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Communities of StylePortable Luxury Arts, Identity, and Collective Memory in the Iron Age Levant$

Marian H. Feldman

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226105611

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226164427.001.0001

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The Reuse, Recycling, and Displacement of Levantine Luxury Arts

The Reuse, Recycling, and Displacement of Levantine Luxury Arts

(p.139) Chapter 5 The Reuse, Recycling, and Displacement of Levantine Luxury Arts
Communities of Style

Marian H. Feldman

University of Chicago Press

Abstract and Keywords

The chapter explores different ways in which communities could form around displaced artworks through several case studies of Levantine artworks that followed complicated biographical trajectories: bronzes found in Greece at pan-Hellenic sanctuaries (reworked bands at Olympia and horse harness elements at Samos and Eretria), ivories from within official palatial contexts (at Arslan Tash) and from outside (in the Town Wall Houses at Nimrud and at Til Barsip), and refashioned ivories and bronzes from a “royal” tomb at Salamis on Cyprus. The chapter also highlights the different ways in which these objects were used, and in some cases refashioned, for varying purposes of community formation by multiple cultural groups. These stories of access to and (re)use of portable luxury goods speak to their ongoing efficacy in social life. Such luxury portable objects could be acquired through official, state-sponsored collection and redistribution of booty and tribute. Yet non-state sponsored activities like looting, scavenging, and salvaging also allowed for the dissemination of prestigious elite materials into alternative channels of circulation. The case studies presented here illustrate the diversity and complexity of interactions in the Iron Age Near East and Mediterranean.

Keywords:   Olympia, Samos, Eretria, Town Wall Houses, Nimrud, Til Barsip, Arslan Tash, Salamis, object reuse, object recycling

The reinscription of some of the Levantine metal bowls, along with their appearance in what must clearly be secondary contexts, such as the Etruscan and Greek burials, point to multiple circulatory patterns for these and other Levantine artworks.1 Likewise, the discovery near the pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Olympia of a Levantine bowl inscribed for an owner bearing a West Semitic name2—whether a bowl like this was left as a votive, as most scholars assume, or acquired by temple officials for ritual activities, as proposed by Ingrid Strøm3—suggests a secondary usage in a context associated with the sanctuary. Such circulation has been acknowledged in the scholarship for many years, prompting the examination of so-called Orientalizing trends in eighth-century Greece and Italy. Yet only more recently has attention been turned to the variations and precise articulation of this circulation, complicating what had been previously understood in rather simplistic terms as the natural by-product of commercial Phoenician activity.4 This chapter explores some of these complex social histories through a series of case studies, each of which presents slightly (p.140) different circulatory trajectories. Keeping in mind the blurring of distinctions between purportedly “Phoenician,” “North Syrian,” “Aramaean,” and “Luwian/Neo-Hittite” material culture during the ninth through seventh centuries, these variable circulation patterns provide further caution regarding singular models of homogeneously defined ethnic groups spreading knowledge (and art styles) by means of a mercantilism constructed through the lens of modern European capitalism. My purpose is not to redefine the history of Phoenician/Levantine movement in the Mediterranean but rather to bring to the fore the complicated nature of the situation, and to encourage case-by-case analysis of mobile arts rather than one-size-fits-all models. In this respect, I seek to build a bottom-up set of narratives derived from individual artifacts rather than a top-down model seeking to explain the presence of all circulating artifacts. In so doing, I propose differing accretions of value and meaning within the artifacts’ changing contexts of use, which in turn generate new possibilities of community formation and identity.

Each of the cases examined in this chapter presupposes some displacement of the artworks from the place of their original manufacture to that of their deposition. The element of disjuncture or rupture manifests in varying means of reuse and recycling in the new context.5 While the “biographies” of Levantine artworks prior to their deposition can be hard to trace, careful analysis of the stylistic and technical features of both individual objects and assemblages of like objects can reveal strong circumstantial evidence for aspects of the earlier trajectories of their social lives. It is not my aim to pinpoint the locations of initial manufacture, an endeavor undertaken by most studies of these works with varying degrees of satisfactory results. Nonetheless, each object or group of objects bespeaks displacement in some way or another. Sometimes these displacements involve crossing geocultural areas, sometimes they involve moving across sociopolitical strata, and sometimes they involve both. By employing the term displacement, I intend no devaluing of the subsequent uses of these pieces. Rather, I hope to evoke the disjointed quality of the objects’ movements, a quality that gets glossed over in terms like circulation, with its connotation of smooth, seamless transitions. The disjointed quality, I contend, is vital to our ability to capture the varying inflections of meaning and value ascribed to the pieces along their journeys.

The case studies of secondary mobility that this chapter presents start with a series of bronze relief bands from three statues found disassembled along with masses of other materials in a well at the cult sanctuary at Olympia. These bands point to opportunistic acquisition as a result of collapsing political order, in this instance that of the Assyrian Empire. Rather than appearing to be an article of commercial trade or even structured gift exchange, their presence at Olympia appears to have been possible only because of Assyria’s fall from power. With this situation in mind, the next case study presents related instances of (p.141) post-empire dissemination of Levantine luxury arts, this time in the form of ivories found at Nimrud in the Town Wall Houses and possibly also at Til Barsip. These two examples both illustrate the longevity of mobility for Levantine arts, even those created years earlier, and suggest unofficial circulation mechanisms within the Assyrian state itself. Such movement is contrasted with that which occurred within official channels of the Assyrian Empire, as exemplified by ivories found in the Bâtiment aux Ivoires at Arslan Tash. Including one piece naming Haza’el, taken to be the ninth-century king of Damascus, and found in an eighth-century administrative building in an Assyrian provincial city, they suggest the gifting of complete sets of furnishings to loyal officials by the central Assyrian court.

The disassembled state of the ivories from the Nimrud Town Wall Houses and Til Barsip Building C1 and the dismantled state of the Olympia bronzes raise yet another aspect regarding the circulation of Levantine arts, namely the secondary reassembling of individual pieces to create new forms. This is clearly evident in the case of the reworking and reuse of the Olympia bronze bands, but may also be proposed for several canonic pieces from Cyprus—an ivory chair and bed and a bronze cauldron from Tomb 79 of the Royal Necropolis at Salamis. In the case of Tomb 79, given a terminus ante quem no later than the end of the eighth century according to its pottery, we cannot attribute the appearance of this material on Cyprus to the breakdown of the Assyrian Empire. However, the reassembling from potentially recycled parts of these three pieces speaks to some kind of opportunistic or lower-level acquisition, which was nonetheless turned to the advantage of an emerging group of elites at the site of Salamis.

I conclude with a consideration of the oft-discussed harness ornaments inscribed for Haza’el of Damascus, a bridle frontlet of which was found at the Heraion on Samos and a blinker at the Temple of Apollo in Eretria. While we cannot reconstruct the precise pathway(s) by which these items of royal booty made their way into two different Greek sanctuaries, we can discern differing dimensions of value that presumably contributed to different networks of meaning. Within a Levantine and Assyrian cultural milieu, these items were physically marked (through inscriptions) as material witnesses to territorial conquest and control. Within a Greek ritual context, however much of this earlier history might have “come along for the ride” with the pieces’ displacement from the Near East, primary meaning appears to have derived from imagery and material divorced from the original use as horse harness fixtures.

After the Fall: Mobility post Assyrian Empire

In 2004, Eleanor Guralnick published a detailed article reexamining a series of bronze relief bands found in a well at Olympia (fig. 5.1).6 The bronzes, excavated in 1960, have been conserved, scientifically analyzed, and reconstructed (p.142)

The Reuse, Recycling, and Displacement of Levantine Luxury Arts

Fig. 5.1 Bronze relief band from Olympia, Greece. Olympia Archaeological Museum. Photograph: Gösta Hellner, DAI Neg. no. D-DAI-ATH-1979/559. © Deutsches Archäologisches Institut. All rights reserved.

as forming parts of three different sphyrelaton korai by Brigitte Borell and Dessa Rittig in their 1998 publication (fig. 5.2).7 The specific details of the bronze reliefs’ archaeometry, archaeological context, and imagery combine to present a particularly clear case of what might be understood as the opportunistic distribution of Levantine artworks. Guralnick convincingly argues that the bronze (p.143)
The Reuse, Recycling, and Displacement of Levantine Luxury Arts

Fig. 5.2 Reconstruction of the three sphyrelaton korai by Borell and Rittig 1998, plate 57. Drawing by J. Denkinger. Courtesy of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Zentrale-Bibliothek, Berlin.

(p.144) bands came to Greece after the defeat of the Assyrian Empire in 612/609 BCE. This scenario raises important implications for our understanding of the mechanisms by which Levantine art circulated, and thus warrants closer consideration here.

The bronzes were discovered along with numerous other votives deposited in Well 17, near the north wall of the stadium. The well is one of around two hundred found in the eastern part of the sanctuary that appear to have been constructed for use by participants and visitors to the games.8 Because the wells were predominantly simple shafts dug into the ground, they were not in use for long periods of time and so found a secondary use as receptacles for votive and cultic paraphernalia that for whatever reason no longer had a purpose at the sanctuary.9 The closure of Well 17 has been dated by pottery to circa 475 BCE and corresponds to the construction of a spectators’ seating embankment in this area, representing a quite late terminus ante quem for the bronzes’ arrival at the site.10 The other material included in Well 17 ranges in date and type considerably, including a Mycenaean LH IIIB (thirteenth century) kylix, a Geometric-period (eighth-century) bronze warrior figurine, and a late Archaic-period (late sixth-century) bronze greave with a dedication by Thebans for a victory over Hyettos.11 This is therefore an eclectic mixture, a seemingly arbitrary gathering of materials that may have been situated in close proximity to one another, perhaps as displayed or stored votives. The contents are very much in keeping with those of the other wells, one of which (SO 6) contained a Levantine bronze bowl of the type discussed in chapter 4.12

This intermixing of materials from different periods and regions can be seen even at the level of the three sphyrelaton korai themselves. The statues were formed of joined sheets of bronze; two smaller examples reached approximately 120 centimeters in height, with the third one significantly taller at between 160 and 200 centimeters. None have been able to be fully reconstructed, with the largest one being the least well preserved. Several bands running both vertically and horizontally along the statues’ skirts exhibit rows of elaborate imagery, many of which are of Near Eastern stylistic and iconographic origin, while others show Greek styles and iconography.

