With contributions by Giorgio Affani and Carlo Lippolis
In 1948, the Soviet Expedition JuTAKE excavated the building called the ‘Square House’ at the Parthian site of Mithridatkert, known from ancient sources as Nisa, the alleged site of the graves of Parthian kings. Among the precious objects unearthed in this royal treasury, was a large inventory of ivory artefacts. Of these, the famous rhytons, masterpieces of Hellenistic art, were carefully restored and studied, while some 40 pieces of furniture were restored only in part and preliminarily published.
A thorough discussion and extensive publication of these findings has been undertaken by the author of this book. In 2013, in fact, thanks to support from the Shelby White & Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications, the National Museum of Ashgabat was able to conduct a careful investigation of the materials and prepare a complete set of photos and drawings in order to give this material the recognition it deserved within Western scholarship.
Through careful consideration of the quantity, shape and size of each item, the author suggests a possible reconstruction of the furniture that lay buried in the Square House, and highlights its ideological and symbolical meaning within the historical framework of the Parthian Empire.
The main information that emerges from the investigation at the Ashgabat Museum is that at least a part of the ivory used for the furniture items comes from African elephants, as their diameter exceeds 11 cms, namely the maximum size of the items carved from Indian ivory, according to A. Cutler. Moreover, the most part of the rhytons reach diameters (often up to 16.5 cms) that are undoubtedly related to African elephants.
The furniture lot is made of items of big size (considerably larger than the Pompei samples, for instance), and its arrangement is strange, as the complete set of four legs of no piece of furniture has ever been found. It comprises complete and incomplete items, and restored ones; very few legs find their match within the inventory, having different sizes and technical features, so the minimum number of couches and chairs rises to 10 at least, not 3 like supposed by the former publisher, G. Pugachenkova. The furniture items were probably stocked in the Square House after being used for some time, and some incomplete items were brought there from the workshops that were providing new ones. Nothing leads to suppose that the ivory inventory might come from a booty (as suggested by P. Bernard), on the contrary there’s solid base to think that they were produced in Nisa itself by specialized craftsmen working on commission for the Arsacid court: the unbaked clay statues were obviously made at Nisa, and recent works in the SW Building brought to light tracks of a workshop producing big size statues of horses, witnessed by plaster casts. In sum, there are many proofs of craftsmen working at Nisa on commission, perfectly mastering the Greek formal vocabulary, and there’s no need to search elsewhere the workshops that produced the ivory artefacts as well.
The idea proposed by the author of the book is that the Square House hosted sacred banquets for the dead king, on which occasion he was celebrated as hero and entered the gods’ sphere. The cult models are the Greek theoxenia and the Roman lectisternia and sellisternia, namely banquets where empty beds or chairs were supposed to host the invited gods, mostly the Dioscuroi and Herakles, and the deified Roman emperor.
This study concludes the systematic review to which the Italian Archaeological Mission has subjected the main groups of findings brought to light in that building. Here we present the precise publication of the lot of ivories: parts of chairs, thrones, beds and perhaps other furnishings, ranging in size from 5 to 70 cm in length, mainly worked on the lathe, almost completely devoid of figurative decorations. These are materials known to the scientific community for over 60 years, never properly published excluding a single short article in Russian language dated 1969. In addition to a substantial part of the catalog, the book is composed of some chapters that discuss historical and archaeological questions the material under examination, and a reasoned discussion of the morphological characteristics of the finds, aimed at understanding the categories of furniture to which these objects belonged originally, and the opportunities and contexts in which they could be employed. The conclusions reached document the extraordinary vitality and originality of the life of the Arsacid citadel, and its role not only of ceremonial center and core of elaboration of the characters of the royal ideology, but also of place of production of works of art and handicrafts that of this ideology they had to express and spread the images.
Niccolò Manassero is an archaeologist specialized in the study of Central Asia in the pre-Islamic era. He has published a monograph, Rhyta and horns from the Iron Age at the Sassanid era. Pure libations and mysticism between Greece and the Iranian world (Oxford 2008), and more than 20 articles in international specialist journals, always aimed at examining the hybrid manifestations of civilization and art to which gave life to the dialogue between the Greek and Iranian world following the expedition of Alexander the Great.
The book comprises a study of the 12th century BC Aegean-style pottery from all the main Cypriot sites together with the contemporary Aegean-style pottery from the three excavated Philistine sites of Ekron, Ashkelon and Ashdod. As part of the project Neutron Activation Analysis of pottery from ten of the Cypriot sites has been carried out in Bonn to obtain the chemical profile of each site, thus enabling movement of pottery round the island to be recorded and contacts between specific Cypriot sites and the Near East to be highlighted.
