Defining “foreignness” in the Early Iron Age Mediterranean. Norhtwestern University, Library Forum Room (2014, 9 May)


Defining “foreignness” in the Early Iron Age Mediterranean. Norhtwestern University, Library Forum Room (Chicago, 9 May 2014)



In ancient Mediterranean studies, a key area of current research concerns the lively cultural and especially artistic interaction between the Mediterranean and the Near East, including Egypt. In recent years, studies of artistic interaction in both the central and eastern Mediterranean world of the Early Iron Age have moved increasingly away from traditional “Orientalizing” notions of encounter to new models of transfer and reception. Fresh perspectives drawn from theoretical approaches developed in sister fields and disciplines, including anthropology and visual culture studies, have interrogated key concepts of object identity and challenged long-held assumptions about the mechanics of transfer (foreign or mobile artisans, commercially dominated networks). Once mutually exclusive categories of “Greek” and “Near Eastern,” “local” and “nonlocal,” “us” and “them” have been shown to be highly problematic and unworkable for a wide range of issues, including stylistic description and analysis, and in reconstructing the organization of artistic patronage and production. What are the implications of these newly fluid, hybrid categories for reconstructing visual cultures in antiquity more broadly? If, as many scholars now agree, many images and items of material culture were shared over a wide area of the preclassical Mediterranean world, how can we reconstruct the perception of foreign objects or subjects in new cultural settings? Did objects exhibiting shared imagery or used for shared cultural practices, such as banqueting, evoke similar responses among geographically and culturally diverse communities, and how can we get at those local responses? Do approaches drawn from object biographies, or from transcultural perspectives, help to understand the reception and impact of “foreign” or “foreign-made” objects and styles? What about the respective roles of artisan and patron in emulating or responding to new subjects and styles?

This one-day conference aims to gather a group of scholars engaged with new approaches to cultural and especially artistic interaction in both the central and eastern Mediterranean in early first millennium contexts. It focuses attention on the problems of defining “foreignness” in multiple instances of encounter and reception. Another goal is to bring together scholars who do not typically meet or interact because the conferences they attend or journals in which they publish tend to be period- or region- (or country-) specific (Aegean, Italian peninsula, Cyprus, Egypt).

Organized by Ann C. Gunter, Bertha and Max Dressler Professor in the Humanities.



  • Catherine Saint-Pierre Hoffmann (Anthropologie et Histoire des Mondes Antiques[ANHIMA], University of Paris I): “Greek sancturies and the question of the “oriental” presence”.
  • Panagiotis Kousoulis (Department of Mediterranean Studies, University of the Aegean): “Defining “egyptianisation” and “orientalisation” in the religious motifs and popular beliefs of Archaic Greece: the case of Aegyptiaka reconsidered”.
  • Carolina López-Ruiz (Department of Classics, The Ohio State University): “Indegenious and Pheonician identities in the western Mediterranean: the case of Tartessos”.



Johannes Haubold (Classics and Ancient History, Durham University); Erik von Dongen (Department of Modern Languages and Classics,Saint Mary’s University, and Administrator and Editor,Melammu Project Website and Database)

Persis Berlekamp (Department of Art History, University of Chicago). This event is made possible by the generous support of the Myers Foundations and the Department of Art History.

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