Stylistic and iconographic analysis of the Near Eastern bronzes, in pursuit of a specific place and date of manufacture, has produced inconclusive results. Ursula Seidl proposed that the Olympia bronze bands came from three separate northern Levantine workshops—Zincirli, Carchemish, and an unidentified one—all dating to the eighth century.13 Guralnick offers a more circumspect interpretation, saying only that they derive from a “Neo-Hittite” locale. Moreover, noting a number of strongly Assyrianizing features, such as men wearing fish skins and a male deity in a floating disk, she suggests production at a “site governed by Assyrians after the empire overthrew the local government.”14 She places their date of manufacture loosely between the end of the eighth and some (p.145) time in the seventh century BCE.15 Guralnick further provides the compelling suggestion that the bands originally ornamented wooden doorposts as are seen in Assyrian architecture, such as the Balawat gates of Ashurnasirpal II and Shalmaneser III or the temple gates of Sargon II at Khorsabad.16

For the incised Greek bands, which ornamented the fronts of the two smaller statues, Guralnick argues for lowering their date to between 610 and 570 BCE from the higher date in the seventh century proposed by Borell and Rittig.17 She comes to this conclusion based on both the stylistic and the iconographic elements of the incised imagery and the overall appearance and form of the sphyrelaton statues. That the statues were, at the very least, assembled at Olympia might be argued from the evidence of their large size and the archaeologically attested presence of workshops, including for bronze working, at the site.18

Thus, in these three statues we have an unusual bricolage of Near Eastern bronze door bands reused along with Greek bands to construct the clothing of a typical Greek sculptural form—sphyrelata—which appear to have been assembled at Olympia between 610 and 570 BCE. What makes this scenario yet even more intriguing are the results of the scientific analysis of the bronzes—in both Near Eastern and Greek styles—which indicate that the metal all came from the same source (although that source itself is not locatable).19 This finding has widespread implications for understanding the circulation of “styles” and “objects.” First, Borell and Rittig rightly conclude that those bronzes in Greek “style” must have been produced from melted-down and reworked bronzes that originally belonged to the same set as the surviving Near Eastern bronzes. (Why some Near Eastern bronzes would be saved and reused while others were melted down and recreated in a different/Greek manner is an intriguing question that nonetheless lies beyond the scope of this study.) Second, presumably all the Near Eastern bronzes came from a single production location and time, since they are all from the same “batch” of smelted bronze. This, as Guralnick notes, means that any stylistic variation within the bronzes cannot be attributed to different workshops (understood as spatially and temporally separate),20 but must instead point to the interaction and cross-contact of several Levantine craftsmen who might have come together to produce a single major project—exactly the kind of pan-Levantine interactions that I suggested in the first chapter.21

Guralnick proposes that the bronze relief bands, located in some Assyrian-controlled Levantine city, might have been scrapped or stolen when the Assyrian Empire fell.22 This may have been as late as 609 BCE, because while Nineveh was sacked and looted in 612 BCE, it wasn’t until the Assyrian court, which had relocated to Haran in northern Syria, was finally defeated by Nabopolassar in 609 BCE that Assyria entirely lost its grip on the northern Levantine region. One might imagine that at this point, material forms of Assyrian power in the provinces, such as administrative or official religious structures, would have (p.146) been targeted in much the same way as the carved reliefs from the Assyrian kings’ palaces were back in the heartland. Indeed, it is hard to see how such items would have circulated before the fall of Assyria.

Ivory in and around the Assyrian Empire

Once we consider such a scenario of opportunistic looting of Assyrian imperial property as is presented by the Olympia bronze relief bands, we might ask ourselves whether this occurred more frequently than hitherto acknowledged. In fact, there might be at least two other instances in which we can see the circulation of what ought to have been “royal property” beyond the walls (both literally and metaphorically) of the Assyrian palace—ivories found in post–Assyrian Empire levels at Nimrud, and ivories from a nonroyal and possibly post-empire context at Til Barsip in Syria.

On the northeast side of the citadel at Nimrud, built directly up against the citadel wall, a series of nonpalatial houses spanning about 70 meters was excavated in 1953.23 The full extent of the houses was not uncovered, and it is unclear exactly how many separate houses the excavated rooms originally comprised—whether six, as proposed by Mallowan, or three, as suggested by David and Joan Oates.24 Of the four levels found in the houses, two (levels 4 and 3) belong to the Assyrian Empire period (late eighth century through the fall of Assyria) and two postdate the fall of the empire (levels 2 and 1), being assigned respectively to “squatters” and later Hellenistic houses. Only a few fragmentary ivories were recovered from the second Assyrian Empire level 3 in Mallowan’s House II, including some from a small cache of valuables found buried under the courtyard 12 (none were found in the earlier Assyrian level 4).25 Their incomplete state and small size has led Georgina Herrmann and Stuart Laidlaw to conclude that “they were surely salvaged,” presumably by someone with access to the palace.26 During this level, the family of a court official, Shamash-sharru-uṣur, occupied the main house, as attested by his archive of forty-seven tablets found in room 19.27 He appears to have been a wealthy merchant, landowner, and moneylender. Level 3 was destroyed by a fire, which has been dated by tablets found among the Town Wall Houses to the reign of the last known Assyrian king, Sin-sharishkun.28

Most of the ivories found in the area of the Town Wall Houses were discovered in the post-empire level 2, in a single large room (43) of Mallowan’s House VI.29 Regarding their archaeological context, Mallowan wrote that they “were lying in confusion on a beaten mud floor of level 2 against the eastern wall and were clearly out of place.”30 The date of level 2 has been proposed to follow immediately the earlier destruction marking the end of the empire because of the extensive reuse of walls from level 3.31 While this group of ivories consists of many high-quality pieces, including sculpted bulls that ornamented a circular (p.147) furniture fitting in Levantine style and several incised plaques with Assyrian-type narrative scenes, Herrmann and Laidlaw note that they are “varied in type, style and function, and, unusually, mix Assyrian and Levantine fragments” (fig. 5.3).32 The other remains of this level indicated general impoverishment.33 For this reason, Herrmann and Laidlaw suggest that the ivories were scavenged from the Northwest Palace. Mallowan himself came to such a conclusion, remarking that the ivories must have been acquired from “dismantled, damaged, or even looted furniture.”34

That looting from the rich storerooms of the nearby Northwest Palace occurred is amply demonstrated by the massive quantities of ivories found thrown down the palace wells.35 Indeed, the bulls encircling a furniture fitting from the Town Wall Houses are similar to a set of five bulls found in Well AJ of the Northwest Palace (figs. 5.3 and 5.4).36 Additional evidence for the dispersal of material looted from the Northwest Palace is found in the appearance of the upper part of a veined alabaster vase with pseudohieroglyphic inscription in the Town Wall Houses, while the lower part was found along with three other stone vases in a reception suite in Area ZT (room 25), in the northeastern corner of the Northwest Palace’s outer courtyard.37 There appear to be a variety of psychologies among the looters, whose differing aims can be reconstructed by the forensic evidence that they left behind.38 Those who purposely mutilated specific images, such as the face and bowl of Ashurbanipal in the garden relief discussed in chapter 4, engaged in a complex dialogue of overthrowing the oppressor—hence their actions needed to be visible (and thereby memorable) documents of the disempowering of the ancien régime. Those objects wantonly tossed into wells along with dead Assyrians signal the release of pure rage and action in the heat of the moment.39 Those who squirreled away broken specimens of precious objects, hoarded in the hope of future recovery and use, appear to have looked to bettering their own lot in life. In all cases, the ivories clearly manifested some value or power, though again varying from person to person, as is evident in the differing responses to them.

A group of ivories found in a building at Til Barsip (present-day Tell Ahmar, Syria) presents a slightly more equivocal situation than the Town Wall Houses. However, given what is known from the Town Wall Houses, we might have a second instance here of the dispersal of ivories in the period immediately following (or immediately preceding) the fall of the Assyrian Empire. Twelve carved ivories were excavated at the site in 1993 and 1994.40 All but three of them were found in a residential/industrial building (C1) in the lower town, located close to what is projected to be the Iron Age city wall.41 The area in which the building was located showed evidence of three occupational phases: A, B, and C, from top to bottom. As in Town Wall House VI, most of the ivories were discovered in a single room, XV, of Building C1 in the destruction layer of phase C. This destruction layer can be dated to the second half of the seventh century by (p.148)

The Reuse, Recycling, and Displacement of Levantine Luxury Arts

Fig. 5.3 Ivory carved with bull from Town Wall House 6, Room 43, Nimrud. TW20 ND 3587. Baghdad, Iraq Museum, IM 56968. In G. Herrmann and Laidlaw 2009, 238. Courtesy of The British Institute for the Study of Iraq (Gertrude Bell Memorial).

cuneiform tablets found in adjacent rooms that name an individual, Hanni, and include Assyrian eponyms dating between 683 and 649 BCE, and possibly as late as 635.42 Guy Bunnens notes that as the texts from phase C (the earliest phase) were found in a destruction layer, not the archive’s original storage location, the following two phases—B and A—should date to the “transition from the Assyrian to the post-Assyrian, or Neo-Babylonian, period that followed the collapse of the Assyrian empire.”43 Bunnens places the terminus ante quem for the ivories around 600 BCE.

The deposition of two of the ivories may date to this later period, having been found in a pit that may have been dug into the floor of phase B.44 The archaeological context of the pit is unfortunately uncertain, because the pit was not detected until the excavators reached the floor of phase C. However, the presence of two fragments of ivory “at a much higher level and in a location corresponding to the edge of the pit opens the possibility that the pit actually belongs to phase B.”45 If this is the case, it indicates that ivories were in circulation at a formerly Assyrian-controlled city during the years immediately following the fall of Assyria.

The composition of the group of ivories further supports an understanding of them as an opportunistically gathered, secondhand assemblage rather than a “commissioned,” elite collection. Although small in number, they exhibit a diversity (p.149)

The Reuse, Recycling, and Displacement of Levantine Luxury Arts

Fig. 5.4 Ivory carved with bulls from Well AJ, Northwest Palace, Nimrud. Baghdad, Iraq Museum, IM 79518. In G. Herrmann and Laidlaw 2009, no. 275. Courtesy of The British Institute for the Study of Iraq (Gertrude Bell Memorial).

of styles, all of which find counterparts in the stored Levantine ivories from Nimrud (none are in the Assyrian style).46 Bunnens comments that such variety, when encountered in the Assyrian storerooms, is “usually explained by the diversity of provenance of the ivories that were collected either as booty or as tribute from different parts of the empire. Such an explanation is difficult to accept for the Til Barsip collection, which was found in what appears to be a domestic context.”47 If we ascribe the ivories to Hanni and his household, they appear to have belonged to an individual who did not hold any official position in the Assyrian court, although he had close dealings with the Assyrian administration and lived in an Assyrianized manner.

In addition, all the ivories are parts of furniture inlays, but none of them could have been used together to form a larger entity.48 This suggests that they did not form parts of actual usable objects by the time they came to be deposited at the end of the seventh or beginning of the sixth century. Indeed, all these facts point to the acquisition of the ivories piecemeal, as was possible when opportunity arose. Whether this occurred after the fall of the Assyrian Empire or in its (p.150) waning years is unclear given the archaeology of Building C1, but the evidence seems to point to the former. One possible explanation is that these ivories represent “hand-me-downs” from plunder that was subsequently distributed to loyal officials and troops as rewards for their services.49 Herrmann and Alan Millard have argued based on the evidence from the Nimrud Town Wall Houses and Til Barsip that ivories may have had extremely limited circulation within the Assyrian Empire, with a royal monopoly effectively keeping all ivories—whether made in Assyrian style or acquired from the Levant—tightly within the controlled sphere of the Assyrian royal storehouses at Fort Shalmaneser and the Northwest Palace.50 The ivories found at Arslan Tash, considered below, appear to broaden this purview to provincial Assyrian administrative structures, but nevertheless speak to an official housing or use rather than that of a private individual or a nonpalatial context.

