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Articles

To Be or Not to Be (Divine)

Waters, Matt. 2021. To be or not to be (divine): The Achaemenid king and essential ambiguity in image, text, and historical context. In: Karen Sonik (ed.), Art/ifacts and ArtWorks in the ancient world, 159–181. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

This chapter concerns itself with ideological expressions or, better, intimations of royal divinity during the Achaemenid Period (559–330 BCE). It is a foray into not only art historical matters but also subjects that have their own well-developed methodologies beyond their application in Near Eastern studies, particularly ideology and ambiguity. It takes as its case study a series of deliberately ambiguous portrayals of the Achaemenid king, primarily from the reign of Darius I, that blur the already vague line between king and god, and it briefly considers the impetus and implications for these.

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Articles

Three Women from Elam

Rafiei-Alavi, Babak, Faranak Bahrololoumi & Sabine Klein. 2022. Three women from Elam: A revision of the Haft Tappeh metal plaque. BASOR 387, 171-180.

Top: new drawing of the metal plaque of Haft Tappeh, bottom: old drawing. (Drawings by B. Rafiei-Alavi, bottom drawing after Negahban 1991: Ill. 4)

The metal plaque of Haft Tappeh was found more than 60 years ago, and except for a few scenes on terracotta plaques and cylinder seals from both Elam and Mesopotamia with similar but not identical settings, it still has no known parallels in metal and remains a unique example of Elamite art. The present article is a study of this object from the heartland of the Elamite kingdom in the Khuzestan Plain. It revisits the scenic plaque and attempts to correct some of the misunderstandings regarding the identification of its iconography and symbology based on new photos, X-ray images, and lab analysis. The article also tries to place the plaque in its proper spatial and temporal context, using comparative methods and chemical and isotope analysis.

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Books

Afterlives of Ancient Rock-Cut Monuments in the Near East

Ben-Dov, Jonathan & Felipe Rojas (eds.). 2021. Afterlives of ancient rock-cut monuments in the Near East. Brill.

This book concerns the ancient rock-cut monuments carved throughout the Near East, paying particular attention to the fate of these monuments in the centuries after their initial production. As parts of the landscapes in which they were carved, they acquired new meanings in the cultural memory of the people living around them. The volume joins numerous recent studies on the reception of historical texts and artefacts, exploring the peculiar affordances of these long-lasting and often salient monuments. The volume gathers articles by archeologists, art historians, and philologists, covering the entire Near East, from Iran to Lebanon and from Turkey to Egypt. It also analyzes long-lasting textual traditions that aim to explain the origins and meaning of rock-cut monuments and other related carvings.

Three chapters of this volume deals specifically Ancient Iranian rock-cut monuments:

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Events

Persian Art

PERSIAN ART

THE SHIFTING OF OBJECTS, IMAGES AND IDEAS IN EARLY 20TH CENTURY CENTRAL EUROPE

The event “Persian Art” comprises three parts: A pre-workshop seminar (­Programme & Registration), the workshop (Programme & Registration) and an evening lecture on Alois Musil by Matthew Rampley.

Each is running in three different modes of participation (online, hybrid and in-person). As in-person participation remains limited, please contact the organiser Yuka Kadoi (yuka.kadoi@univie.ac.at) about available seats.

The event is one of the pioneering attempts to contextualise the historiographical background of Persian art in early twentieth-century Central Europe, while showcasing the scholarly tradition of non-Western art histories in Vienna and beyond.

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Books

The Routledge Handbook of the Senses in the Ancient Near East

Neumann, Kiersten & Allison Thomason (eds.). 2021. The Routledge Handbook of the Senses in the Ancient Near East. London: Routledge.

Among other interesting subjects offered in this volume, a number of contributions explicitly deal with the material from ancient Iran:

  • Kiersten Neumann: To touch upon – A tactile exploration of the Apadana reliefs at Persepolis
  • Megan Cifarelli: Dress, sensory assemblages, and identity in the early first millennium bce at Hasanlu, Iran
  • Neville McFerrin: A sense of scale – Proprioception, embodied subjectivities, and the space of kingship at Persepolis
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Books

Epic Iran

Curtis, John, Ina Sarikhani Sandmann &Tim Stanley. 2021. Epic Iran: 5000 Years of culture. London: V&A Publishing.

Iran was the home of some of the greatest civilizations of both the ancient and medieval worlds, but these achievements remain poorly known and largely misunderstood outside the country. Epic Iran tells the story of Iran from pre-Islamic through modern times and provides an opportunity to see pieces from key museum and private collections. This book combines the ancient and Islamic periods and continues the narrative into the contemporary world. It shows how civilized life emerged in Iran around 3,200 BC and how a distinctive Iranian identity formed 2,500 years ago has survived until today, expressed in the Persian language and in religious affiliations.

