Kouremenos, Anna - Chandrasekaran, Sujatha - Rossi, Roberto (ed.) : From Pella to Gandhara. Hybridisation and Identity in the Art and Architecture of the Hellenistic East xi+193 pages; illustrated throughout in colour and black and white, ISBN 9781407307794, £42.00
(British Archaeological Reports/Archaeopress, Oxford 2011)

Compte rendu par Ilona Skupinska-Lovset, University of Lodz

Nombre de mots : 1592 mots
Publié en ligne le 2012-01-27
Citation: Histara les comptes rendus (ISSN 2100-0700).
Lien: http://histara.sorbonne.fr/cr.php?cr=1425
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          This scholarly publication is supplied with a preface by one of the editors (Anna Kouremenos), the introduction is written by a second editor (Roberto Rossi) and the conclusion is written by the third editor (Sujatha Chandrasekaran).  Sir John Boardman, one of the pioneers in this branch of research, at that time under the influence of diffusion (John Boardman, The Diffusion of Classical Art in Antiquity, Thames and Hudson Ltd, London  1994), wrote the introduction.  Furthermore, professor Michael Vickers wrote the opening chapter reaching back to the time of Alcibiades.


          The book, in its subtitle and pages, presents a series of interpretation issues contained in the term “hybridisation” and  expressed in the archaeological material belonging to the categories of  art and architecture. “Hybridisation” as an interpretation concept has been taken from the book on anthropology  by H. Bhabha, “The Location of Culture”, London 1994. The tendency towards a  theoretical approach is  present in almost all the articles, but the book as such does not have a theoretical character.


          The elements of “hybridisation” in the treated archaeological material are recorded  by the authors of the volume as expressed in architecture and popular art,  not in the “great art”. The area of interest for the authors  is the Middle East, not Europe. The conquest of the East by Alexander the Great constitutes a natural chronological starting point. The volume contains eleven articles, five on planning and architecture, six on terracottas and other pottery material.  The volume is carefully edited.


          The concept of such a study was born in October 2008, and was realized on May 2nd 2009, at a meeting in Oxford in which a new generation of scholars from seven countries discussed the results of their studies.  These results are presented for a wide range of readers  in  this book  and as such they may point  the direction for  future research. Chronologically the publication deals with a period spreading from the fourth century to the first century BC  and geographically it deals with an area spreading from West to East in order to reflect the sequence of  Alexander’s journey to the East.


          The leading  term  “hybridisation” is discussed with a starting  point in various groups of artefacts and in  architecture.  The paper “A Hybridised Aphrodite: the Anadyomene motif at Tell Kedesh” (p. 65–83) is instructive. Considering the depiction of the Anadyomene  type on seals from Kedesh,  Lisa Ayla Çakmak  remarks that “the universal features” are few in number in these local depictions;  she  characterizes Middle Eastern visual aesthetics as expressed in frontality, direct gaze  and engagement with the viewer, to conclude that indeed a hybridised Anadyomene owes as much to the iconography of Astarte and Isis, and to a lesser extent to Tanit, as to Aphrodite. In this way the depiction of this goddess “draws upon and melts Greek, Egyptian and Phoenician visual tropes into a multivalent symbol that would be recognizable to the diverse population ” (p. 65) inhabiting the analyzed site. On page 80, the term “syncretized deity “ is introduced, and, further on, the term “multiculturalism”, specific to Palestine according to the author. The reviewer wonders whether such multi-featured visualization would not bring different associations to each group of viewers representing various backgrounds.  


          The new phraseology needs to become more precise. The anthropological definition constructed for  research on colonial society, modified and adapted to research on ancient cultures by classical archaeologists, may at times appear not fully adequate.  Accordingly, “hybridity” in the article refers to the process of negotiation between “colonial players” in which both colonizing culture and indigenous culture are transformed and new ideologies with new hybridised symbols are produced in order to communicate.


          In the article entitled "Hellenizing the “Cypriot Goddess” ", Giorgos Papantoniou remarks in his introduction that he uses the term “Cypriot Goddess”  was as an umbrella term to describe the figurines of various local deities. On  page 43, while analyzing the changes in the picturing  of the “Cypriote Aphrodite”, a different definition (called a postcolonial concept) of “hybridity” is given, this is as a process, related to the local mentality,  of blending elements of different cultures through translating and reworking various elements rather than merely combining them.


          Sidsel  Maria  Westh-Hansen writes about the emergence of hybrids in the material culture of Hellenistic Mesopotamia. For examples, she points to mobility (and mixing) of individuals and groups. Terracotta figurines,  other pottery material and seal impressions  are reviewed from sites such as Babylon, Seleukeia-on-the-Tigris and Uruk. Through this material the author studies the hybrid society inhabiting these sites.