A few other facts suggest that distribution of the Til Barsip ivories to private individuals through official Assyrian channels is less likely. First, considering the probable date of manufacture of these ivories to be around one hundred years prior to their deposition, it is unlikely that they would be available to be looted from Levantine sites by the Assyrian army at the end of the seventh century. Second, by 650 BCE the entire Levant had been incorporated into the Assyrian Empire to varying degrees, and thus there would be less looting going on in the Levant as a whole. From Assyrian annals of the seventh century, we hear instead of booty and tribute from places like Egypt and Elam, which then constituted the border zones of Assyrian control. In sum, despite the presence of these ivories in what might be an Assyrian Empire phase (albeit a very late one), it appears most likely that such ivories would only be available for circulation at the private individual level when the Assyrian administration no longer held strong control over the royal resources.

The tablets themselves, which Bunnens notes were found not in their primary archival context but rather in secondary destruction deposits,51 might indicate that they too, like the ivories, were discarded during a period of disinte-grating control of the Assyrian provincial city as the central state lost its grip. By the time of the destruction period in which both the tablets and the ivories were found, Building C1 had been modified from its original function as a residential structure into something more industrial, exhibiting evidence of weaving and dyeing activities.52 The unexpected presence of elite items such as administrative texts and carved ivories suggests that these were collected from elsewhere and dumped in Building C1 at the time of the destruction.

As at Nimrud and elsewhere in the Assyrian heartland, Til Barsip revealed signs of intentional destruction and mutilation that can be ascribed to the actions of individuals during or immediately after the collapse of the empire. At Til Barsip such evidence appears in the form of a mutilated basalt statue of an Assyrian official.53 The statue was discovered in three pieces in a pit near (p.151) the northern extent of Area C, where the ivories were found. Its face had been hacked off and a deep gouge made in the chest. That this statue was found near the house with the ivories provides additional support for the ivories’ disposal in Building C1 during the post–Assyrian Empire period.

In contrast to the ivories from the Nimrud Town Wall Houses and Til Barsip, ivories found at the Assyrian provincial center of Arslan Tash (ancient Hadatu) present a homogeneous group that suggests not opportunistic gathering but rather the acquisition of complete pieces of furniture.54 Most of the more than one hundred pieces were discovered in room 14 of the so-called Bâtiment aux Ivoires, a small building to the east of the provincial palace. The building was only partially recovered, but exhibits basic similarities to the conventional Assyrian palatial residence, with two courts linked by a reception suite. Differing from this convention in the Bâtiment aux Ivoires, however, is the presence of two adjacent reception suites. One of the suites follows standard Assyrian layout, while the other draws on a local building tradition, its broad rooms opening onto the court through a columned doorway.55 Geoffrey Turner dates the structure only approximately, to the end of the ninth through the eighth centuries, whereas he dates the main palace building to the mid-eighth century in the reigns of either Tiglath-Pileser III or Shalmaneser V.56

Room 14 was initially identified by François Thureau-Dangin as a storeroom, but Turner rightly proposes that it was yet another reception suite leading to the west of the building. The carved ivories, with a few exceptions, form a generally homogeneous group and might plausibly be suggested to have belonged together on a single piece or suite of furniture.57 All were discovered in the same general area.58 Thureau-Dangin recounts that in the northern part of room 14, a series of polished but undecorated pieces of ivory veneer were found “disposées de façon à dessiner les deux côtés longs et un des petits côtés d’un rectangle de 1 m. 95 sur 0 m. 96.”59 These pieces measured 8 centimeters in length and 3 to 4 millimeters in thickness and lay on two pieces of veneer placed vertically, as if to form “le revêtement d’un cadre, probablement de bois, qui a disparu,” and which Thureau-Dangin reconstructs as a bed.60 Next to this rectangle, he found traces of a similar rectangle that he interpreted as a second bed of the same proportions. He associates a number of disengaged carved ivories with these two bed frames due to their excavated proximity.61 Another set of plaques was found “en majorité dans le voisinage du mur Nord de la chambre 14,” while a fourth group was found “presque exclusivement de trois à quatre mètres plus au Sud.”62 A few ivories were found scattered in the nearby courtyard, but their diminishing density as one moves away from the doorway of room 14 indicates that their presence in the courtyard was the result of their dispersal from room 14 at the point of the building’s destruction. These ivories were in such a poor state of preservation, perhaps due to their exposure to the elements in the courtyard, that none of them survived excavation.

(p.152) As mentioned, the majority of the Arslan Tash ivories exhibit shared stylistic and technical features. Among these are 13 preserved plaques of winged men flanking the baby Horus seated on a lotus, 5 plaques of winged females flanking a tree, 7 plaques of human-headed and ram-headed leonine figures in profile, 4 plaques with frontally facing, human-headed leonine creatures, 15 plaques depicting a woman in a window, 18 plaques showing a cow suckling her calf, and 2 plaques of grazing stags (plate 1). Three stylistic “outliers” (AT 28, 43, and 44) serve to highlight the close associations of the remaining ivories, which have been taken to indicate a common point of production. Among these ivories were three undecorated veneer fragments bearing part of an inscription in Aramaic naming Haza’el, generally identified as the king of Damascus who reigned from approximately 843 to 803 BCE.63 Irene Winter, associating the shared stylistic traits with the geographic locale of Damascus by way of the Haza’el inscription, proposed a style-group that she calls South Syrian.64 According to her, the traits exhibit a merging of Phoenician and North Syrian stylistic features, which she attributes to the location of Damascus in southern Syria, geographically in between Phoenicia and North Syria. I have already discussed the various problems with these geographic-cum-stylistic attributions in chapter 1, but it is worth pointing out here that the inscription on the Arslan Tash ivory naming Haza’el may not in fact point to a place of production in Damascus. Similar inscriptions found on a bronze horse-bridle frontlet at Samos and a bronze horse-bridle blinker at Eretria indicate that the objects on which Haza’el placed his inscriptions were in fact booty from other Levantine city-states—in the case of the bronzes, Unqi in the northern Levantine region.65 Nonetheless, regardless of where one situates the geographic origin of the Arslan Tash pieces, their stylistic and technical homogeneity points to their general belongingness with one another.66 This in turn suggests that they had formed part of a suite of furniture at the time they were deposited in room 14 of the Bâtiment aux Ivoires.

Based on the presence of Haza’el’s inscription, these pieces may have been taken by Tiglath-Pileser III upon his conquest of Damascus in 733/732 BCE, although earlier possibilities also exist.67 Shalmaneser III (858–824) records battles against Haza’el in his eighteenth and twenty-first regnal years, from which he claims to have seized military equipment as booty, though he does not record tribute.68 Adad-nirari III (810–783) claims to have received tribute, including ivory furnishings from Damascus.69 Another possibility is that the ivories may have been obtained by the powerful Assyrian turtan Shamshi-ilu, who exerted kingly control of this area and claims to have exacted tribute—including furniture—from Damascus on behalf of Shalmaneser IV (782–773) in the first part of the eighth century.70

Given that another ivory inscribed with the name of Haza’el was discovered in room T10 of Fort Shalmaneser at Nimrud, it appears most likely that whenever the ivories were obtained by the Assyrians, they were part of a larger collection (p.153) of Levantine goods that continued on to the Assyrian heartland.71 Even if the Arslan Tash ivories did not physically go through the center of Assyria (because of the great expenditure required to move items long distances), conceptually they would have passed through a central review before being dispersed to a loyal official. The movement of tribute and booty through the empire was itself a statement of control and domination whatever the routes involved. Arslan Tash lies well north of Damascus, on the modern border between Syria and Turkey in the Saruj plain between the Euphrates and Balikh Rivers. The transport of large quantities of tribute and booty back to the Assyrian cities might well have passed through Arslan Tash, and it might have been at this point that the furniture was gifted to a provincial official there.

In sum, the Arslan Tash ivories suggest the redistribution of prestigious tribute or booty to provincial officials during the period of Assyrian control, in contrast to the royal monopoly proposed by Herrmann and Millard regarding the ivories from the Nimrud Town Wall Houses and Til Barsip.72 The coherent stylistic and technical features of the Arslan Tash ivories indicate that this redistribution happened in the form of entire pieces of furniture. In contrast, the ivories from the Nimrud Town Wall Houses and Til Barsip Building C1 lack stylistic and technical homogeneity; no full pieces of furniture could be reconstructed for either group, and in the case of the Town Wall Houses, both Assyrian- and non-Assyrian-style ivory pieces occurred together, a highly unusual situation. The late contexts for the Nimrud Town Wall Houses and Til Barsip ivories—at the very end of and even postdating the Assyrian Empire—suggest an unofficial means of their dissemination in which random pieces were grabbed and stashed as best they could be.

Secondhand Elites

The reworking and reassembling of the Levantine bronze bands into Greek statues at Olympia and the stashing of ivories in the Town Wall Houses at Nimrud and Building C1 at Til Barsip raise yet another question: what did the “recyclers” get out of the deal? To explore this question further, we can turn to an interesting case where not just one but probably three items were reworked and/or reassembled before deposition in the closed context of an elite burial. The three items—a chair/throne, a couch/bed, and a cauldron—from Tomb 79 at Salamis incorporate parts made of the same materials that we have been studying throughout this book, namely, ivories and bronzes, whose crafting is generally considered to be Levantine. The proposed refashioning with additions seen in these items further complicates the attribution process.

Unlike the situations above in which the artworks appear to have traveled in the wake of the Assyrian Empire’s collapse, those from Tomb 79 at Salamis, the first use of which is dated to the mid- to late eighth century, point to secondary (p.154) circulation occurring during the time of the Assyrian Empire and perhaps even when some or all of Cyprus was in a vassal or client-state relationship with Assyria. Analogous to the Arslan Tash situation, we might consider the redistribution of prestige pieces by the Assyrian court to client states as a reward (or bribe!) for their continuing loyalty. A. T. Reyes and others have proposed that the Cypriot kings of the eighth century cooperated with Assyrian demands in order to prosper under that state’s protection.73 According to Reyes, the similarities seen among the sumptuous burial goods at Salamis and items found in the Assyrian palaces represent a shared taste for the same kinds of prestigious luxury goods.74 Rather than looking solely from the perspective of Assyrian control and/or domination, Sarah Janes has recently argued that the wealth and eclectic cosmopolitanism seen in the Salamis royal tombs indicate “more concern over the control of internal affairs than that of external connections,” and the “ability of the Salaminian rulers to equal the disposable wealth of their powerful neighbours as the new ‘state-controlled market’ emerged in the Near East.”75 Nonetheless, as will be evident when we examine the three pieces closely, the rulers of Salamis do not appear to have acquired “complete” pieces, nor do they appear to have appreciated or used them in the same way as the Assyrian kings.

Nine elaborate tombs dating between the eighth and sixth centuries BCE were excavated in a necropolis east of the ancient city of Salamis in the 1950s and 1960s.76 Their expertly constructed architecture, rich burial assemblages, and evidence for elaborate funerary rituals earned them the moniker of “royal,” an adjective most scholars accept as accurately designating the elite status of those buried within them. The earliest burial, in Tomb 50a, has been dated by David Rupp to 800/750, and the latest, the second burial in Tomb 50, to circa 600/575BCE.77 Though all had been looted in antiquity, they preserved elaborate assemblages outside the main burial chambers, providing evidence for two sequential burial activities in all the tombs except two (Tombs 3 and 50a). Most of the tombs, including Tomb 79, revealed evidence of elaborate funerary practices that took place in a stagelike area in front of the actual tomb chamber.78 These included processions of horse-drawn vehicles, whose animals were slaughtered and left behind. Furnishings and eating and drinking wares point to either real or allusive banqueting rites. The deceased were either inhumed or cremated on a funerary pyre.

