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Using the visual and tactile experience of small-scale figurines, Greeks and Babylonians negotiated a hybrid, cross-cultural society in Hellenistic Mesopotamia.
This volume assembles more than 30 articles focusing on the visual, material, and environmental arts of the Ancient Near East. Specific case studies range temporally from the fourth millennium up to the Hellenistic period and geographically from Iran to the eastern Mediterranean. Contributions apply innovative theoretical and methodological approaches to archaeological evidence and critically examine the historiography of the discipline itself. Not intended to be comprehensive, the volume instead captures a cross-section of the field of Ancient Near Eastern art history as its stands in the second decade of the twenty-first century. The volume will be of value to scholars working in the Ancient Near East as well as others interested in newer art historical and anthropological approaches to visual culture.
Figurines are objects of handling. As touchable objects, they engage the viewer in different ways from flat art, whether relief sculpture or painting. Unlike the voyeuristic relationship of viewing a neatly framed pictorial narrative as if from the outside, the viewer as handler is always potentially and without protection within the narrative of figurines. As such, they have potential for a potent, even animated, agency in relation to those who use them. This volume concerns figurines as archaeologically-attested materials from literate cultures with surviving documents that have no direct links of contiguity, appropriation, or influence in relation to each other. It is an attempt to put the category of the figurine on the table as a key conceptual and material problematic in the art history of antiquity. It does so through comparative juxtaposition of close-focused chapters drawn from deep art-historical engagement with specific ancient cultures - Chinese, pre-Columbian Mesoamerican, and Greco-Roman. It encourages comparative conversation across the disciplines that constitute the art history of the ancient world through finding categories and models of discourse that may offer fertile ground for comparison and antithesis. It extends the rich and astute literature on prehistoric figurines into understanding the figurine in historical contexts, where literary texts and documents, inscriptions, or surviving terminologies can be adduced alongside material culture. At stake are issues of figuration and anthropomorphism, miniaturization and portability, one-off production and replication, and substitution and scale at the interface of archaeology and art history.
Published in this volume are the papers delivered at the fourth seminar in memory of Vladimir Lukonin. This series has examined relations between Mesopotamia and Iran from the earliest historical period onwards, and this latest and last seminar deals with the Parthian and Sasanian periods, between c.238 B.C. and A.D. 642. This epoch witnessed a rejection of the Hellenistic ideals introduced by Alexander and, with the coming to power of two successive Iranian dynasties, the Parthians and the Sasanians, a revival of oriental culture. Control over Iran and Mesopotamia brought the Parthians and Sasanians into conflict with Rome and later Byzantium in the west.
An illustrated catalogue and discussion of 336 terracotta anthromorphic and zoomorphic figurines from Petra, mostly hollow moulded, which reflect the Nabataean's cultural interaction with Egypt, Parthia and the Hellenistic world. El-Khouri's dissertation includes a typology and a discussion of the continuity in style and subject between the 1st century BC and the 6th century AD. The study also considers the manufacture of the figurines and their cultural and religious significance given that the majority of the figurines were found in houses.

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