Abstract: In Search of the “Last” of the Phoenicians


The Phoenician traders who crisscrossed the Mediterranean from the 10th through the 4th centuries B.C. have long been recognized as critical contributors to the so-called orientalizing movements in Greece, North Africa and Spain.  Recent scholarship has shown that these merchants were not mere conveyors of the artistic products of Assyria and Persia, but also producers of their own highly recognizable and influential artistic merchandise.  After the conquests of Alexander the Great, however, the Phoenicians almost totally drop out of the archaeological and literary record, although there are convincing signs that a distinct Phoenician cultural identity continued to flourish in the Hellenistic and Roman eras.

This lecture, based on finds discovered by the speaker in excavations at Tel Anafa (1978-86) and Tel Kedesh of the Upper Galilee (1997--), presents the evidence for continuing Phoenician presence and contributions to the Hellenistic world. Of particular interest is a group of 2000+ clay sealings found in the Kedesh excavation.  These carry the impression of individual seal rings. The representations come predominantly from the Greek mythological repertoire; there are numerous portraits—both Greek and Roman in style-- and a few seals with Phoenician symbols.  Particularly interesting are a large group of Isis and Osiris seals, which document the penetration of Egyptian cult into the Phoenician hinterland in the early 2nd c BC. The Kedesh archive presents a unique reflection of the mixed cultural milieu of the Hellenistic Levant, and can inform us in ways never before possible on issues of self-representation, interaction and personal identity among Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans.

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