Excavated in 1966 by Vassos Karageorghis, Tomb 79 is the richest of the Royal Tombs.79 The tomb chamber itself had been completely looted by means of entry from above, but the area in front of the tomb escaped plundering, aside from some Roman-period disturbances.80 Facing east—toward the city and the sea—the tomb chamber was approached via a narrow passageway that opened out onto a stagelike, slightly raised paved platform referred to as a propylaeum. The propylaeum itself then opened further in a wide slope that ascended to ground level for nearly 17 meters, the so-called dromos. The entirety was presumably (p.155) covered by a tumulus in antiquity, though only one tomb (Tomb 3) preserved such a tumulus archaeologically.81 Although later (Roman-period) intrusions in front of the passageway and down the center of the dromos destroyed some of this area, materials to the sides of both the dromos and the propylaeum were well preserved in situ. The tomb chamber and sides of the propylaeum and dromos were constructed from well-cut ashlar limestone masonry. Karageorghis claims that stratification of soil layers clearly indicates two separate burials. That from an initial burial was preserved along the two sides of the dromos and in the corners of the propylaeum, while the second burial cut into the middle of the original one but covered a narrower extent.

All three of the pieces discussed here were assigned to the first burial. Aspects of the sequential process of the two burials remain somewhat unclear. For example, the dromos presumably would have been protected along its top, at least for some length away from the propylaeum; otherwise, accessing this area for the second burial (during which Karageorghis proposes that items from the first burial were rearranged) could not have been accomplished so neatly. However, the presence of two distinct strata of soil that caused Karageorghis to postulate two separate burials indicates that soil must have covered the items left behind following the first burial and preceding the second one, suggesting that the dromos was not roofed and was filled in with dirt. If this is the case, it disproves Karageorghis’s claims that the bronze horse fittings and ivory plaques from the bed, which he dates to the first burial, were disassembled and stacked to make space for the second burial.82 Rather, they must have been in this state at the conclusion of the first burial.

The first of the pieces is a chair (gamma) overlaid and inlaid with ivory (plate 16). It was found “almost complete and in situ” against the far western wall at the bottom of the dromos, to the north side of the propylaeum.83 Karageorghis suggests that the furnishing had been placed originally in the tomb chamber, then moved outside to accommodate the second burial, but he rightly notes that as an assemblage there are far too many grave goods to fit inside the modestly sized chamber.84 It seems more likely that the furnishings found outside the chamber were from activities of a spectacular and public nature. These occurred at the time of burial in the space of the propylaeum and dromos, which in fact resemble a theatrical space.85

Although the wooden framework of chair gamma had disintegrated, the ivory veneer remained in its original place and was carefully excavated so as to preserve most of the chair’s form, with the exception of the feet and the uppermost corners of the back.86 The four-legged chair had arms and a slightly curving back and was entirely overlaid with thin plaques of ivory, mostly unornamented. The top of the back retained traces of a thin sheet of gold bearing an engraved scale pattern. The frame of the back contained more elaborate decoration, including nine vertical strips of evenly spaced ivory. These strips bear (p.156) applied guilloche bands in two parallel rows, attached by means of an adhesive. Below the vertical strips are two horizontal bands executed in the same technique of applying individually cut-out pieces to a plain strip of ivory. In this case, the design created is a linked chain of alternating large (three-petaled) and small (five-petaled) palmette or lotus flowers.

Karageorghis then proposes that two à jour plaques also belonged to the chair. The two large plaques (approximately 16 centimeters tall) clearly form a pair, sharing both stylistic, compositional, and technical characteristics (plate 17a, b). One depicts a voluted palmette tree, the other a striding sphinx. Both plaques exhibit identical forms of small voluted palmettes along their ground lines. In addition, if the plaques were positioned next to each other, these ground lines would create a rhythmic pattern, and the sphinx’s face would rest precisely between the upper and central volutes.87 Both are carved on both sides, with the presumed obverse including elaborate cloisonné work of exceptionally fine crafting. However, whether they in fact belong to chair gamma is questionable. Karageorghis comments that the placement of the two à jour plaques on chair gamma is “tentative,” based primarily on their height, which corresponds to that of the distance between the chair’s armrests and its seat.88 In fact, neither plaque was found in situ with the chair, in contrast to the rest of the chair’s ivory parts. One plaque (the sphinx plaque, no. 258) was found approximately 70 centimeters to the north, while the other plaque (no. 143) lay on top of materials found piled in the corner of the propylaeum several meters to the west of the chair. Their placement across from each other under the armrests also has been called into question by Annette Welkamp and Cornelius de Geus, who note that this arrangement violates the expected compositional symmetry in which two sphinxes would flank the voluted palmette.89 They propose that the two plaques would have been placed next to each other, with a third one completing the composition.

It is possible that additional à jour plaques that would have completed the composition (minimally four more) were destroyed in the later reuse of the tomb during the Roman period.90 However, the Roman intrusion cannot account for the distance of the two plaques well away from chair gamma, which was otherwise preserved in a complete state. Nor can it explain the striking stylistic and technical differences seen between the plaques and the rest of the ivories ornamenting the throne. The two “isolated” plaques are of a much higher quality than the rest of the ivories from chair gamma. The technique seen on the chair back, in which small pieces of ivories are glued to a thin strip of ivory veneer, allows for the use of lower-grade ivory. In contrast, the two à jour plaques would have required large pieces of the material, coming from a bigger and thus more highly prized elephant tusk. It therefore seems probable that for whatever reason, only the two plaques were available at the time of deposition, and that if they were affixed to the chair at that time, which in fact appears unlikely, (p.157) they were a later, opportunistic addition to what was essentially a lower grade of ivory furniture.

Near chair gamma, a number of disassembled ivory plaques were discovered lying on the floor, which Karageorghis has reconstructed as a bed (plate 18).91 According to the published report, the ivory plaques were found “thrown on a pile with bronzes, etc., in the north-west corner of the dromos.”92 Karageorghis himself notes that the reconstruction is conjectural, based on the size of the various pieces, “together with imagination and analysis on the part of the Cyprus Museum technicians and the writer.”93 As reconstructed, the bed is 188.5 centimeters long and 111.2 centimeters wide; like chair gamma, it appears to have been entirely veneered with plain pieces of ivory. From a series of carved and inlaid ivory pieces, Karageorghis reconstructed a headboard of 110.2 centimeters in width and a total height, including the legs, of 88.6 centimeters.94 The headboard consists of a narrower set of three carved, horizontal bands framed by four undecorated strips, all of which is set into a wider frame that includes a row of seventeen stylized lotus flowers overlaid with gold at the top. Above and below the row of lotus flowers run two short bars with blue-glass hieroglyphs that were probably inlaid into wood, while the vertical supports at the sides feature irregularly shaped plaques with blue-glass inlaid floral motifs.

The three carved bands that Karageorghis places in the center of the head-board are composed of separate rectangular plaques carved in three different Egyptianizing designs. The band placed on top is made up of four individual plaques that together show six kneeling Heh figures holding in each hand a stylized ribbed branch from which an ankh sign is suspended at the top. Gold leaf embellishes the skirts, hair, and arms of the figures as well as the voluted palmettes that separate the figures. The lower strip comprises six individual plaques that depict striding sphinxes flanking voluted palmettes. These two groups of plaques exhibit similar carving styles and techniques, suggesting they originally ornamented the same item. The middle strip of four plaques with interlaced palmettes and lotus flowers, however, displays a carving style and technique that are closer to those of the two irregularly shaped side plaques inlaid with paste and blue glass.

In comparing only the carved figural ivory plaques (not the three-dimensional sculptures), there appear to be two separate groups of related pieces. The first group includes the Heh-figure plaques and the striding-sphinxes plaques. The second group includes the vegetal design motifs inlaid with paste and blue glass found on the plaques from the central strip and on the irregularly shaped side plaques. Not only do these two groups of ivories differ stylistically and technically, the size of their various plaques may further contribute to the possibility that they originally belonged to different pieces of furniture. Most noticeable are the two irregularly shaped plaques that Karageorghis places at the top corners of the headboard (plate 19). They share a somewhat similar shape, but (p.158) one is taller and narrower (no. 277) than the other (no. 251). While they clearly show an original edge on one vertical side that preserves a raised frame, the other sides do not preserve any frame and look as though the design were cut into at a later date, severing many of the individual motifs. More telling are the differing curvatures of the interior vertical sides, being more gently inclined on the taller plaque and more sharply curved on the shorter plaque. These two plaques present the appearance of having been cut down from larger plaques. In addition, when the three carved relief bands and their frame are set into the headboard, the two curving side plaques extend down from the corners only a short distance, leaving the remainder of the side posts in simple, undecorated ivory veneer. If indeed the bed can be reconstructed in this manner, then the bed as deposited in Tomb 79 was a composite creation of recycled and reused ivory parts.

A much clearer instance of recycled and refashioned parts is seen in the bronze cauldron with siren and griffin protomes (plate 20). The large vessel (no. 202; approximate maximum diameter is 86 centimeters) was found sitting atop a mostly iron tripod along the north wall of the propylaeum.95 It preserved in situ around its rim an arrangement of eight griffin protomes and four Janus-headed male “siren” attachments. The cauldron itself is of two large hammered sheets of bronze, laid one inside the other and riveted together under the rim by groups of five rivets—a feat of extraordinary metallurgical crafting.96 Over this the four siren figures were attached. Their outstretched wings nearly touch one another, almost completely circumnavigating the cauldron’s upper edge. The eight griffin protomes have been attached over the wings, one on either side, so that two griffin heads appear next to each other between siren attachments. This arrangement is unique among cauldrons with attachments, as are a number of other aspects of these attachments. Most striking are the different techniques used to create the two types of attachments. The griffin protomes are cast, while the siren attachments are constructed from hammered sheet. This immediately suggests that the two attachment types originally may have belonged to two different entities.

That the griffin protomes overlap the siren wings indicates their addition to the cauldron at a later date than the sirens.97 The apparently later addition of griffin and/or lion protomes occurs on a few preserved cauldrons from Greece and Italy: one at Praeneste from the Bernardini tomb (where one of the bowls discussed in chapter 4 was found), two from the Circolo dei Lebeti (Circle of the Cauldrons) tomb at Vetulonia, and one from a late context at Olympia.98 These examples, though suggestive of a shared practice of recycling and refashioning a preexisting cauldron already fitted with siren attachments, are stylistically quite distinct from the Salamis cauldron (while being relatively similar stylistically to one another). The sirens on the Salamis cauldron, in particular, are stylistically unique from both those found on the cauldrons with added protomes (p.159) in Greece and Italy and those found on cauldrons in the Near East. Their large size relative to the cauldron also sets them apart from other cauldron attachments, perhaps pointing to local Salaminian experimentation.

