 1066 Nicosia, Cyprus.Email.
Throughout its long prehistory and protohistory, the island of Cyprus was strategically situated between the cultures of ancient western Asia and the Aegean, if not those of the central Mediterranean. As a consequence, in literature both academic and popular, the island is frequently referred to as a ‘crossroads of civilizations’. This is especially the case for the Late Bronze Age (henceforth LBA, between ca. 1700-1100 BC), but it also holds true for the Iron Age, the Hellenistic and Roman periods, the Medieval and even the modern eras, albeit in very different ways.
Figure 1: Petra’s most famous icon, the Al-Khazne (‘the Treasury’) tomb façade with tourist camel riders (Q. Tweissi).
By: Christopher A. Tuttle
Two hundred years ago, on 22 August 1812, the ancient city of Petra was re-identified by the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, the first European on record to have visited the site since the 13thcentury. Word of his discovery quickly spread and other visitors soon followed in his footsteps—inaugurating a bicentennial of exploration and research at this amazing site located in what is today southern Jordan.
Petra served as the capitol city for the kingdom of Nabataea from at least the second century BCE until Trajan’s annexation of the region into the Roman Empire in 106 CE. Under Roman rule, the city retained its importance and became the administrative center for the new province of Arabia Petraea. Although heavily damaged by a major earthquake in May 363 CE, the city continued to play a significant role in the region during the Byzantine period when it served as an episcopal see of the Christian church. Continue reading →
Aaron A. Burke and Martin Peilstöcker, the directors of The Jaffa Cultural Heritage Project, are pleased to announce the receipt of a 3-year National Endowment for the Humanities Collaborative Grant for excavations in Jaffa from 2013 to 2015.
Aerial photo showing the destruction of the Amarna period Egyptian gate complex in Jaffa. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Burke)
The project is titled “Insurgency, Resistance, and Interaction: Archaeological Inquiry into New Kingdom Egyptian Rule in Jaffa.”
Since 2007 the Jaffa Cultural Heritage Project has brought to light the results of earlier excavations from 1955 to 1974 in Jaffa (Tel Yafo) by Jacob Kaplan, the municipal archaeologist of Tel Aviv-Jaffa. One of the primary objectives of this project was to provide a baseline for renewed archaeological exploration of Jaffa in which modern data collection methods and analytical techniques are employed to improve our understanding of the site and its population.
Figure 1: Map of southern Jordan with ‘Ayn Gharandal
Located in southern Jordan, the archaeological site of ‘Ayn Gharandal lies covered by the desolate sands of the Wadi Araba (Fig. 1). Even though the site is located near an ancient spring, Lawrence (of Arabia) described the Araba Valley as follows: “Every few hours’ journey a greener patch marks a stagnant hole of water, which is always nasty to drink, in part from its own sedgy taste, and in part from the mixed flavors added to it by… camels (Woolley and Lawrence 1915: 13).” Noting that the Wadi Araba contained minimal archaeological remains, Lawrence ended his survey of the valley at ‘Ayn Gharandal and headed toward Petra.
Figure 2: Picture of ‘Ayn Gharandal fort prior to excavation
By: Ellen D. Bedell
ASOR Outreach Committee (Former Chair)
Project Archaeology, a program developed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and currently affiliated with Montana State University, won a Secretary of the Interior’s Partnership in Conservation Award in 2011. ASOR recently received a certificate signed by Ken Salazar, the Secretary of the Interior, recognizing the ASOR Outreach Committee as a partner in this award. Continue reading →
The ASOR Blog (asorblog.org) is pleased to announce a new “theme” for the month of April—Unprovenanced Artifacts and Possible Forgeries. The ASOR Blog will continue to post other items of interest that are submitted by the ASOR Staff and ASOR Members, but (just like we did in March) we will solicit posts on the “theme” for the month and also encourage unsolicited submissions on the theme from our membership. The guest editors for the month will be ASOR executive director Andy Vaughn (email@example.com) and Professors Lynn Swartz Dodd (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Christopher Rollston (email@example.com). Submissions should be sent to Andy Vaughn with a CC to Kevin Cooney (firstname.lastname@example.org). Continue reading →
I was a member of a team assembled last summer by a major media outlet to evaluate this project. Sitting in a stately conference room, Mr. Jacobovici, Professor Tabor and Professor Charlesworth presented their discoveries for the consideration of an internationally renowned group of scholars. The members of the evaluating team then offered our professional evaluations of this project. Continue reading →