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Kleinasiatisch-Gräko-Persische Kunstwerke im Archäologischen Museum von Istanbul

Kleinasiatisch-Gräko-Persische Kunstwerke im Archäologischen Museum von Istanbul

By Şehrazat Karagöz (IstForsch 54). Pp. 186, figs. 299. €24.90. Ernst Wasmuth, Tübingen 2013. ISBN 978-3-8030-1775-8 (cloth).

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Karagöz, a long time curator of the sculpture collection at the Istanbul Archaeological Museum and a leader of the museum’s excavations at the Marmaray-Üsküdar railway line under the Bosporus, has previously authored two books, one on ancient stelae in Anatolia (Anadolu’dan Mezar Stelleri: Arkaik, Greko Pers, Hellenistik, Roma, Bizans çağları [Istanbul 1984]) and another on earthquakes in antiquity (Eskiçağ’da Depremler [Istanbul 2005]), and a range of papers on finds and monuments dating from the Achaemenid through the Byzantine empires.

Her new monograph published with the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut (DAI) Istanbul, a revised version of her doctoral dissertation written at the University of Vienna under the supervision of Jürgen Borchhardt, presents objects in the Istanbul Museum belonging to the period of the Achaemenid empire in western Anatolia. Its publication coincides with a new development project at the museum related to its 100th anniversary, enhancing visitor services (including a website, in English at and redisplaying its world-class collections. Including stone reliefs and architectural fragments, metalware, and seals, the book is a careful and well-illustrated resource, essential for its publication of little-known and unpublished finds, as well as its refreshed documentation of older, published items, such as seals and jewelry from Sardis.

The book is divided into two main parts: an introduction and analytical section of 60 pages, and a 96-page catalogue of 138 objects, divided into six typological categories labeled A through F. The contents of the catalogue, findspots, and history of collection are recounted in the introduction (esp. 11–13), but a synopsis here can draw together some useful points for prospective readers. Category A (“Monumental Art from Daskyleion”) comprises a few objects found early in the 20th century and others found later on. These include well-known stelae and reliefs (cat. nos. 1–10) but also a large number of lesser-known architectural fragments, some with intriguing figurative relief decoration, found during Ekrem Akurgal’s exavations at Daskyleion mound in the 1950s (cat. nos. 11–35). I note in particular catalogue number 16, a fragmentary pediment relief showing seated sphinxes (long displayed in the museum, but not before published); catalogue numbers 20 and 21, smaller reliefs showing the forelegs of two processing felines; and catalogue numbers 22 and 23, showing a standing and a fallen man, both in “Persian/Asiatic” garb.

Category B is a small group of two stelae: the unusual votive stele with Phrygian and Greek inscriptions from Vezirhan in Bithynia (cat. no. 36; at pp. 13 and 36, the author explains that the lower parts of this were found by farmers in 1968, while the upper part was found in systematic explorations in 1971), and the Lydian inscribed grave stele of Atrastas son of Timles, from Sardis (cat. no. 37).

Category C comprises metalwork (Toreutik), arranged in typological order and within that by site (cat. nos. 38–71). A full half (17 of 34 pieces) are published here for the first time. Most (24 pieces) are silver drinking implements. Others are silver perfume vessels and utensils, bronze mirrors, and a rare silver ornament from the leg of a couch or stool. This group has the broadest range of provenances, and, being some of the earliest additions to the collection, only some of these were systematically recorded. The bulk (24 of 34 pieces) are from the Hermos Valley, ancient Lydia. Eleven are from the earliest American excavations of various tombs at Sardis, brought to the museum before World War I (a bronze mirror, two phialae, a jug and vase fragments, one ladle, three shallow bowls, including one with a spout and two spoons—all previously published). Ten are a group from a sarcophagus at Nymphaion, brought to the museum in 1904, only a few items of which were previously published (the other mirror, two silver figures, possibly from vessels, an alabastron, a phiale, a miniature oinochoe, a ladle handle, two shallow bowls, and three fragments of a silver stick-like object); three are said to have been found at Kula (an alabastron and two phialae, both of the latter unpublished). Another five are from unrecorded excavations in Bithynia, at Göynük (four pieces: an oinochoe, a sieve and kylix set, and the furniture foot embellishment, the last three unpublished) and Hendek (a single phiale, unpublished). A further two pieces (a phiale and an oinochoe, these published) were random finds made during military construction near Eriklice in Turkish Thrace, prior to Mansel’s exploration of the tumuli there starting in 1936. The provenances of three other phialae, all previously unpublished, are unknown.