In contrast to the griffin protomes, which appear to have been added later, the sirens extend perfectly around the circumference of the cauldron, suggesting that they were designed originally for this particular cauldron.99 That both the cauldron and the sirens are of a highly proficient hammered technique further supports this notion. Both the technique of manufacturing the cauldron from two sheets of bronze and the style of the Janus-headed sirens with full bodies are without known comparisons in the Near Eastern or Mediterranean world.100 The griffin protomes also lack direct comparisons, but they fit generally into a group of protomes that are well known from sites in the West. The Salamis ones represent the easternmost examples; all other excavated griffin protomes have been found at sites in western Anatolia, Greece, and Italy.101

We seem, therefore, to have in this first burial in Tomb 79 three assemblages of high-value materials and crafting that, nonetheless, exhibit mixed styles, divergent techniques, and evidence for refashioning. Moreover, the chair gamma and the bronze cauldron both point to local (stylistically and technically distinct) production of the main component, which was then outfitted with more “standard” pieces (possibly the à jour plaques on the chair and the griffin protomes on the bronze cauldron). How should we account for this unusual density of recycled and reused luxury goods? What purpose might these reworked pieces have served for those involved in a clearly elite burial on Cyprus in the eighth century?

Rupp views the unusual form, with its obvious performative element, and the extravagant burial assemblages of the Royal Tombs as indicative of an emerging royal power base at Salamis in the eighth through seventh centuries.102 Such extreme displays, according to him, point to the high degree of insecurity that the rulers felt. Nicholas Blackwell likewise understands the opulence of the early (eighth-century) tombs to signal attempts at status negotiation during a period of general political instability and fluid regional boundaries.103 The tombs cover the period when the Assyrian Empire was becoming a growing presence along the Levantine coast, and inscriptions from the reigns of Sargon II, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, and Ashurbanipal refer to Cyprus.104 Despite claims by the Assyrian kings to control Cyprus, close reading of the inscriptions combined with a lack of Assyrian official presence on the island (aside from a large stele of Sargon II erected near Kition) indicate that the relationship was not absolutely hegemonic.105 The Assyrian texts claim that the kingdoms of Cyprus paid tribute to Assyria. Sargon’s stele is unusual within the corpus of Assyrian royal periphery monuments in that it does not include the typical justification for its erection as a result of military conquests; instead, it describes how the seven kings of Ya’a, a district of Cyprus, brought tribute to Sargon in Babylon.106 A reference (p.160) to setting up a stele (Akkadian narû) “for posterity” on the island occurs in an Assyrian prism of Sargon’s from Nimrud, suggesting that the stele at Kition arrived there through peaceful rather than coercive means.107 Maria Iacovou has suggested that Cyprus established a beneficial relationship with Assyria during this time.108 Nonetheless, the encroaching presence of the Assyrian Empire, which clearly engaged with polities on the island, may be seen as providing a critical stimulus in the consolidation of those various polities themselves.109

The ivory chair, bed, and griffin-siren cauldron all belong to the first burial in Tomb 79, which Rupp and others date to 760/740 BCE, several decades earlier than Karageorghis, who dates the burial to 710/690 BCE.110 It is perhaps not a coincidence that this burial at Salamis takes place in the years or decades immediately before Sargon’s stele, dated by its inscription to 707 BCE, is erected to the south of Salamis at Kition. One might envision a variety of different scenarios by which a newly emergent ruling dynasty would acquire the disparate parts used to create these sumptuous burial items. Perhaps they were the result of diplomatic relations with Assyria in which the Assyrian king provided slightly worn “counter gifts” to the Salaminian ruler. Plaques almost identical in type to the Tomb 79 bed Heh figures have been found at Nimrud along with close comparisons for the bed’s sphinx plaques.111 Likewise, there are close comparisons between the à jour sphinx and voluted palmette plaques assigned to chair gamma with Nimrud ivories of the so-called Ornate group.112 Yet there are also strong ties between the Salamis ivories and ivories found at Samaria,113 which could suggest acquisition though direct ties with Levantine city-states, with whom the polities of eastern Cyprus had always had close relations.

The recycling and refurbishing of the three Tomb 79 items, as lavish as they are, suggest that the Salaminian rulers did not have entirely open access to the acquisition or production of such works of craftsmanship. The first burial of Tomb 79 is not only the wealthiest and most elaborate of the Royal Tombs in its grave goods and associated funerary rituals, it is the only one to contain ivory-inlaid furniture or a bronze cauldron with protomes.114 It may be that as high a status as this burial commanded and as rich as it was in comparison to the other royal burials, these rulers nonetheless lacked access to the highest tier of luxury goods, such as those that the Assyrian king was able to acquire through tribute and booty. In a similar vein, Rupp suggests that tin-encrusted amphorae, also found among the first burial assemblage of Tomb 79, were intended to imitate more valuable solid-silver vessels.115 What we may have at Salamis in the eighth century are rulers who resided on the margins of the Assyrian Empire, possibly able to benefit from a client-state relationship, but not incorporated to the extent that they would receive loyalty rewards, as provincial officials at places like Arslan Tash did. Instead, as elites in a second-tier kingdom, they had to make do with reusing and recycling secondhand luxury goods acquired through whatever means were available.

(p.161) The Booty of Haza’el of Damascus

One of the luxury items most frequently invoked in discussions of the dissemination of Levantine goods, especially with respect to the Orientalizing period in Greece, is a bronze horse-bridle frontlet found in 1984 at the Heraion on Samos. It bears an Aramaic inscription naming Haza’el, presumed to be the same Haza’el who ruled the kingdom of Damascus in the second half of the ninth century BCE (circa 843–803 BCE) (fig. 5.5).116 Being an inscribed Levantine product in a Greek context, the frontlet has become a “poster child” for East-West exchanges, and as Ann Gunter notes, “with its rich ‘cultural biography,’ the North Syrian bronze frontlet from the Heraion at Samos serves as a point of departure for exploring various issues surrounding objects that crossed political, cultural, or religious boundaries.”117 The inscription, found also on a bronze horse-bridle blinker from another Greek sanctuary—the Temple of Apollo at Eretria on Euboea—has likewise garnered a fair amount of attention with respect to its historical implications for late ninth- and early eighth-century Levantine history (fig. 5.6).118

The reader should be forewarned that I do not claim to have determined the means by which these pieces arrived at the two Greek sanctuaries. As enticing as these pieces are for such a goal, we must restrict ourselves to working within the parameters supported by the data. Nonetheless, a close formal analysis of the bridle elements as material and art historical objects and a consideration of the historical contexts in which they were produced and circulated do reveal hitherto unacknowledged aspects of their collection in the Near East and later in Greece.

Three different horse-bridle elements—the inscribed Samos frontlet and two bronze blinkers from Eretria—have been linked through a web of philo-logical, stylistic, and archaeological associations (figs. 5.55.7). While these associations do not prove absolute relatedness, circumstantial evidence suggests that we can use the three different pieces together to help flesh out a more complete archaeological and historical picture. The frontlet was discovered in a late seventh-or early sixth-century debris context southeast of the great altar at Samos.119 Its archaeological context is thus of limited usefulness. It is, rather, the excellent preservation of its complete inscription that contributes to the questions at hand. This inscription finds an exact duplicate on a bronze blinker from Eretria. It was discovered in the early years of the twentieth century in the general area of the Temple of Apollo, and thus like the Samos frontlet its archaeological context is not particularly informative.120 However, the style and subject matter of the blinker have an especially close association with another (uninscribed) bronze blinker from Eretria, found in the 1970s in a securely dated late eighth-century context—a destruction level of the later Geometric-period temple (a hekatompedon) that was destroyed around 700 BCE. It had apparently been affixed to a wooden column, near the base of which it was found in situ.121 (p.162)

The Reuse, Recycling, and Displacement of Levantine Luxury Arts

Fig. 5.5 Bronze horse-bridle frontlet from the Heraion on Samos, Greece, ninth century BCE. Samos Archaeological Museum. Photograph: Gösta Hellner, DAI Neg. no. D-DAI-ATH-1984/371. © Deutsches Archäologisches Institut. All rights reserved.

The two blinkers, however, did not originally form a pair, since both would have been from the right side of a horse’s bridle.122

Visually, all three pieces have been attributed generally to the North Syrian (as opposed to Phoenician) regional style. The trapezoidal frontlet features two rows of nude (aside from their anklets and necklaces), frontally facing standing females. One on the bottom stands on a feline head and holds another feline (p.163)

The Reuse, Recycling, and Displacement of Levantine Luxury Arts

Fig. 5.6 Drawing of inscribed bronze horse-bridle blinker from Eretria, Greece, ninth century BCE (inscription is shown upside down). Athens, National Museum, inv. no. 15070. After Amadasi Guzzo 1996, fig. 1; courtesy of Dr. Amadasi Guzzo.

The Reuse, Recycling, and Displacement of Levantine Luxury Arts

Fig. 5.7 Uninscribed bronze horse-bridle blinker from Eretria, Greece, ninth century BCE. Eretria Museum, B 273. After Chantal Martin Pruvot, Karl Reber, and Thierry Theurillat, Cité sous terre: Des archéologues suisses explorent la cité grecque d’Erétrie (Gollion: Infolio, 2010), p. 67. By courtesy of the Swiss School of Archaeology in Greece.

(p.164) head in each of her outstretched hands. Balancing on the two held feline heads and on the lower female’s head are three identical nude females, who cup their breasts in each hand. Above the central female is an elaborately winged disk. Around all the edges except the top runs a frieze of interlocking animal combat scenes. The Aramaic inscription starts at the top left corner, just on the inner side of the animal frieze, and continues about two-thirds of the way down the left edge. The plaque is punctured by regular holes all along the top edge and in the bottom corners.

The two blinkers display a “master of animals” scene in the broadest part of their plaque. Both show a frontally facing male in a short kilt who holds lions in his outstretched arms. Also in both examples, the male figure stands on a thick, unanchored ground line. To the viewer’s left appears a striding quadruped with a frontally facing head, probably bovine, although the identification is not certain due to poor preservation. On the inscribed blinker, two star/rosette disks occupy the space to the right of the male figure. A bird of prey sitting on a voluted column/stem faces the master of animals scene on the right side of the uninscribed blinker. Both blinkers bear two punch holes on each side at the point of the piece’s greatest width (where the arching form of the blinker turns sharply toward the narrower end), and four holes along the narrow straight edge on the left (though the inscribed one retains only the top two), indicating identical means of fixture to a bridle.

The duplicate inscriptions found on the Samos frontlet and Eretria blinker, which are discussed in more detail below, are often taken to indicate that these two elements originally belonged together on the same bridle, although this is not necessarily the case. While the two pieces are stylistically similar, there are enough differences, such as in the rendering of the feline heads, to indicate possible separate production. The comparison is, however, difficult due to the corroded state of the Eretria blinker in contrast to the well-preserved state of the Samos frontlet. The blinker is thought to have been produced through the repoussé technique, while Helmut Kyrieleis presents evidence that the frontlet was cast.123 Yet Kyrieleis suggests that many other pieces made from trimmed bronze sheet whose workmanship has been ascribed to the repoussé technique might in fact be cast in a similar fashion to the Samos frontlet.124 Another front-let found at Samos presents a similar composition to the Haza’el one, but is in an advanced state of corrosion like the blinkers; it too appears somewhat different in style, which might be due to either its preservation or to actual stylistic differences.125 However, the intricate small frieze of animal combats running along three of the sides of the Haza’el frontlet distinguishes it from all the other examples, including the other Samos frontlet—perhaps indicating that it belonged to a more ornate harness set.126

André Charbonnet notes that the type of blinker represented by the two Eretria examples—as well as by several other examples from Greek sanctuaries, (p.165) including five from Samos—and known from sites across the Near East, Egypt, and Cyprus was never used as a horse-bridle element in Greece.127 All the extant pieces in Greece come from sanctuaries; moreover, they are never found as pairs, suggesting that they were already separate from any complete harness when they were acquired/deposited at the sanctuaries.

