Beyond Iconography: The Case of Cylinder Seals in the Late Bronze Age Aegean

Marian H. Feldman

Associate Professor

Departments of History of Art and Near Eastern Studies

University of California, Berkeley


Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Rectorate Conference Hall

Bogazici University


In 1963, a hoard of 36 lapis lazuli carved cylinder seals was excavated from a room of the 13th c. BCE Mycenaean palace at Thebes in Greece. Almost all of them were of Near Eastern production, including several of the most finely carved royal seals from Kassite Babylonia. The presence of these seals in Greece has raised the question of why we do not see more iconographic influence from Mesopotamia in Mycenaean Greek art or glyptic. Considering the case of cylinder seals found in the Aegean, this talk explores ancient artistic exchanges that occurred in the absence of iconographic exchanges. In particular, it examines the features of material (lapis lazuli) and shape (cylinder) as valuable and desirable properties in their own right.


Marian Feldman is Associate Professor in the Departments of the History of Art and Near Eastern Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Her work concentrates on the arts of the Ancient Near East of the second and first millennia BCE, with a particular interest in the role of art in intercultural interactions. Her first book, Diplomacy by Design: Luxury Arts and an ‘International Style’ in the Ancient Near East, c. 1400-1200 BCE, was published in 2006. A second book on ivories and metalworks of the early first millennium BCE is forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press.






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