National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Nancy Serwint

Affiliation: Arizona State University

Nancy Serwint is with the School of Art at Arizona State University, and holds her degrees from Princeton (Ph.D. and M.A.), the University of Chicago (M.A.), and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (B.A.).  Her current research interests include the coroplastic arts of Cyprus and ancient Israel, particularly production and manufacturing, cross-cultural stylistic influences, and the role played by terracotta votive sculpture in cult ritual and religious worship.


The lecture offers details of what is known of the famed Library of Alexandria. In addition to housing an incredible literary corpus, the library attracted some of the best minds of the ancient world, who not only were credited as serving as the librarian but who also conducted critical research – their contributions will be detailed. Serving as a repository for an exceptional quantity of written material, the loss of information in ancient Alexandria by the destruction of the library is cast in the light of the lamentable historical reality in the modern era of the destruction of libraries as a political tool to erase cultural memory.

Since 1983, the ancient cities of Marion and Arsinoe, located on the northwest coast of Cyprus, have been the focus of archaeological investigation by a research team under the auspices of Princeton University.  The material remains are significant, as Marion was one of the ancient city kingdoms of the island during the Iron Age, and Arsinoe was a thriving Hellenistic foundation that continued in existence throughout the Roman, Late Antique, and Byzantine periods, ultimately evolving into the modern town of Polis Chrysochous.  After an overview of the recent excavations of both sites, the lecture will consider the immense cache of terracotta sculpture discovered in two sanctuaries associated with Marion. The votive offerings represent the largest corpus of dedicatory objects yet recovered from Cyprus.  Study of the material has provided important information on cult ritual; the exchange of religious, cultural, and stylistic influences in the eastern Mediterranean; and the technical strategies employed by ancient coroplasts.

Some of the most important examples of the material culture in the ancient Mediterranean and Near East are the range of sculptural objects manufactured from clay. The coroplastic arts were ubiquitous because of the wide availability of clay from varied sources, and the objects crafted served a variety of functions – votive dedications, ritual objects, funerary offerings, toys and playthings, as well as ephemera. Ranging in size from miniature to over-lifesize, the corpus demonstrates a breadth of expertise from mundane workmanship to the most consummate craftsmanship. This lecture examines the phenomenon of ancient terracotta sculpture and considers the range of manufacturing strategies and technical processes that were employed cross-culturally and across a diachronic spectrum in the eastern Mediterranean basin.

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