Thus, while there are many links that connect the frontlets and blinkers found at Samos and Eretria, there are also differences that separate them, making it uncertain whether we should understand them arriving at these two sanctuaries as roughly contemporaneously or even as a single “batch.” The un-inscribed blinker from Eretria is in fact the only example to have a secure archaeological provenance earlier than the end of the seventh century. Yet given how close in style and motif the two blinkers from Eretria are, it seems logical to propose that they came to the site at the same time. Charbonnet, in publishing the second bronze blinker excavated at Eretria, reconstructs the earlier find as from the same general area as the later discovery, providing additional support for the idea that the two blinkers arrived at Eretria together. In sum, it is not entirely certain whether all three bridle elements came to Greece in the late eighth century, but this appears likely.

Can we suggest, then, that sometime toward the end of the eighth century, two detached bronze blinkers were chosen (their closeness in subject matter suggests intentional selection) by someone (either internal or external to the Temple of Apollo) as items worthy of display in a ritual setting? What, then, to make of the two Samos frontlets? Here likewise we have two of the same kind of object—trapezoidal bronze plaques—bearing almost (but not exactly) identical subject matter—four naked frontal females with animals. Since these are close but not precisely the same motifs, we might speculate that they were not produced to form a pair, and indeed, we would not expect a “pair” of frontlets to be manufactured, since a bridle requires only one frontlet.128 This secondary “pairing,” that was not part of the original, intended usage of the piece, may explain why both of the Eretria blinkers are from the right side of the bridle; this gives them the identical shape and orientation when viewed side by side. When we view these as pairs of similar images rather than as elements of a bridle, another such pair from Samos comes into view: two right-side blinkers with the same master of animals motif as the two blinkers from Eretria.129 From this perspective, therefore, the association of these pieces with horses through their use as bridle elements was seemingly not of central importance in their selection and display in the Greek sanctuaries, contrary to what some scholars have proposed.130 Such a view likewise supports Ingrid Strøm’s thesis that officials in the Greek sanctuaries played a relatively active role in the acquisition of both votive dedications and cult paraphernalia.131 I leave it to those specializing in eighth- and seventh-century Greece to determine what exactly might have been the appeal of these doubled images of nude females and master of animals.

(p.166) As suggested above, these bronze bridle elements appear to have arrived in Greece already separated from their individual harnesses. Their iconographic pairings further suggest that whenever they were chosen, there were plenty of available pieces from which to select. When, where, and by whom this selection might have occurred is rather more problematic, leading us to a consideration of the historical situation in relation to the two inscriptions naming Haza’el.

The inscription on the Eretria blinker was not noted until Charbonnet’s publication of the second blinker in 1986. His translation, however, is now viewed as inaccurate in light of the better-preserved text on the Samos front-let, translated and discussed by Wolfgang Röllig in the 1988 publication of that piece. Nonetheless, details of the translation and interpretation of the text remain debated. Röllig’s translation (“(Das ist es,) was HDR gab unserem Herrn Haza’el von der Ebene von Basan. ‘Stirnbedeckung’ unseres erhabenen Herrn”) was refined in two publications that came out the following year, both of which independently arrived at the same translation, albeit with slightly different interpretations. François Bron and André Lemaire render it thus: “Ce qu’a donné Hadad à notre seigneur Hazaël, depuis ‘Umq, dans l’année où notre seigneur a traversé le fleuve.”132 Israel Eph’al and Joseph Naveh translate it: “That which Hadad gave our lord Haza’el from ‘Umqi in the year that our lord crossed the river.”133 Bron and Lemaire differ from Eph’al and Naveh in considering Hadad the shortened form of the name of a king of ‘Unqi/Patina, thus suggesting that this item was inscribed by the ‘Unqi king as tribute to Haza’el. Eph’al and Naveh instead see Hadad as referring to the West Semitic god, who is given literary credit for Haza’el’s successful military campaign against ‘Unqi. This latter interpretation is the one most generally accepted by philologists today.134

These varying interpretations hold considerable implications in understanding the social biographies of the blinker and the frontlet. Following the generally accepted interpretation first proposed by Eph’al and Naveh, the two pieces originally belonged to the kingdom (and thus presumably but not necessarily to the king) of ‘Unqi (which might indicate manufacture there, although not necessarily, since that king might have in turn gotten these items from elsewhere). The inscription, however, would belong to the reign of Haza’el of Damascus.135 It is clear that the inscription on the Eretria blinker was added later, as it is squeezed around the figures of the blinker and, moreover, inscribed so that when read, the image on the blinker is actually upside down. The same traits can be seen to a lesser degree on the Samos frontlet, where the inscription is inserted along the left side of the central imagery. The secondary nature of both these inscriptions supports an interpretation of them as texts celebrating the capture of booty. Since Haza’el was engaged early in his reign in struggles against Shalmaneser III of Assyria (858–824 BCE), it is assumed that he would not have had the political or military capabilities to conduct a campaign against (p.167) ‘Unqi/Patina, a major kingdom in the north with its capital at the present-day site of Tell Tayinat (ancient Kinalua), until the later part of the ninth century, when Assyria’s grip on the west loosened considerably.136 The last campaign of Shalmaneser III in the west is against ‘Unqi in 831 (or 829).137 The inscription probably dates to some time after this and before renewed Assyrian military action under Adad-nirari III in 805 BCE.

This, of course, raises the question of what the blinker and frontlet were doing between the end of the ninth century when Haza’el of Damascus presumably had them inscribed to glorify his military accomplishment (see below) and the end of the eighth century when the blinker may (or may not) have been affixed to a column alongside its visual doppelgänger in a temple dedicated to Apollo on the island of Euboea. All sorts of scenarios have been devised to explain the radical displacement of these objects, generally involving rather vague ideas of trade or diplomatic gift giving.138 Although there remain too many unknown variables to propose a precise itinerary, two aspects can be brought to bear on the problem: that Haza’el has a disproportionate number of surviving inscribed luxury objects, and that the other two surviving inscriptions are on Levantine luxury items found in Assyrian imperial contexts. While the second of these aspects has been acknowledged for its historical contributions, the former has received less attention. Nonetheless, it bears asking: why should Haza’el have considered it so important to leave textual evidence of his presence on luxury goods, while his contemporary rulers (outside Assyria) apparently did not?139

First, what might the Haza’el inscriptions as a group tell us about possible spheres in which Levantine luxury items circulated? We have already considered this to some extent above in the section on the Arslan Tash ivories. There, I argued that it was more likely that the ivories found in a provincial Assyrian administrative building had first been taken to the Assyrian capital as booty or tribute from a Levantine king and then redistributed back to an Assyrian official based in the Levant. I based this argument on the similarity between two inscriptions naming Haza’el found on ivory veneer pieces: one at Arslan Tash, the other in Fort Shalmaneser at Nimrud. These two inscriptions, both fragmentary, appear to follow very much the same formula as the two inscriptions from Greece. The one from Nimrud is the most fragmentary, preserving only part of the title “… our [lor]d Haza’el.”140 The inscription from Arslan Tash, found on three separate pieces of ivory, retains more: “[ ]?? ‘m’ to our lord Haza’el in the year he captured ‘h[…].”141 Although there is no consensus as to the presumed proper name preceding “our lord Haza’el” or the identification of the captured city (Hazor, Hamath, Hazrak, Halep, and Hazazu have all been proposed), the inscription clearly follows the same formula as the complete inscriptions celebrating the acquisition of seized goods from ‘Unqi. Since the Arslan Tash and Nimrud inscriptions are also on pieces of luxury items, it seems logical to interpret (p.168) these inscriptions in a similar vein, although they do not need to have come from the same place, since we know that Haza’el engaged in numerous battles for territorial conquest.142

That two such inscriptions ended up among the Assyrian imperial collection of booty and tribute may suggest that the Haza’el blinker and frontlet likewise would have passed through the hands of the Assyrians.143 If the Haza’el inscribed blinker and frontlet arrived in Damascus at the end of the ninth century and then perhaps wound up in Greece sometime between 750 and 700 BCE (although this is circumstantial, based on the notion of the paired iconography of the two Eretria blinkers), there are two main dates between 800 and 700 in which Haza’el’s booty might have been taken as booty by the Assyrians: Adadnirari III (810–783 BCE) claims to have subdued Damascus and taken booty including ivory furniture,144 and Tiglath-Pileser III, who conquered Damascus in 733/732BCE.145

Maria Amadasi Guzzo proposes that the Samos frontlet and Eretria blinker inscriptions should be thought of not as dedications or gifting but as labels “qui identifient les objets en faisant allusion à leur histoire; et cette histoire leur confère en meme temps une valeur toute particulière.”146 She notes that the Haza’el inscriptions differ from the short references to the cities of Hamath, Lu’ash, and Bit-Gushi (Arpad) found incised on other ivories at Nimrud. They also appear different from inscriptions on other luxury objects, such as dedications to a deity or the assertions of possession discussed in chapter 4. Rather, they are similar to Assyrian imperial inscriptions on booty, such as a small cylindrical black stone (bored through the center like a cylinder seal) from Assur that bears an inscription of Shalmaneser III: “Booty from the temple of the deity Sheru of the city Malaha, a royal city of Haza’el of Damascus, which Shalmaneser, son of Ashurnasirpal, king of Assyria, brought back inside the wall of Inner City (Ashur).”147 Such inscriptions, Amadasi Guzzo suggests, relate to or even are excerpted from royal annals—inscriptions that recount the great deeds of the king. Is Haza’el trying to emulate the Assyrian kings that he is encountering early in his reign, and whom he survives, during a period of their weakness in which he in turn thrives?148 Furthermore, would his emulatory booty labels have held greater appeal for the later conquering Assyrians because of both their expression of respect for Assyrian imperial practices and their recorded history of royal ownership?

Yet it remains hard to see how the bronze frontlet and blinker would have found their way from an Assyrian imperial storeroom to two different Greek sanctuaries. One would expect instead a scenario akin to that detailed above for the bronze strips from Olympia, which most likely entered into secondary circulation only after the collapse of the Assyrian Empire. Moreover, the impression gained from the paired images of frontlets and blinkers found at Samos and Eretria suggests that they were chosen from an available stock that was large (p.169) enough to provide similar visual pieces, but were nonetheless not originally intended to be paired together on a single bridle. In other words, the pieces from Samos and Eretria do not appear to be just any bridle elements that happened to be available. Given that horses were attached to chariots in sets of either two or four, similar but not paired sets of bridle attachments might have existed and been housed together in storerooms. But again, who would have both access to the Assyrian storerooms and an interest in distributing some of the items into pathways that could lead to dedication at a Greek sanctuary? Or, if the bronzes did not come from an Assyrian imperial storeroom, they presumably would have been held in a comparable Damascene royal storeroom, and again, the question arises as to who would have both motivation and access to distribute such items to a foreign ritual setting.

