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Communities of Style

Portable Luxury Arts, Identity, and Collective Memory in the Iron Age Levant

Communities of Style examines the production and circulation of portable luxury goods throughout the Levant in the early Iron Age (1200–600 BCE). In particular it focuses on how societies in flux came together around the material effects of art and style, and their role in collective memory.

Marian H. Feldman brings her dual training as an art historian and an archaeologist to bear on the networks that were essential to the movement and trade of luxury goods—particularly ivories and metal works—and how they were also central to community formation. The interest in, and relationships to, these art objects, Feldman shows, led to wide-ranging interactions and transformations both within and between communities. Ultimately, she argues, the production and movement of luxury goods in the period demands a rethinking of our very geo-cultural conception of the Levant, as well as its influence beyond what have traditionally been thought of as its borders.

264 pages | 20 color plates, 41 halftones, 3 line drawings | 7 x 10 | © 2014

Ancient Studies


Art: Middle Eastern, African, and Asian Art

History: Ancient and Classical History


“Provide[s] a richer understanding of the art of this period. . . . Recommended.” 


“This volume should have a significant impact on the way we think about ancient art. . . . Historians of ancient Near Eastern art . . . should take note of Feldman’s thoughtful and innovative study.”

Art Newspaper

“An important and exciting book, which will be read with profit and enjoyment by scholars of times and places well beyond the Iron Age Levant.”


“This important book provides a set of new research directions and interpretations for the study of ancient art for the Iron Age Near East and Eastern Mediterranean. . . . Feldman offers an enriched understanding of ancient Near Eastern art that goes beyond her contemporaries.”

Journal of Near Eastern Studies

“Groundbreaking . . . . Feldman’s compelling argument has the potential to liberate ancient Near Eastern specialists from longstanding debates about the geographic origin of Levantine artistic styles and the mechanisms for their distribution. . . . A terrific addition to the art historian’s library.”

Communities of Style presents the histories of many Iron Age Near Eastern communities through the lens of portable luxury arts, particularly ivories and metalwork. Feldman’s studies of selected luxury objects and their afterlives compel the reader to view them as active rather than passive agents in the formation of social groups. She offers an original and welcome perspective and sets a very high scholarly standard.”

Elizabeth Carter, University of California, Los Angeles

Communities of Style will be of interest to anyone interested in the Bronze Age continuities and Iron Age functions of a widespread corpus of carved ivories, their connection to the iconography of large-scale sculptures in the Near East, the widespread distribution and meaning of decorative or inscribed bowls, and the reuse of exotic objects. Feldman’s building of bottom-up narratives from individual artifacts, instead of putting all similar objects into a totalizing narrative, is the cutting edge of archaeological and art historical research.”

Louise A. Hitchcock, University of Melbourne

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Author’s Note
Ivories and Metalworks in a Levantine Context
Networks and Communities in the Early Iron Age
1   Workshops, Connoisseurship, and Levantine Style(s)
First-Millennium Levantine Ivories
Connoisseurship and the Study of the Ancient Near East
Attributing Levantine Ivories
The Mobility of Style
Slippery Identities
2   Levantine Stylistic Practices in Collective Memory
The Problem of Artistic Intentionality
Rendering Animals and the Logic of Stylistic Practice
Habitus in Levantine Style
Stylistic Practices in Collective Memory
Late Bronze Age Memories in the Early Iron Age
Continuity, Rediscovery, or Invention?
Remembering a Golden Age
3   Creating Assyria in Its Own Image
An Assyrian Court Style
Assyrian Representations of Foreign Items
The Dangerous Other: Booty, Tribute, Gods, and Deportees
Foreign Goods in Assyria
Stylistic Assyrianization
Ashurbanipal’s Garden Scene
Assyria and Babylonia
4   Speaking Bowls and the Inscription of Identity and Memory
Levantine (“Phoenician”) Metal Bowls
The Inscription of Identity and Memory
Drinking and Death
Temporality and Presence
The Enchantment of Imagery
5   The Reuse, Recycling, and Displacement of Levantine Luxury Arts
After the Fall: Mobility post Assyrian Empire
Ivory in and around the Assyrian Empire
Secondhand Elites
The Booty of Haza’el of Damascus
Conclusions: Displacements, Values, and Meanings
Theoretical Considerations
Glancing Back, Casting Ahead

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