Testing the Canon of Ancient Near Eastern Art and Archaeology (Oxford University Press, 2020)

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Testing the Canon of Ancient Near Eastern Art and Archaeology considers the “Greatest Hits” of ancient Near Eastern art and archaeology, including canonical objects, sites, and monuments from Egypt, the Levant, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, from the prehistoric era through the Classical period, and investigates the factors that have made them so well known for so long. It also calls for a reconsideration and expansion of this “Greatest Hits List” (i.e., “The Canon”) to better reflect the range of ancient Near Eastern culture and to accommodate new discoveries, represent the values of heritage communities, and remain relevant to contemporary and future audiences.

The art historical canon forms the foundation of our sense of culture in the modern, Western world. This volume looks at the role of the ancient Near East in that canon and critiques the formation and transformation of the ancient Near Eastern canon itself. Through chapters presenting regional and typological sub-canons, technologies of canon production (such as museum practices and classroom pedagogies), and first-hand heritage perspectives, authors engage in critical self-reflection upon the history of the study of the art and archaeology of the ancient Near East. Collectively, the contributions confront and critique the origin, present, and future of the of the ancient Near Eastern canon, both as its own entity and as a component of the canon of world art.

Broad in scope, Testing the Canon of Ancient Near Eastern Art and Archaeology presents a collection of essays covering many regions, eras, and types of visual and archaeological materials and offer specific and actionable proposals for the future. Ultimately, this enterprise seeks to provide a framework for a re-conceptualization of ancient Near Eastern history and culture that is meaningful to a broad audience today. It offers a vital benchmark and a collective path forward for the study and appreciation of Near Eastern cultural heritage, and it aims to provide a model for similar inquiries across art historical and archaeological fields and disciplines.

Foreword Irene J. Winter

Chapter 1: Perspectives on the Ancient Near Eastern Canon: More than Mesopotamia’s Greatest Hits Amy Rebecca Gansell and Ann Shafer

Chapter 2: The Southern Levant and the Ancient Near Eastern Canon Rachel Hallote
Chapter 3: Archaeological Research in Pre-Classical Syria and the Canon of Ancient Near Eastern Art and Archaeology Marina Pucci
Chapter 4: The Past, Present, and Future of the Canon of Ancient Anatolian Art Susan Helft
Chapter 5:The Canon of Ancient Iranian Art: From Grand Narratives to Local Perspectives Henry P. Colburn
Chapter 6: “Classical” vs. “Ancient” in the Near Eastern Canon: The Position of Graeco-Roman Art from the Levant, c. 330 BCE-636 CE Elise A. Friedland

Chapter 7: Defining the Canon of Funerary Archaeology in the Ancient Near East Nicola Laneri
Chapter 8: The Canon of Ancient Near Eastern Glyptic on a Roll: Leaps, Hurdles, and Goals Diana L. Stein
Chapter 9: The Canon of Ancient Near Eastern Palaces David Kertai

Chapter 10: How Ancient and Modern Memory Shapes the Past: A Canon of Assyrian Memory Davide Nadali
Chapter 11: Museums as Vehicles for Defining Artistic Canons: The Case of the Ancient Near East in the British Museum Paul Collins
Chapter 12: Beyond the Canon: The Future of the Past in Museum Exhibitions of Ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern Art Rachel P. Kreiter
Chapter 13: The Ancient Near Eastern Canon in the University Classroom, and Beyond: My Colleagues Speak Ann Shafer

Heritage Perspectives
Chapter 14: The Lucrative Business of the Cyrus Cylinder: Commodification of an Iranian Icon Kamyar Abdi
Chapter 15: Between Hazor and Masada-Iconic archaeological sites as symbols of collective memories in modern Israeli identities Gideon Avni
Chapter 16: Past Resurrections Tamara Chalabi
Chapter 17: Earth, Rocks, and Blood: A Wandering Home Sargon George Donabed
Chapter 18: 6,000 Years Maymanah Farhat
Chapter 19: Cultural Heritage Attrition in Egypt Monica Hanna
Chapter 20: Crafting the Ancient Near Eastern Canon: A Personal Reflection Zena Kamash
Chapter 21: The Consequences of the Destruction of Syrian Heritage on the Syrian Identity and Future Generations Youssef Kanjou, translated from Arabic by Nadia Barakat
Chapter 22: Contemporary Art and Archaeology in the Arab World Salwa Mikdadi
Chapter 23: The Assyrians-Then and Now Ramsen Shamon
Chapter 24: Bringing the Past to a Living Room Near You: The Archaeological Heritage of Anatolia on Glass Oya Topçuoglu