It seems unlikely that individual independent “Levantine traders” would be in possession of such highly guarded royal booty, at least not during times of strong state control. One suggestion has been that such items might have been given to Greek mercenaries who served in the Assyrian army and then dedicated them as votives on their return home.149 Another possibility that has been hinted at by some scholars but not fully pursued in detail is that at least some of this material was opportunistically obtained plunder gotten from the general chaos that ensued in the wake of military campaigns, be they Assyria in the west in the eighth century or the fall of Assyria itself at the end of the seventh.150 Both these scenarios seem unlikely given the discussion above.

Gunter suggests, following Strøm’s argument that sanctuary officials across Greece formed a network that actively acquired specific Near Eastern pieces, that “special ties” existed between the Greek sanctuary officials and “political or religious elites elsewhere in the Near East.”151 Yet who these political or religious elites might have been remains elusive. It is possible that the undocumented link runs through Anatolia, especially Phrygia, which certainly in later centuries (sixth and later) acted as an important nexus mediating between Mesopotamia/the Levant and the Greek-speaking city-states of western Anatolia and the Aegean.152 The presence of Levantine–style bronzes and ivories at Gordion in the eighth century has suggested diplomatic relations between these two areas, while Herodotus later tells of a dedication of a throne by the eighth-century Phrygian king Midas at the Greek sanctuary at Delphi.153 Yet the case of Phrygia leads to at least two possibilities, neither of which can be ruled out: an analogous votive dedication directly to a Greek sanctuary from an eighth-century Damascene or Assyrian ruler, or diplomatic gifting from Damascus/Assyria to Phrygia subsequently re-gifted as a votive dedication by a Phrygian ruler in Greece.154

The bronze bridle elements are indeed extraordinary objects in their complex material and historical associations, and as Gunter notes, they provide an excellent point of departure for considering questions of material displacements. (p.170) However, in our current state of knowledge, they do not allow us to arrive at any satisfactory end place with respect to the identification of precisely who, when, or how they left the Near East and came to Greece; the degree of displacement is so great that speculation regarding an exact itinerary remains tenuous beyond reasonable bounds. This conclusion, while negative, should stand as an important caution in our attempts to reconstruct relations between Greece and the Near East during the eighth century BCE.155

But this is not a zero-sum game; as a recent volume exploring the social dimensions of trade asserts, “when goods are in motion, they are moving through social spaces and … there is meaning in the event itself, not merely in the accomplished fact of an exchange.”156 We can with caution tease out meaning from select events along the bronzes’ complex itinerary, noting for example the absence of horse-related value attached to the paired plaques within the Greek ritual world and the Damascene emulation of Assyrian practices of hoarding booty. We might with some cause speculate that Haza’el gathered relatively large quantities of luxury items (in both bronze and ivory) from conquered states, which he “registered” by means of inscribed texts in the manner of the Assyrian kings. The Assyrian kings, in turn, seized this stored booty during their own military campaigns and likewise stored it in their royal arsenals. In either the Damascene or the Assyrian kings’ storehouses, there were presumably large numbers of such pieces, which could have been either dismantled or kept as an ensemble.157 It appears to have been from a group of disassembled horse trappings that the coupled bronze frontlets and blinkers found in Greece derived, rather than from complete harness sets.158 Their value in a Greek ritual context seems to stem more from their doubled imagery and likely also their material (no ivory harness elements have been recovered from Greek sanctuaries), not from their original function as horse trappings. Some additional value may have accrued from their biographies themselves,159 though it is not possible to say what precise “biographical facts” (if not simply the fact of their having “biographies” in and of itself) might have mattered within a Greek ritual context, or whether the Aramaic inscriptions would have been either readable or sensible in the new locale. That two out of less than thirty160 bronze harness elements deposited in Greek sanctuaries carry inscriptions (an exceptionally high proportion) suggests that at the very least, the mere presence of the inscriptions contributed to their perceived value within the context of a Greek sanctuary during a period when writing was itself just coming into being as a social practice.

Conclusions: Displacements, Values, and Meanings

The cases presented in this chapter witness the mobility of Levantine artworks in ways that challenge systemwide models of imperialism, trade, or gift exchange, and that stitch together piece by piece a narrative of complex interactions. (p.171) The close analysis of stylistic and technical features, archaeological context of deposition, and historical evidence points to displacements of both geocultural and sociopolitical extent, moving across cultural regions and up and down social strata. I have eschewed what I see to be a generally fruitless attempt to pinpoint precise locations of initial manufacture. Nonetheless, displacements became evident and can be reconstructed to varying extents for each case. The bronzes from Olympia clearly juxtapose Near Eastern to Greek crafting, even if neither production locale can be more precisely demonstrated. Likewise, the bronze bridle pieces from Samos and Eretria clearly point to manufacturing origins that are geographically and culturally distant from the place of their final deposition.

Objects such as the Olympia bronze bands and the Samos and Eretria bridle pieces receive the greatest share of attention in scholarly discourse because of their “East-West” displacement, a direct result of the privileged position the question of the emergence of Greek art holds within the Western intellectual tradition. The eighth and seventh centuries are seen as a major point of transference from the “Orient” to the “West.” But the Haza’el and Olympia bronzes point to the complicated intertwining of the Near Eastern and Mediterranean worlds. How goods circulated in the Near East affected what might be available to others, such as Greeks or Etruscans, and what pathways might have been open for their movement. The Olympia bronze bands suggest that high-prestige items associated with the Assyrian Empire may not have been easily available until the loss of imperial control (although the Samos and Eretria bronzes hint at ways in which such items might have been diverted into alternate pathways at places such as Gordion). Ivories from the Town Wall Houses, Til Barsip, and Arslan Tash reinforce this impression, suggesting that complete pieces/ensembles may only have been available through official Assyrian channels, at least while Assyria was at its strongest, from the middle of the eighth century to the third quarter of the seventh century. The late eighth-century contexts in Salamis Tomb 79 might therefore be understood as “lesser” pieces of luxury accessories, perhaps some part of them bestowed by the Assyrian kings on the newly emerging Cypriot rulers and then gussied up with otherwise acquired or manufactured components.

The ivories from the Nimrud Town Wall Houses present a different perspective on displacement. Many of them are Levantine and thus assumed to be displaced from somewhere in the Levant, while others are Assyrian in style. The Assyrian ivories, then, are displaced not from one geocultural area to another but rather from one sociopolitical arena to another, namely from the palace to post-empire squatters. The Til Barsip ivories suggest a similar sociopolitical displacement that is further complicated by an apparently round-trip geocultural displacement from the Levant to Assyria and then back to the Levant, now as an Assyrian province. Such a round-trip displacement is supported by the Arslan (p.172) Tash ivories, which appear to have been taken as tribute or booty from Damascus to Assyria and then back out to the provincial city of Hadatu.

What is kept and what is disposed of reveal how meaning and value accrue through different acts of reuse and recycling.161 During the looting of the great Assyrian palaces, some ivories were thrown down wells, while others were scavenged. Similarities between finds of ivories from the wells and those from the Town Wall Houses, such as the bull-figure furniture attachments, indicate that aesthetic, iconographic, or functional aspects of these ivories were not paramount among the motivations underlying their displacement. Rather, their disposal in the wells and their hoarding in squatter quarters signal a value and meaningfulness through their association with the Assyrian Empire as the prized booty or tribute of conquests. This is quite different from the bronzes found at Greek sanctuaries, whether the Haza’el bridle elements or the relief bands from Olympia. In those instances, motivations based on iconography, material, and form seem of primary relevance. In the case of the bridle elements, the new pairing of pieces severs them from their original functional meaningfulness as charioteer accessories and inscribes them with new value and meaning. Although we don’t know what imagery of the Olympia bronze relief bands was chosen to be melted down, we can nonetheless assume that the retained Near Eastern imagery possessed some iconographic merit for the Greek dedicator. Otherwise, why not melt all the bands and start from scratch?

The Salamis refashionings suggest complex ties between the emerging kingdom and points both east and west. Levantine ivories with connections to Assyrian storehouses, reworked and “stretched” to go further, hint at a second-tier client status that nevertheless takes pride in continuing independence. A presumably Greek practice of affixing griffin protomes to cauldrons with Near Eastern siren attachments finds expression, but in the absence of the typical siren cauldron (whether Levantine or Urartian), a strangely unique version is created. It is perhaps too simplistic to see these refashionings as metaphoric of the refashioning taking place on the island of Cyprus as a whole during the eighth and seventh centuries. Yet the negotiations of ethno-linguistic identity traced in the development of languages and scripts, raised at the end of chapter 4, may have been worked out materially as well.

From the different case studies presented in this chapter, it becomes apparent that we need to analyze closely each situation on its own before we begin to construct large-scale narratives of cultural interaction, either within the Near Eastern world or between it and points west. Once having done so, the individual cases can gain interpretive value in their juxtaposition to one another, providing a starting point for such “bigger-picture” stories, as the various strands of the Haza’el corpus show; a better understanding of the inscribed Haza’el ivory found at Arslan Tash, linked to the one from Nimrud, enriches (p.173) the historical underpinnings for the Samos bronze frontlet and Eretria bronze blinkers. At the same time, the case studies demonstrate that we must take into consideration not just questions of cultural encounters but also those related to social status and hierarchy. How might Levantine ivories have signified differently for Assyrian kings, who acquired them as tribute or booty, than for squatters opportunistically looting them from the storerooms of these now-defeated rulers? (p.174)


(1.) Many of the ideas in this chapter owe their conception to presentations and papers from a graduate seminar at UC Berkeley taught jointly with Andrew Stewart in fall 2010. In particular, I gratefully draw on the work of Christopher Bravo (on the Olympia bronze bands), Erin Pitt (on the Til Barsip ivories), and Jessica Stair (on Salamis Tomb 79), and technical comments by Laure Marest-Caffey.

(2.) The inscription belongs to the pattern described in chapter 4: “belonging to Nagid/r, son of Mepha.”

(4.) See, for example, Gunter (2009, chap. 4), who reviews much of this literature.

(5.) In principle, reuse refers to redeployment of worked objects but does not involve altering the physical state of the original material, while recycling involves the reworking of the physical materials themselves (Brysbaert 2011, 184). In practice, the line between these two activities blurs, and I use the terms interchangeably in this chapter as a reflection of this ambiguity.

(7.) Borell and Rittig 1998. Sphyrelata are sculptures created by attaching hammered metal plates to a core of wood or other material.

(12.) The bowl is Olympia Museum inv. no. B6049; Markoe 1985, G6. See in general the inventories of the wells listed by Gauer 1975; for SO 6, see ibid., 34–35.

(15.) Ibid., 219.

(16.) Ibid., 204–9.

(17.) Ibid., 215–18.

(18.) The insight regarding the probability that such large statues would have been manufactured on site is thanks to Chris Bravo. For workshops at Olympia, see Baitinger and Völling 2007, 207–13.

(20.) As is proposed by Seidl 1999.

