Edited by Nicholas D. Cahill (Archaeological Exploration of Sardis 4). Pp. xvi + 288, figs. 203, pls. 20, plans 5, maps 2. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. 2008. $50. ISBN 978-0-674-03195-1 (cloth).
This volume of essays, dedicated to Crawford H. Greenewalt, Jr., on the occasion of his 70th birthday, also coincides with the conclusion of his tenure as leader of the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis. As field director of one of the most prominent excavations in Turkey, Greenie (as he is generally known) oversaw an archaeological project that encompassed major programs in conservation and restoration as well as excavation, and for which material ranged from the Early Bronze Age through the Late Roman and Early Byzantine eras. Thus, it is not surprising that the subject matter of this volume is similarly wide-ranging. The common thread in all these essays is a strong appreciation for the ongoing work of the Sardis project and an equally strong sense of affection for its director emeritus.
Several of the papers present original pub-lication of material connected with Sardis. The first three are devoted to a study of Lale Tepe, a late sixth-century B.C.E. Lydian tumulus that contained remarkable examples of painted decoration and funerary furnishings. Although partially looted by robbers, the tomb is striking even in its damaged state: it preserves an unusual arrangement of seven funerary klinai within a chamber, with extensive painted designs on the walls and ceiling. The klinai themselves were also painted, and the tomb chamber door was richly decorated with floral and geometric relief patterns. The tomb assemblage offers valuable evidence for the design and decoration of wooden objects (door and couches) and painted designs on architecture; both media are poorly attested because of their ephemeral nature. In both structure and contents, Lale Tepe provides a vivid example of the rich interplay of Lydian, Greek, and Achaemenid elements that must have dominated the visual arts in western Asia Minor during the period of the Achaemenid occupation. The careful presentation of the tomb by Roosevelt (excavation), Stinson (tomb chamber and paintings), and Baughan (furnishings) is a wonderful testimony to the hard work and insightful scholarship of these three members of the Sardis team, made more poignant by the tomb’s subsequent destruction by vandalism.
Two papers explore the urban landscape of Sardis. Cahill reviews the history of mapping the topography of Sardis and proposes a radically different interpretation of the layout of the ancient city than had been assumed during the years of excavation led by George M.A. Hanfmann. Cahill argues that the most likely location of the Lydian city lay closer to the acropolis and that much of the Hellenistic and Roman city was situated in the same location. His arguments pose a powerful challenge to the assumptions that guided earlier excavation at Sardis and demonstrate how much there is yet to be learned at the site. Ratté examines the evidence for the Hellenistic city, discussing its position in the changeable world of power politics in Hellenistic Asia Minor, with special attention to evidence for the sack of the city by Antiochos III in 215/14 B.C.E. Ratté reviews the degree of Greek influence in Hellenistic Sardis and shows that despite the increasing frequency of Greek inscriptions and the likely presence of Greek building types, such as a theater, the city retained some of its Lydian character. Another paper on Lydian Sardis, an interesting and amusing essay by Ramage, explores the propensity of Lydian artisans to reuse broken pots in creative ways rather than merely discarding them.
Sardis was an important city in Roman Asia Minor also, and three papers consider material from the Late Roman period. Mitten contributes a fascinating discussion of spolia from the Jewish synagogue in Sardis. This building, important in its own right as one of the earliest examples of a synagogue, was also the source of a number of reused monuments from earlier periods in Sardis, including a Lydian temple model, a relief of Artemis and Kybele, a large marble kantharos, and the still-undeciphered synagogue inscription. Mitten’s discussion explores the placement of spolia in the synagogue and the reasons why so many significant objects of Sardis’ history were incorporated into this Late Antique religious structure. Rautman publishes a Late Antique private house with unusually well-preserved wall paintings and discusses the reconstruction of the paintings and their role in creating a decorative scheme of prestigious self-presentation for the elite of Sardis. Burrell presents a Late Roman hoard of bronze coins and integrates her discussion of the coins into a vivid picture of the urban environment in fifth- and sixth-century C.E. Sardis.
Conservation has long been an important part of the Sardis project, and Severson’s paper highlights the conservation program at the site, with its emphasis both on preservation and on reconstruction. As Severson notes, conservation is not only necessary to preserve excavated finds, but it can also furnish a valuable tool to learn about the techniques and materials of ancient objects.
Two papers address more general questions of visual arts in Asia Minor and how they reflect shifting political hegemonies. Dusinberre offers a careful discussion of a cylinder seal from Gordion with a scene drawn from Achaemenid court imagery that offers valuable evidence for the impact of the Achaemenid presence in central Anatolia. Umholtz turns to sacred architecture and building projects by Hellenistic queens, discussing how these women used the traditional female virtue of religious piety to achieve prominence as sponsors of public architecture, an area of self-advertisement usually limited to men. The concluding essay by Yegül ostensibly focuses on the early 20th-century architect Adolf Loos, but Yegül uses this as a platform for a wide-ranging discussion of the relationship of architectural design to sculptural and architectural ornament at several Roman sites, including Sardis.
The book is carefully produced and handsomely illustrated, including a series of color plates that offer lively reconstructions of the Lale Tepe burial chamber and the decorative scheme in the Late Roman house. Throughout the volume, the high standard of scholarship and rich variety of material stand as a testimonial to the esteem for the volume’s honoree by all who contributed to it.
Lynn E. Roller
Department of Art and Art History
University of California, Davis
Davis, California 95616