Lavishly illustrated, some 250 images showcase pieces including goldwork, ceramics, glass, illustrated manuscripts, textiles, carpets, oil paintings, drawings, and photographs. Alongside the historical sweep are examples from contemporary artists and makers, demonstrating the rich antecedents still influencing some modern-day practitioners.

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Articles

On Emamzadeh Yahya at Varamin

Overton, Keelan & Kimia Maleki. 2020. The Emamzadeh Yahya at Varamin: A present history of a living shrine, 2018-20. Journal of Material Cultures in the Muslim World 1(1–2). 120–149.

The Emamzadeh Yahya at Varamin, a tomb-shrine located south of Tehran, is well known for supplying global museums with iconic examples of Ilkhanid-period luster tilework. After providing a historiography of the site, including its plunder in the late nineteenth century, we explore its current (2018–20) “life” in order to illuminate the many ways that it can be accessed, used, perceived, and packaged by a wide range of local, national, and global stakeholders. Merging past and present history, art history and amateur anthropology, and the academic, personal, and popular voice, this article explores the Emamzadeh Yahya’s delicate and active existence between historical monument, museum object, sacred space, and cultural heritage.

From the article’s abstract

Editors’ note: this article’s topic is slightly outside of our usual focus. However, we wish to give it a higher visibility as it highlights important issues, such as plunder and theft of sacred sites while exploring the shrine’s history ‘between historical monument, museum object, sacred space, and cultural heritage’. The article is open access. ~AZ

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Books

From Sasanian Persia to the Tarim Basin

Compareti, Matteo. 2021. From Sasanian Persia to the Tarim Basin: Pre-islamic Iranian art and culture along the Silk-Road. WriteUp.

This volume collects a series of articles focusing on various aspects of the art of Persia and Central Asia in the pre-Islamic era that the author has published over the last fifteen years. The period examined goes from the reign of the Sasanian dynasty (224-651) to the arrival of the Arabs in the seventh century, and the consequent (but not immediate) process of Islamization of the entire territory between the eastern borders of the Roman Empire and China. This vast territory – during the period examined in those articles – was mainly inhabited by peoples who spoke Iranian languages such as Persian, Bactrian, Chorasmian, Sogdian and Khotanese.

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Books

Simurgh and Pseudo-Simurgh in Iranian Arts

Compareti, Matteo. 2021. The elusive Persian Phoenix. Simurgh and Pseudo-Simurgh in Iranian arts (Studia Persica 3). Bologna: Paolo Emilio Persiani.

The reign of the Sasanian Dynasty (224–651 AD) received great attention in the works of Muslim authors who usually referred to this period as the “golden age” of pre-Islamic Persia. It is however worth noting that artifacts incontrovertibly attributable to the Sasanians are not very numerous. Among recent finds of dubious origin, some ongoing archeological excavations uncovered Sasanian coins and seals that in some cases showed fabulous creatures composed of parts of different animals. Starting from the ambiguity of these creatures, some scholars proposed to identify them according to ancient Persian mythology and literature. A composite winged creature with a dog’s head, lion’s paws, and a peacock’s tail that is considered to be typically Sasanian, was said to be the “Iranian phoenix” (Avestan saena marega, Middle Persian senmurv, Persian simurgh). As it can be observed on seventh century pre-Islamic Central Asian coins, this composite winged creature was quite explicitly associated with the Iranian concept of glory that was imported into Persia at the end of the Sasanian period from a region between modern Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Slightly later that creature started to appear in western arts too, going from the Byzantine Empire and the Islamic Caliphate to the whole of Europe until the early 13th century. Its exact meaning among Muslims is still a matter of debate although it was definitely considered by Christians as a very appropriate decoration for religious and secular purposes. Eighth-century Sogdian mural paintings from Penjikent and Mongol period Islamic book illustrations seem to support the identifications proposed in this study.

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Books

Gandhāran Art Connections

Rienjang, Wannaporn & Peter Stewarrt (eds.). 2020. The global connections of Gandhāran art. Oxford: Archaeopress Publishing.

This volume is the third set of proceedings of the project’s annual workshop, and the first to address directly the question of cross-cultural influence on and by Gandhāran art. The contributors wrestle with old controversies, particularly the notion that Gandhāran art is a legacy of Hellenistic Greek rule in Central Asia and the growing consensus around the important role of the Roman Empire in shaping it. But they also seek to present a more complex and expansive view of the networks in which Gandhāra was embedded. Adopting a global perspective on the subject, they examine aspects of Gandhāra’s connections both within and beyond South Asia and Central Asia, including the profound influence which Gandhāran art itself had on the development of Buddhist art in China and India.

Proceedings of the Third International Workshop of the Gandhāra Connections Project, University of Oxford, 18th-19th March, 2019. Like the previous volumes, this book is open access and available from the publisher’s website linked above.