(22.) Ibid., 218–19.

(26.) Ibid.

(29.) Ibid. For general overview of post–Assyrian Empire occupation at Nimrud, see Oates and Oates 2001, 257–58.

(35.) For the wells, see Oates and Oates 2001, 90–104.

(36.) Well AJ: IM 79518 (G. Herrmann and Laidlaw 2009, no. 275); TW20 ND 3587/IM 56968 (ibid., 238).

(37.) Oates and Oates 2001, 41 fig. 20, 44, 138. Joan Oates (ibid., 278n65) says that the level in which the vase top was found was not recorded by Mallowan, “but was certainly either Level 3 or Level 2. My own memory and Mallowan’s comment suggest Level 2, perhaps with the ivories in room 42 [sic], but I cannot be absolutely certain of this so many years later. I am certain, however, that it was part of the 612 BC destruction debris.”

(38.) For a similar forensic study of looters’ motivations in current events, see Bogdanos 2005.

(39.) On the human remains in wells, see al-Fakhri 2008.

(40.) For the ivories and their archaeological context, see Bunnens 1997a.

(41.) For discussion regarding the use of Building C1, see Bunnens 1997b, 20–22.

(43.) Bunnens 1997b, 25. For another Assyrian provincial center that continues after the fall of the Assyrian Empire, see Kühne 2002.

(45.) Ibid.

(46.) Ibid., 450.

(47.) Ibid. Bunnens (ibid.) further notes that there is no indication that Building C1 served as a storage facility for ivories being shipped from the Levant to the Assyrian capital.

(49.) Bär 1996, 26n226; see, for example, ABL 568 in Parpola 1987, no. 34.

(51.) Bunnens 1997b, 25. Bunnens (1997a, 438) also notes that the pottery from all three phases (C, B, and A) is homogeneous: “The homogeneity of the material found in phases B and A, especially the pottery, which is very similar to the material from phase C, indicates that the final abandonment of building C1 cannot have occurred a very long time after the destruction of phase C.”

(56.) The site was excavated for two seasons by the French mission in 1928. Albenda’s (1988) study of the stone carvings from the site proposes Assyrian occupation from the time of Shalmaneser III in the late ninth century through Sargon II at the end of the eighth. Pre-Assyrian occupation is indicated only by a single stone pedestal carved with a pair of bulls that Albenda (ibid., 6) compares to tenth-century examples from Carchemish.

(57.) Cecchini (2009) argues for a bed and a throne.

(60.) Ibid., 90.

(61.) Ibid., 90–92, nos. 43, 44, 92, 93, 104–7, 111, and 112 (= the ivory fragments with the Aramaic inscription of Haza’el).

(62.) The group found 3 to 4 meters away includes nos. 94–96, 101–3. Ibid., 91–92.

(63.) On Haza’el and his inscribed luxury goods, see below.

(64.) Winter 1981. Georgina Herrmann subsequently argues for calling this style-group “Intermediate” and, most recently, “Syrian-Intermediate” (see discussion above in chapter 1).

(65.) This point is also made by Cecchini 2009, 97. See further discussion of the Samos and Eretria pieces below.

(67.) Ibid., 122–23. The discovery at Arslan Tash of bull gateway figures inscribed for Tiglath-Pileser III (see Albenda 1988) may indicate that he was particularly interested in securing and endowing the city.

(69.) Ibid., A.0.104.8.

(70.) Ibid., A.0.105.1; Baker 2008.

(71.) Remarkably similar ivories have been found in Fort Shalmaneser, for example, in SW 11/12. See G. Herrmann and Laidlaw 2013, 59, 85, plates 11, 66–78.

(72.) For the distribution of tribute within the Assyrian state, including to high officials and booty to soldiers, see Bär 1996, 21–26, esp. 26n226.

(76.) For an overview with references to excavation reports, see Rupp 1988.

(77.) Ibid., 116, table 1. These dates are slightly higher than those given by the excavators.

(78.) Ibid., 121–22.

(80.) The following section on the archaeological context is drawn from ibid., 4–14.

(82.) See Karageorghis 1973, 12, 92. He (p. 11) also claims that the pottery found in cauldron 202 was placed there during the second burial.

(83.) Ibid., 11.

(84.) Ibid., 11.

(86.) For the published archaeological report, see Karageorghis 1973, 87–88, 91–92. Dimensions, as given by Karageorghis (ibid., 87–88), are: total height: 90 cm; frame of seat: 58.5 cm wide and 49 cm deep.

(87.) An observation made by Welkamp and de Geus 1995–96, 89.

(91.) Ibid., 11, 89, 92.

(92.) Ibid., 92.

(93.) Ibid.

(94.) Ibid., 89.

(95.) Ibid., 10–11, 97–108, 214–21.

(97.) Thanks to Laure Marest-Caffey for first pointing this out to me. Muscarella (1992, 36), citing Benson (1960, 65) and H.-V. Herrmann (1966, 146), notes that no cauldrons with siren (p.210) attachments together with griffin protomes have been recovered in the Near East, only in the West (including Cyprus).

(98.) H.-V. Herrmann 1966, 6; note that Herrmann includes a cauldron from the Barberini Tomb at Praeneste as well, although the presence of siren attachments is not certain.

(99.) H.-V. Herrmann (ibid., 145) comes to the same conclusion regarding the siren attachments on cauldrons found in Greece and Italy.

(101.) H.-V. Herrmann 1979; Muscarella 1992. There is a cast griffin protome from Susa, which H.-V. Herrmann (1979, 138n8) says is both late in date and “eindeutig griechisches Erzeugnis.”

(104.) Knapp (2008, 341–45) reviews the Iron Age inscriptions referring to Cyprus in the eighth and seventh centuries. For the Assyrian sources, see also Gunter 2009, 17–22. For external references to Kition, see Yon 2004, 47–59.

(111.) Karageorghis 1973, 93 [citing Mallowan 1966, 534 fig. 451, 547 fig. 479, 567 fig. 511]; G. Herrmann 1986, nos. 655, 1006.

(115.) Ibid., 127.

(116.) See, for example, Burkert 1992, 16; S. Morris 1992, 134, 147; Gunter 2009, 124–28; for dates of Haza’el’s reign, see Lemaire 1991.

(118.) This bibliography is referenced in Younger 2005.

(121.) Although no evidence of the means of affixing was recovered. For details of the archaeo-logical context, see ibid., 117–21.

(122.) Ibid., 130.

(126.) That blinkers could also feature such an intricate frieze is evident on the many examples in ivory found at Nimrud (see Orchard 1967, nos. 75–89, 95–100).

(128.) Matched bridles might be expected, however, for a team of horses.

(131.) Strøm 1992 (and see summary in Gunter 2009, 152–54).

(134.) See Younger 2005, 257–59. Note that Röllig (1988) interpreted both the inscription and the blinker to be the products of Haza’el of Damascus.

(135.) If, as proposed by Bron and Lemaire (1989), HDD is the name of the king of ‘Unqi, then the inscription would presumably have been written in that kingdom and thus indicative of an (p.211) Aramaic dialect of that location analogous to that associated with Sam’al (see Amadasi Guzzo 1996, 331).

(136.) Eph’al and Naveh 1989, 198. A bronze frontlet of similar style was excavated at Tell Tayinat, the only example of a bronze frontlet found in a northern Levantine context (Kantor 1962). The northern Levantine connection is further highlighted by an unusual sculpted basalt horse’s head found at Zincirli that shows a blinker and frontlet of similar shapes and ornamented with related relief images of a nude frontal female on the frontlet and a striding sphinx on the one preserved blinker (Orthmann 1971, 549, Zincirli K/ 3).

(138.) For review of these, see Gunter 2009, 126. Eph’al and Naveh (1989, 200) summarize it thus: “Various inscribed objects, then, in which the name Haza’el occurs, were already scattered close to the end of the eighth century, from Assyria to Greece. However, while objects coming from Damascus and found in centres of the Assyrian empire (such as Nimrud and Arslan-Tash) can be explained as trophies, such an explanation does not apply to the objects found in the Greek temples of Samos and Eretria. It seems, then, that they did not reach Greece directly as booty, but rather as valuable objects acquired somehow by trade.”

(139.) There are four known inscriptions of Haza’el on luxury goods (two bronzes and two ivories). Other inscribed luxury objects, aside from the metal bowls detailed in chapter 4 and comprising a very different genre of inscription, are an ivory naming the city of Hamath and a shell fragment with Luwian hieroglyphs naming Urhilina, a ninth-century king of Hamath, both discovered in the same room as an ivory with the inscription “our [lor]d Haza’el” in T10 of Fort Shalmaneser at Nimrud (G. Herrmann and Laidlaw 2013, 8; Bryce 2012, 136 fig. 9), an ivory from Nimrud that seems to name the city of Lu’ash (Millard 1962 and Millard 2008, 268–69), and an ivory pyxis naming Bit-Gushi, the kingdom of Arpad (Puech 1978); see also general discussion in Eph’al and Naveh 1989, 197.

(144.) See Grayson 1996, A.0.104.6 (inscribed by the governor Nergal-erish), A.0.104.7, A.0.104.8 (which records among the tribute an ivory bed and a couch inlaid with ivory).

(145.) During the reign of Shalmaneser IV (782–773 BCE), the turtan Shamshi-ilu also claims to have received tribute from Damascus. See the discussion above in the section on the Arslan Tash ivories.

(147.) Grayson 1996, A.0.102.92. See also the Akkadian inscription added to an alabaster vessel found at Assur that records the vessel as coming from the treasure house of Abdi-milkuti, the king of Sidon, whom Esarhaddon defeated with the help (divine sanction) of numerous gods, and another one from the reign of Adad-nirari I (cited by Eph’al and Naveh 1989, 196–97n23; von Bissing 1940, nos. 8 and 32).

(148.) In this vein, it is worth recalling that Haza’el is thought to have authored the monumental Tel Dan inscription commemorating various military victories (for the extensive bibliography, see Younger 2005, 246n4). Haza’el’s name has recently been reconstructed on a stele fragment found at Tell Afis in Syria in 2003 (see Younger 2007, esp. p. 139).

(150.) For example, Strøm (1992, 49) suggests that “Phoenician bowls” found in Greek sanctuaries were from the spoil of Sargon II’s conquests in the west.

(152.) See ibid., 144, 153; Muscarella 1989. Most scholars, however, assume a maritime route of circulation (see, for example, Kyrieleis 2009: 139).

(p.212) (154.) Cf. Muscarella 1992, 43.

(155.) For similar caution with respect to the movement of cauldrons and attachments to Greece, see ibid. (and less emphatically with respect to the Samos frontlet and Eretria blinkers, ibid., 44n107).

(157.) See, for example, the list of blinkers found in the Assyrian royal storehouses (Wicke 1999, 831–34).

(158.) Disassembled furniture elements in both bronze and ivory also appear in the Greek sanctuaries as “fragments” rather than as whole pieces of furniture (Strøm 1992, 48n12; also Barnett 1975, 129).

(159.) This is an often-made comment, with references to Homeric passages that provide the genealogies of prestigious goods (see, for example, Gunter 2009: 132–33).

(160.) This is a generous total, based on the finds listed in Braun-Holzinger and Rehm 2005, 29–39.