At long last I have in my hands Animal-Shaped Vessels from the Ancient World: Feasting with Gods, Heroes, and Kings, edited by Susanne Ebbinghaus (Harvard Art Museums, 2018). It features my essay “From the Mediterranean to China — After Alexander,” which discusses Parthian, Sasanian, Sogdian, Gandharan, Tibetan and even Chinese rhyta and other vessels. It also includes Susanne’s essay “Emblematic Animals at Iron Age Feasts,” to which I contributed a discussion of pitchers, with examples from Kush, Iran, Cyprus, and Etruria.
Susanne has been studying rhyta and other zoomorphic vessels since the 1990s, and this book, along with the exhibition of course, represents the culmination of decades of work. While I’m certain she has more to say on the subject, this book is the authoritative statement on vessels of this sort, and I am honored to have contributed to it.
My article on Achaemenid period remains in the Kharga Oasis in Egypt has just been published in the Encyclopaedia Iranica, Volume XVI, Fascicle 4. The online version (technically published in 2017) is available here.
On November 3 I will give a lecture at the symposium Between Art and Asset: Silver Vessels from Antiquity to Today at the Harvard Art Museums. My lecture is entitled “Achaemenid Persian Silver: Notes on the Fungibility of Meaning.” I’ve posted the abstract below:
The functions of silver in antiquity are easily discernible from the surviving objects made of it. But, as in the present day, ancient silver had multiple meanings; it could be a status symbol, a mark of royal favor, or currency. My goal is to examine the evidence for the various meanings of silver in the Achaemenid Persian Empire (c. 550-330 BCE), and to consider how these meanings, like the metal itself, could be readily transformed.
I’ll be discussing a number of objects in the Harvard and Met collections, as well as the concepts of value and social and economic capital.