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Studi in onore di Enrica Fiandra: Contributi di archaeologia egea e vicinorientale

Studi in onore di Enrica Fiandra: Contributi di archaeologia egea e vicinorientale

Edited by Massimo Perna (Studi egei e vicinorientali 1). Pp. 409, figs. 142, pls. 2, tables 10, maps 3. De Boccard, Paris 2005. €50. ISBN 2-7018-0193-1 (paper).


The essays in this volume reflect the respect and affection in which Fiandra is held by scholars from many fields. Though she was trained as an architect, it is as an interpreter of the use of ancient sealings (cretule) that she is best known to Bronze Age archaeologists. Her bibliography of over 50 years, printed here, suggests the range of her interests, from classical structures and Minoan palaces and ceramics to the forms and use of impressed sealings from Crete to Mesopotamia and Iran.

The papers mirror these wide interests. Frangipane, in her introductory essay, describes Fiandra’s developing exploration of the problems posed by the sealings and her passion for understanding how things work—from an early paper (1968) describing the sealing types at Phaistos to an exploration of palace systems for the management of goods in places as distant from Crete as Shahr-i Sokhta, Arslantepe, Ugarit, Leptis Magna, Tepe Gawra, and Nubia.

Many of the papers deal with the uses of cretule. Weingarten and Macdonald discuss very early Middle Minoan (MM) IB sealed nodules at Knossos. Aruz takes up the occurrence of seal impressions on objects such as weights and pottery in the Aegean as well as the Near East. Hallager considers Late Minoan (LM) examples of fold-over nodules, perhaps an illustration of early Mycenaean influence. Karetsou describes two sealings of probable MM IIB date from the Juktas Peak sanctuary, as well as two other sanctuary objects: a stamped handle from a MM context, and a sealstone bearing a male portrait, perhaps dated to LM I.

Sealing evidence from east of the Aegean is discussed in several interesting essays. Frenez and Tosi apply Fiandra’s methods to the collection of third-millennium sealings and seals from Lothal in the Indus Valley and distinguish various familiar types indicative of complex hierarchical use in the Indian Gulf trade. The 70 or so sealings, some with impressions of more than one seal, probably represent a short temporal event.

Mora takes up the problem of seal impressions of the Hittite 14th to 12th centuries at Karkemish, noting both Syro-Hittite cylinders and Anatolian stamps and their complicated usage. Persons of high rank may have made use of more than one seal. Rothman describes familar sealing types of Ubaid–Uruk Tepe Gawra and gives a table, without discussion, of their distribution on the site with functions and design subjects. The analysis of the clay itself indicates most often a local source.

The numerous sealings of Shahr-i Sokhta in Iran, earlier catalogued by Ferioli and Fiandra and discussed here by Pepe, were at peak use before the mid third millennium B.C.E. Pepe reports stamp seal impressions as common and cylinders very few, and a use in commerce, production, and the storage perhaps of lapis lazuli. Müller describes a single-peg sealing, probably of the second century C.E., from Sri Lanka, where seal cutting had been learned from the Romans, and sealings were much used.

Quite a number of essays are concerned with the related problems of writing. Laurito gives us an intriguing account of Early Dynastic Sumerian tags and bullae, the latter hung as labels from baskets containing tablets, in a kind of filing system. The bullae are both carefully stamped and inscribed in detail. Simonetti writes a precise interpretation of a sawlike object found in cylinder impressions, as a door key, sometimes associated with the sun god Samas. Fiandra had earlier (1992, 1993) pointed out the connection of the shape with a widely used type of door lock.

Aegean writing also receives several treatments. Landenius Enegren writes of the identifiable hands of anonymous Mycenaean scribes at Knossos and the possible scribal duties and relationships to named persons in the administration. Palaima is interested in the survival of 172 ideograms in the Linear B texts and their various uses, none of which were as determinatives. Perna interprets a tablet from Pylos, newly rejoined, referring to bronzeworkers, while Perna, Kanta, and Tyree present a new Linear A inscription on a rim sherd from a LM I chalice. Younger discusses in detail a Cretan hieroglyphic tablet from Mallia, perhaps dealing with woolen cloth. Negri and Facchetti consider the value of the numeral sign “T” on tablets from Thebes and Pylos. West of the Aegean, Marazzi and Tusa discuss the meaning of second-millennium tokens and similar objects, some marked, some not, from the island of Pantelleria near Sicily. They point out their connection to a wide koine of such things, from Italy to Mycenaean Greece.

Other archaeological topics are also touched on: Poursat is concerned with an unusual coiled mat impression on the base of a MM II vase at Mallia. Cordano discusses the various evidence for the myths about Minos and their use in later Greek history. Martelli reminds us of the marks used by builders in stone in an article on quarry marks at Rhegion. Though the walls date to the late fifth to fourth centuries, the signs derive from the Mycenaean tradition via Euboean Geometric uses.

H. van Effenterre and M. van Effenterre provide some interesting archaeological history in their memories of the French excavations at Kirrha in the 1930s, involving geological complications. They discuss the Bronze Age discoveries briefly; J. Maran is to publish his restudy of the finds.

Finally, two papers deal with another topic related to communication—that of art. Pelagatti pursues the possible recognition of individual painters on MM ceramics, after the examples of Beazley’s work on classical vase painting and similar studies in Greek Geometric, and the possibility of single Mycenaean workshops. Schmandt-Besserat makes a challenging comparison between seventh-millennium Samarran pottery bearing rare representative motifs, highly stylized, in a pre-literate period, and the Early Dynastic ceramic narrative scenes, showing persons related in action and place “akin to reading a text” (363).

The book is well produced, although some of the English could have been improved, and the various photographs, especially of sealings, are not very clear. These are small points. The essays offer some stimulating ideas to scholars interested in problems of communication and the details of economic organization in prehistoric societies, subjects to which Fiandra has contributed so much.

Martha H. Wiencke
80 Lyme Road
Hanover, New Hampshire 03755

Book Review of Studi in onore di Enrica Fiandra. Contributi di archaeologia egea e vicinorientale, edited by Massimo Perna

Reviewed by Martha H. Wiencke

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 111, No. 2 (April 2007)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1112.Wiencke

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