6pm, Thursday 12th November 2009
Stevenson Lecture Theatre, Clore Education Centre, The British Museum, London WC1
A lecture by Rachael Sparks, Institute of Archaeology, UCL
Followed by wine
Archaeology brings ancient cultures to life through close study of the objects used in daily life. Small luxuries such as perfumed oils and cosmetics were popular defences against the hot, dry Middle Eastern climate, as well as aids to beauty and self-expression. While the preparations themselves rarely survive, the containers they travelled in do, and from these we can reconstruct something of the personal toilettes of past societies. Stone vessels were particularly popular in this respect, and like the expensive products they contained, they were valued in their own right as prestigious and visually appealing possessions.
Through a close study of the design, function and distribution of various classes of stone vessel, it is also possible to go beyond the household to their wider significance as indicators of complex trade relations and cross-cultural influences. Egyptian styles get first imported into the Levant, then imitated as local stone vessel workshops seek to take advantage of changing fashions. This is part of a wider process of assimilation and adaptation of foreign materials and ideas that tells us much about the Canaanite psyche of the time. Some of these products also take on a political edge, as they are exchanged at the highest level between royal families as part of the diplomatic dressing given to foreign communiqués. This lecture will lead you through an appreciation of this fascinating type of material and the light it can cast on Bronze Age history and culture.
Dr Rachael Sparks is the author of PEF Annual VIII: Stone Vessels in the Levant
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