Review: July’s American Journal of Archaeology Focuses on the Classical World

The July issue, volume 114.3, of the American Journal of Archaeology (AJA) is out now.

This month’s issue brings six main articles on subjects ranging from the statues of Manitushu, the culture of late Bronze Age Mycenaean settlements in Thessaly and the legendary ideals of Greek womanhood.

While the emphasis is heavily on the Classical period, with some articles on the Bronze Age and the Akkadian empire as well, there is little inclusion of archaeology of the post-Classical world, save for reviews of two publications looking at Medieval pottery and an 11th century shipwreck.

The lead article, by Karen Stern, discusses the painted ceramic tiles of the Dura Europos synagogue ceiling. Stern, who is assistant professor of history at Brooklyn College at the City University of New York, points out that the synagogue has been until now mainly noted for its interior biblical murals. However, the 234 decorative and inscribed ceiling tiles are also worthy of attention, as Stern states: While consideration of the decorated surface remains important for its own sake, an evaluation of its context inspires novel hypotheses about space and use.

The Chimaera of Arezzo was on display at the Getty Villa in Malibu until February 2010.There are six articles in this issue, but one of the more interesting discussions I found came nearer the back, in the form of a museum review written by Beth Cohen. She discusses the Chimaera of Arezzo, which was on display at the Getty Villa in Malibu until February 2010 (it’s usually found at Florence’s Museo Archeologico Nazionale). Cohen’s argument gathers together recent studies that suggest this 4-foot bronze statue of a mythological creature (a lioness with a snake for a tail and a goat’s head on her back) could in fact have been made by Greek artisans in Magna Graecia, rather than by Etruscans in Etruria as has been widely believed.

Her discussion of the importance of this large bronze as a symbol of Etruria (often seen in juxtaposition to Rome’s bronze Capitoline She-wolf, the date of which has been questioned) and the significance of the Etruscans producing such statues or possibly commissioning them from Greek artisans provide interesting insights into Etruscan art and culture.

There are several other articles of interest in July’s issue. Anthony Mangieri, an assistant professor of art history at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta, Georgia, writes about women in ancient Greece and the layers of meaning ascribed to the Heroines Pyxis, an Attic red-figure vase in the British Museum. The women depicted on the vase represent mythological heroines and Mangieri discusses how their traits are juxtaposed on the vase, and what this tells us about the female ideals of the fifth century BC.

Lynne Lancaster writes about the Parthian construction technique borrowed by the Romans and then used in Roman-occupied Greece. The associate professor in the Department of Classics and World Religions at Ohio University argues that the ‘pitched-brick’ vaulting technique was first used after Trajan‘s war in Parthia and became more widely used under Hadrian and Antoninus Pius.
Barry Molloy looks at the practical function of ancient swords. Image credit - _arktoi
The dynamic relationship between war and society in the Aegean Bronze Age is the subject of an article by Barry Molloy, director of the excavations at Priniatikos Pyrgos in east Crete. His discussion touches on the practical functions of swords from that era including a look at experimental archaeology and metric and use-wear analysis.

The 2010 newsletter focuses on excavations in Jordan during the 2008 and 2009 seasons, including author contact details. There is also a museum review looking at new installations of Greek antiquities, particularly in the new Acropolis Museum.

And with reviews of 20 new archaeological publications on subjects including the family in Roman art, Etruria and early Rome, the Elgin drawings at the British Museum and Athens during the Pelopennesian war, there seems to be something to appeal to many areas of interest, although the emphasis is firmly on the classical world.