          As for architecture, the hybridisation of palatial architecture is treated by Maria Kopsacheili as a blending of Western Macedonian and Eastern Achamenid elements in royal palaces and governors’ seats. She further defines the element of intentionality as a factor while distinguishing hybridisation from a random mixture of elements. She points that some architectural solutions may have had roots in social systems such as the social rule demanding  separation of the king from other participants during the symposion, described in Herodotus 1.99.  Royal rituals and their social implications appear as very important to her study. The absence of hybridisation in Hasmonean palaces is explained solely by the priestly origin of this family.


           In his analysis of the castle on Mount Karanis in Cilicia, Timm Radt stresses its uniqueness as to the enormous size and as to the functional concept. He observes analogies to space usage in city-housing and palaces of mainland Greece. Three following zones are described and topographically defined:  the one with serving functions placed to the South, the public functions in the middle, and the sector reserved to private functions in the North.


          Jessica Nitschke considers  Phoenician identity in the Hellenistic period and finds this identity recognizable in art and architecture, despite  an extent  of acculturation which is greater in Phoenicia than  in other areas.  Her interesting study concentrated on the Milk’ashtarte temple in Umm el-Amed points to the possibility of an Achaemenid influence in the  planning of the columned hall as well as  in some of the architectural decoration. Greek, Egyptian and local elements are pointed out by the author. The Phoenician creativity is prized, it is expressed  in the combining  of various elements from abroad; the author does not see Hellenization as such in Phoenician sculpture.


          Temple architecture in  the Iranian world is characterized by Michael Shenkar, stressing its squarish proportions and often tripartite solution of the cellae.  R. Wood discusses the character of the votive gifts to the temple of Oxus at Takht-I Sangin,  finding a co-existence of various styles expressing multiple cultures, rather  than hybridisation in style, form, technique and subject.


          Jessie Pons treats the persistence of Hellenistic motifs in Buddhist art. She presents so-called “toilet trays” considered as produced in the time-span from the second  century BC to the second century AD. She analyses the objects in relation to  Dionysiac imagery, Heracles’ works, concept of Hellenistic sea-creatures and some other motifs current in the “Western World”.


          Rachel Mairs is in favour of multiplicity in theoretical approaches, each to a more limited extent, instead of one universal approach. It would be of benefit to read this article from  the beginning. She  reviews two models formulated for research on modern colonial societies, “Hybridity” and “Middle ground”. The “Middle ground” is defined as a space of creativity resulting from colonial encounter  – a form of dialogue, full of creative misunderstandings (p. 178),  the term ”hybridity” is presented as recently dominating the research on culturally complex societies  in Antiquity. Hybridity  is understood as incapable of producing fertile offspring - the author says - , and further, she is pointing out that such understanding of culture was certainly foreign to people who created what we call “hybrid cultures”. The cliché of “change and continuity” holds good for Old Kandahar, remarks Rachel Mairs in her conclusion. 


          The reviewed publication is not an easy lecture, however, it is absolutely worth value, as it is strongly forcing the reader to a reflection on the question of theoretic  approach in the interpretation of the archaeological sources .




Table of Contents


List of figures, III



Anna Kouremenos, VII



Sir John Boardman,  X



Roberto Rossi, p. 1 


Alcibiades, “a classical archetype for Alexander”    

Michael Vickers, p. 11


Hybridisation of Palatial Architecture: Hellenistic Royal Palaces and Governors’ Seats

Maria Kopsacheili , p. 17    


“Hellenising” the “Cypriot Goddess”:  ‘Reading’ the Amathusian Terracotta Figurines,

Giorgos Papantoniou, p. 35


The Ruins on Mount Karasis in Cilicia

Timm Radt, p. 49


A Hybridized Aphrodite: the Anadyomene Motif at Tel Kedesh

Lisa Ayla Çakmak, p. 65


“Hybrid” Art, Hellenism and the Study of Acculturation in the Hellenistic East: The Case of Umm el-‘Amed in Phoenicia

Jessica Nitschke, p. 85


Cultural  Interaction and the emergence of hybrids in the material culture of Hellenistic Mesopotamia: An interpretation of terracotta figurines, ceramic ware and seal impressions,                     

Sidsel Maria Westh-Hansen, p. 103


Temple Architecture in the Iranian World in the Hellenistic Period

Michael Shenkar, p. 117


Cultural convergence in Bactria: the votives from the Temple of the Oxos at Takht-I Sangin,                

Rachel Wood, p. 141


From Gandharan trays to Gandharan Buddhist Art: The Persistence of Hellenistic Motifs

From the Second Century BC and Beyond

Jessie Pons, p. 153


The Places in Between: Model and Metaphor in the Archaeology of Hellenistic Arachosia

Rachel Mairs, p. 177



Sujatha Chandrasekaran, p. 191