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Cosa: The Sculpture and Furnishings in Stone and Marble

April 2021 (125.2)

Book Review

Cosa: The Sculpture and Furnishings in Stone and Marble

By Jacquelyn Collins-Clinton (MAAR Suppl. 15). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press 2020. Pp. 360. $125. ISBN 978-0-472-13159-4 (cloth).

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This volume is a long-awaited addition to the growing corpus of publications on this site. Although work at Cosa began in 1948, detailed analyses of materials uncovered during the early excavations have in many cases only recently appeared. Collins-Clinton’s thorough and meticulous volume, however, well rewards the wait. She is the undisputed expert on Cosa’s sculpture, which constituted the topic of her 1970 doctoral dissertation (Collins, “The Marble Sculptures from Cosa,” Columbia University) as well as a series of subsequent articles. Collins-Clinton’s encyclopedic knowledge of the stone sculpture and furnishings from Cosa is everywhere evident in the current volume, which brings together material from the excavations under Frank Brown through the more recent campaigns led by Lisa Fentress in the 1990s (the sculpture and furniture from Fentress’ excavations were published by Rabun Taylor in Cosa V: An Intermittent Town, Excavations 1991–1997, ed. E. Fentress, University of Michigan Press 2004). Work at Cosa is ongoing, with excavations of the bath complex by the forum (directed by Andrea De Giorgi and Russell T. Scott) and geophysical survey of the site (directed by Richard Posamentir and De Giorgi) nearing conclusion and gearing up for comprehensive publication. Volumes such as Collins-Clinton’s are indispensable in offering the only meaningful method of situating new finds within the broader corpus of archaeological material from Cosa.

The volume is organized in two principal parts: (1) an overview of Cosa’s archaeological and historical context, and (2) a detailed catalogue of the stone sculpture and furnishings (second century BCE–first century CE). The latter is subdivided into sections dealing with public statuary, domestic sculpture, tables, altars, basins and their supports, puteals, sundials, and miscellaneous sculpted body parts. This is followed by an excellent set of black-and-white photographs, primarily from the archives of the American Academy in Rome or taken by the author, which show most pieces from multiple angles and highlight important technical features such as breaks, joins, and the backs of fragments.

Each section opens with an overview of the material as well as Collins-Clinton’s more general observations regarding such matters as comparanda, distribution within Cosa, and chronology. Individual fragments are then discussed in roughly chronological order. Collins-Clinton is at her best in handling the intricacies of technique, drawing attention to the complex piecing and joins evident on so many Cosan statues. The specificity of her commentary here will render the volume useful to students of sculpture and Roman stoneworking and will enable further comparisons with material from other sites.

The difficulty of Collins-Clinton’s task is clear from the extraordinarily patchy nature of Cosa’s surviving sculptural elements. As she notes in her introduction, a series of disturbances from antiquity through the Middle Ages resulted in the breaking and scattering of most fragments, meaning that few were found in their original contexts, and joining fragments have in some cases been uncovered in very different areas of the site. She is to be commended for her efforts to reunite these disparate fragments, and to extrapolate as to their dating and reconstruction based on available comparanda. Still, the catalogue does sometimes present her identifications as more certain than is perhaps fair. A case in point is PS-Head 1, a forehead fragment with locks of hair that Collins-Clinton identifies as belonging to a statue of Drusus Minor (54–55). While the treatment of the hair does conform to his typical iconography, and the presence at Cosa of an inscription to Drusus Minor makes the existence of a statue in his honor extremely likely, it does not necessarily follow that such a statue is represented by the fragment in question. Collins-Clinton follows her identification with a question mark in the entry heading, but then refers to it as definitive throughout the rest of the volume. Other equally fragmentary pieces are labeled without question marks. Readers will decide for themselves which identifications to accept, but a more widespread use of question marks in labels and a greater acknowledgement of other possibilities would, in my opinion, better reflect the scattered evidence.

Collins-Clinton reverses her earlier identification of an over-life-sized, partially draped torso of a seated male to argue that he is not an emperor in the guise of Jupiter but is Jupiter Capitolinus himself, and she declares him the cult statue that would have occupied the central cella of the so-called “Capitolium” (51–54). The identity of Cosa’s triple-cella temple has been the topic of heated debate in recent years, with most scholars moving away from the term and questioning the evidence for which deities were worshiped in the temple (Collins-Clinton herself is careful to put “Capitolium” in quotation marks). Direct evidence for the worship of Jupiter on Cosa’s “arx,” another term we should likely discard, is limited at best, resting almost entirely on a single architectural terracotta depicting the abduction of Ganymede. While Collins-Clinton’s new identification as Jupiter Capitolinus is certainly intriguing, particularly given the similarities between the headless Cosan torso and the better-preserved example from Pompeii, it has the taste of more traditional assumptions regarding religious practice at Cosa. It should, at any rate, encourage further discussion of the site’s temples and cults.

These minor quibbles aside, the significance of Collins-Clinton’s contribution is indisputable. Readers will already know her as an accomplished scholar of Roman sculpture, but a singular achievement of the current volume is the expert manner in which she handles more strictly archaeological materials, such as the technical aspects of cisterns and wellheads. Much of the material she presents has never been published, and its inclusion allows her to paint a more vivid picture of Cosa’s visual character and fitful prosperity than has previously been possible. The abundance of luxury finds from the House of Diana stands out in particular. The author also builds on her earlier studies of marble types (e.g., Collins-Clinton, D. Attanasio, and R. Platania, “Sculptural Marbles from Cosa (Tuscany, Italy) and Their Provenance by EPR and Petrography,” Marmora 4, 2008, 19–56) to present the town as more internationally oriented than is often assumed. The extensive evidence for trade with Greek cities that Collins-Clinton compiles (e.g., 20–27, 81–82, 136–37, and throughout the individual catalogue entries) constitutes one of the most exciting aspects of the volume, and complements earlier studies of Cosa’s pottery and port. Such findings invite reexamination of Cosa’s position and wealth in the Late Republic, and are sure to open new avenues of research for years to come.

Sophie Crawford-Brown
Rice University
Houston, Texas

Book Review of Cosa: The Sculpture and Furnishings in Stone and Marble, by Jacquelyn Collins-Clinton
Reviewed by Sophie Crawford-Brown
American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 125, No. 2 (April 2021)
Published online at
DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1252.CrawfordBrown

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