Theses Doctoral

The Formation of Achaemenid Art: Beyond Iconography and Attribution

Stavis, Jacob Marc

Achaemenid Persian art is an area of ancient Near Eastern art that has received little art historical attention in recent years. In earlier scholarship dating from before the 1979 Iranian revolution, an overwhelming scholarly interest had focused on identifying ethnic origins and foreign influences behind its formation. These studies depended on an implicit assumption that the arts of the Achaemenid Empire may be understood as indices for human agents and imperial power, without giving much thought to those objects per se. Considering issues of style, historiography, and art historical categorization, this dissertation examines how scholars have “invented” a history of Achaemenid art, and proposes new methods for interpreting that corpus, looking beyond anthropocentric theories of empire still dominant in the field. Taking into account more recent theoretical approaches, such as object biographies, the ontology of images, and issues of space and place, my study reexamines these ancient works, looking into the ways that monuments were made and functioned in the ancient Neat East. I focus especially on site-specific “official” monuments including architectural sculpture and rock relief, and temporally limit my study to early monuments produced under Cyrus and Darius before Persepolis, to question an assumed teleology of Achaemenid style.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Thesis Advisors
Bahrani, Zainab
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 14, 2020