The rest of the catalogue includes previously published but important items. Category D comprises three ceramic items, all phialae, or carinated omphalos bowls, all of which were found during the museum’s excavations in the early 1960s of one of the tumuli at Karakoç, not far from Eriklice in Turkish Thrace (cat. nos. 72–4). Category E (“Glyptik”) catalogues a rich array of 31 seal-carved gemstones (including a cylinder seal) and gold rings (cat. nos. 75–105). Category F (“Schmuck”) includes 33 other items of gold ornament and jewelry (cat. nos. 106–38). Like the seals, these are all from Sardis, and they came to the museum with the metalwares from that site before World War I (other later finds from the site are held in the museum at Manisa).

The introduction, divided into four short subsections, deals with the definition of “Asia Minor Greco-Persian” art (1–6), Asia Minor under the Persians (6–10), the collection history (11–12), and the contents of the catalogue (12–13). It includes a useful table of the kinds of finds from the 11 findspots and two maps marking those sites. In the first two subsections, the author suggests that the term “Greco-Persian” is preferable to “Perso-Anatolian,” as it respects the close relations between the western Anatolian kingdoms and the Greeks on the coast, the synthetic culture of which blended with that of the Achaemenids to result in a new hybrid. She points out driving economic factors such as the agricultural needs of the Achaemenids and the preexisting robust trade between satrapal capitals, especially metal-rich Sardis, and the Greeks of the coast.

The analytical section is subdivided according to the catalogue, by material type, with discussions of iconography and/or typology and how the materials of each category contribute to the story of Graeco-Persian art, recapitulated in final conclusions (57–60). The Daskyleion material provides insights into the creation of new burial monuments: here, among other things, the author brings to light a base in Bursa that fits one of the Daskyleion stelae (cat. no. 3) and notes that more than one stele may have marked tumuli (33–6, 58). The partly obliterated iconography of catalogue number 3 could include a rural cult offering scene with a deer (35, 58), while the banquets and convoys on other stelae and reliefs may be funerary, although perhaps not exclusively so (25–6, 31–2, 33–5, 58). Particularly significant here is the author’s interpretation of architectural fragments, including reliefs of processing male and female riders, barsom-holding priests, and the seated sphinx gable as belonging to relief-decorated, freestanding monumental tombs, similar to those in Lycia (15–29).

Discussion of metalwares focuses on form, flags Sardis as a production locale (37–8, 42, 59–60), and briefly suggests function in cult or a Totenmahl (43). The section on the glyptics from Sardis proposes two main stylistic groups (“Court Style” and “Asia Minor Greco-Persian” style, the latter being more naturalistic, although it is not always easy to draw strict distinctions) and three iconographic groups (roughly, “King and Court,” “Myth,” and “Beasts”). Of shapes, most are what the author calls “eight-sided seals” (rather than “pyramidal”), which she again suggests could point to a production home at Sardis. It is notable that although diverse in motifs and styles, these eight-sided seals (most often made of chalcedony) have a high number of winged figures, both beasts and men (or women). I point out here that a similar penchant can be found in the coins and sculpture of fifth-century Xanthos, suggesting shared interest in a bestiary of winged fabulous creatures. The author’s close examination of one of the scarab seals reveals a subject known in Lycian monumental art, but rare for a gem: Perseus with Medusa’s head. The jewelry (“Schmuck”) section discusses the typology and notes that there is less western imprint in the figurative material there.

An overall theme of this book is Achaemenid impact on visual culture in western Anatolia; if one doubted the strength of this, the treatment of this material together enables reflection on the level of change in products and production as artisans met the needs of a newly emerging Achaemenid social milieu and the central role of Sardis as a center of making and cultural reproduction. The book presents original ideas, especially on the Daskyleion stones, and makes available a wealth of unfamiliar, interesting material in the Istanbul collection. It will become a staple reference on the shelves of those engaged in Achaemenid studies, and it is hoped that this will be only the first in a series of such publications of the very rich collections in the major metropolitan as well as smaller regional museums of Turkey.

Catherine M. Draycott
Durham University

Book Review of Kleinasiatisch-Gräko-Persische Kunstwerke im Archäologischen Museum von Istanbul, by Şehrazat Karagöz

Reviewed by Catherine M. Draycott

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 119, No. 2 (April 2015)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1192.Draycott

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