Theses Doctoral

Crafting Across Time and Space: Artistic Exchange and Archaic Greek Sanctuaries in the Eastern Mediterranean

Schneller, David H.

Portable objects made of terracotta, stone, and bronze, among other materials, stylistically linked to cultural spheres around the eastern Mediterranean basin and further inland in the Near East, Cyprus, and Egypt, were dedicated with fervor at Greek sanctuaries during the Archaic period. Previously, such votive offerings were superficially interpreted as “foreign imports” and enumerated in oversimplified tallies and exoticizing lists of “orientalia” and/or “aegyptiaca.” They have been embedded as the stimuli of the so-called “Orientalizing” phenomenon—a 19th-century paradigm and enduring trend in scholarship that interprets aspects of culture as originating in the east and moving westward during the early first millennium. Focus was limited to identifying their geographical places of manufacture and attempting to reveal the identities of the dedicators. This paradigm limits attention to the origins of such objects and restricts interpretations of them to one-directional understandings of artistic “influence.”

Informed by theories of materiality, modes of acquisition, the exchange of skilled crafting knowledge, and the movement of raw materials, finished products, craftspeople as well as their patrons in the eastern Mediterranean cosmos during the 7th and 6th centuries, this dissertation approaches the corpus through object biographies. It foregrounds three case studies—Cypriot style terracotta figurines from the Heraion of Samos, Egyptian sculptures from East Greek sanctuaries, and the composite North Syrian and Cretan sphyrelata korai from Olympia—to temper the broader theoretical discussions of intercultural artistic exchange during this time. The study explores a diverse array of artistic processes of material transformation ranging from the destruction, reuse, adaptation, and modification of objects to the local production of objects that can be stylistically linked to places far afield. By examining the materials from which and the manufacturing techniques by which such objects were made, it reevaluates where, when, and by whom they were crafted. The analysis identifies the tangible processes of artistic transmission to illuminate the exchanges of and interactions among the eastern Mediterranean craftspeople tasked with the fabrication of the dedications and the patrons who commissioned them. Ultimately, as singular artistic products, it is argued that the objects in the case studies represent intercultural attempts at unique votive object manufacture and communicate meaning by inhabiting more than one geographical space and temporally remote moments in time.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Thesis Advisors
Mylonopoulos, Ioannis
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 16, 2021