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date: 23 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The “Orientalizing period” represents a scholarly designation used to describe the eighth and seventh centuries bce when regions in Greece, Italy, and farther west witnessed a flourishing of arts and cultures attributed to contact with cultural areas to the east—in particular that of the Phoenicians. This chapter surveys Orientalizing as an intellectual and historiographic concept and reconsiders the role of purportedly Phoenician arts within the existing scholarly narratives. The Orientalizing period should be understood as a construct of nineteenth- and twentieth-century scholarship that was structured around a false dichotomy between the Orient (the East) and the West. The designation “Phoenician” has a similarly complex historiographic past rooted in ancient Greek stereotyping that has profoundly shaped modern scholarly interpretations. This chapter argues that the luxury arts most often credited as agents of Orientalization—most prominent among them being carved ivories, decorated metal bowls, and engraved tridacna shells—cannot be exclusively associated with a Phoenician cultural origin, thus calling into question the primacy of the Phoenicians in Orientalizing processes. Each of these types of objects appears to have a much broader production sphere than is indicated by the attribute as Phoenician. In addition, the notion of unidirectional influences flowing from east to west is challenged, and instead concepts of connectivity and networking are proposed as more useful frameworks for approaching the problem of cultural relations during the early part of the first millennium bce.

Keywords: Orientalizing/Orientalization, carved ivory, metal bowl, tridacna shell, connectivity, networking

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