The book presents in full detail the latest information from both excavation and study concerning a key period in the history of the Eastern Mediterranean region. The relevant stratigraphy at each site is discussed and documented with plans and sections, and the pottery comprehensively illustrated with line drawings. Unlimited access, courtesy of the excavators, to the contemporary Aegean-style pottery from the three Philistine sites adds another dimension to the study. Much of the material is new. Both new and old material is presented in a rational and organised fashion which will facilitate its use. It comprises unique material which has frequently been erroneously cited in support of the various theories put forward for the collapse of the Bronze Age cultures of the region. This comprehensive exposition of the evidence in a clear and rational format will form the foundation for real progress in our understanding of this complex and intriguing period. The book is an essential source volume for those working in the region.
To view or download the title pages and table of contents, please click HERE
Mégara Hyblaea 7. The Classical, Hellenistic and Roman City is essentially the publication of excavations conducted by François Villard and Georges Vallet between 1949 and 1975. The attention of the excavators focuses on the archaic agora, as recent levels have been less studied, with the exception of the Hellenistic temple (Megara Hyblaea 4, 1966). The current study is based on a re-examination of archive data as well as on a systematic re-reading of visible remains, accompanied by some cleanings and control surveys. The stratigraphic record is therefore limited and the chronology difficult to fix in detail. However, significant changes are proposed in the relative and absolute dating of many monuments (temple, fortification, baths). Most of the vestiges commented on in this book relate to the 3rd century BC and the reign of Hieron II, but the importance of the classical era and the reoccupation of Roman times, hitherto unrecognized, was soon realized - hence the broader title given. The book is therefore the continuation of Megara 5, but especially as the prerequisite for a resumption of modern excavations on the post-archaic levels of Mégara Hyblaea.
Alepotrypa Cave at Diros Bay, Lakonia, Greece, is a 300 meters complex of consecutive chambers ending at a lake. It is one of the richest archaeological sites in Greece and Europe in terms of abundance, preservation and variability of artifacts, volume and temporal range of undisturbed deposits, as well as horizontal exposure of archaeological surfaces. The cave was excavated by G. Papathanassopoulos from 1970 to 2006. It is dated from 6,000 to 3,200 BC and was used, in conjunction with the surrounding area, as a complementary habitation area, a burial site, and a place for ceremonial activity. This edited volume is a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary study and interpretation of the unpublished results of approximately 40 years of excavation and analysis of the cave in one book. This contribution is essential to ongoing Neolithic research in Greece, but also in Anatolia, the Balkans and Europe, as it brings a comprehensive picture of a unique site to the attention of the archaeological community.
The book, which contains 23 chapters, starts with a presentation of the history of the excavations, an extensive description of the site, and its cultural and temporal positioning through a long series of radiocarbon dates, in association with the corresponding microstratigraphic, stratigraphic and ceramic sequence and also includes: a) the site formation processes, and the refinement of the stratigraphy of the cave deposits; b) the pottery and its spatial and temporal patterning, typology and technology; c) the stone and bone tools and objects, and their spatial patterning, typology and technology; d) numerous macroscopic, microscopic and isotopic chemical analyses of human, faunal, botanical and inorganic remains; and e) the environmental reconstruction of the area, and the results from the regional survey of the surrounding area. The volume concludes with a synthetic chapter that summarizes, combines and interprets all the aforementioned evidence, clarifies the actions implied by the observed materials, defines the particularities of the site and positions the cave in its broader natural and cultural web. All presentations include meaningful comparisons through time and across space within Alepotrypa Cave, as well as comparisons with other Greek Neolithic or European and Anatolian Neolithic societies. General questions that were addressed include: refinement of the Neolithic Aegean artifact chronology and typology; tool technologies; long-distance trade of raw materials and pottery; dispersal of communities and cave use in the Final Neolithic; permanent versus seasonal habitation/use of a site; site formation processes and hiatuses in caves; population health, movement, and biodistance; mortuary space and practice; expressions of ritual; the notions of continuity and monumentality, and of stability, definition and redefinition; the importance of terrestrial versus marine resources, as well as domesticated versus wild resources. Mortuary behavior, artifactual patterning and human skeletal remains are used to draw conclusions concerning social, cultural and biological conditions and to evaluate patterns of ceremonialism, including the fragmentation and dispersal of material in conjunction with mortuary data.
An article from National Geographic on the excavations may be found HERE
View or download the table of contents and front materials HERE