Anyone who has ever been to a conference knows how difficult it can be to eat, let alone fit in all the things you want to do. That’s why we at ASOR are so grateful to all of the volunteers who took time during the 2014 ASOR Annual Meeting to meet with ASORtv as part of one of our open access projects. We want to share the hard work and research of our members, and give anyone with a passion for the cultures and the history of the Near East, from the earliest times, the ability to watch presentations from the field’s professionals. Now, we are happy to bring you Jody Gordon’s presentation from the Continuity or Change: The Hellenistic Near East on a Local Scale I session, “Mini-Alexandrias or Local Continuity? Architectural Change, Place-Making, and Identity in Ptolemaic Cyprus.” You can watch his full presentation below, as well as read his abstract.
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Mini-Alexandrias or Local Continuity? Architectural Change, Place-Making, and Identity in Ptolemaic Cyprus
During the third century BCE, the island of Cyprus was incorporated into the Ptolemaic empire centered in Alexandria, Egypt. The Ptolemies occupied the island militarily, and this imperial intrusion had an immediate effect on Cypriot life according to the archaeological evidence. For example, an imperial coinage replaced long-standing civic ones, while the Greek alphabet superseded the traditional Cypro-Syllabic script in inscriptions. Although it also underwent profound changes, the architecture of Ptolemaic Cyprus perhaps provides a more nuanced insight into the processes by which local culture changed, especially when it is analyzed as the residue of negotiated place making. Examining architectural remains as the products of socially constructed, lived space—as dynamic places that are both the products of and frames for human practices—arguably helps to reveal the varied local and imperial interactions that shaped material culture. The goal of this paper is to explore how people’s sense of identity changed in Ptolemaic Cyprus through the study of a variety of architectural forms as socially constructed places. Through an architectural review of urban, sacred, and funerary environments, I show how an opulent architectural vocabulary characteristic of Alexandria was exported to Cyprus. However, I also illustrate how this vocabulary could be selectively utilized or even ignored depending on the actors involved in constructing social space. Overall, this regional archaeological study suggests that Hellenistic culture was contextually situated and actively constructed. Hellenistic places could be both innovative and conservative and could combine both universal as well as particular elements.
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