International Conference on the Archaeology of Symbols

Florence (Italy) | 25-27 May 2022



The archaeological process of reconstructing and understanding our past has undergone several reassessments in the last century and latest years, producing an equal amount of new perspectives and approaches. The recent materiality turn emphasizes the necessity to ground those achievements in order to build fresh avenues of interpretation and reach new boundaries in the study of the human kind and its ecology. If materiality is a key element in the development of the archaeological and anthropological discourse, symbols are the intrinsic value that lead to interpretation, infused in their physical body as well as a result of the minds and gestures that created it in a specific context and with a specific chaîne opératoire. Symbol, therefore, must not be conceived only as allegory but also, and perhaps mainly, as reason (raison d’être) and meaning (culture). For these motivations, symbols must be considered as a paramount aspect in the archaeological investigation, which require their own dedicated space for a collective analysis and discussion, hence the ICAS conference.


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International Conference on the Archaeology of Symbols

25-27 May 2022
Florence (Italy)

Center for Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Studies
The CAMNES School of Religious Studies


IAN HODDER (Stanford University)
"Symbols as flows of energy"


Ian Hodder (Stanford University)
Francesco D’Andria (University of Salento)
Peter Dubovsky (Pontificium Institutum Biblicum)
Alessandro Naso (University of Naples Federico II)
Pascal Butterlin (University Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne)
Aren Maeir (Bar-Ilan University)
Julia Shaw (University College London)
Salima Ikram (American University in Cairo)
James Brown (Northwestern University)
Paolo Matthiae (University of Rome La Sapienza)

Nicola Laneri (CAMNES – University of Catania)
Guido Guarducci (CAMNES)
Stefano Valentini (CAMNES)

The main conference venue is the ex-Church of San Jacopo in Campo Corbolini located in Via Faenza 43, Florence (Italy).

In order to access all conference locations you must wear a FFP2 mask and exhibit a valid COVID19 vaccination certification (Green Pass). Starting March 1st 2022 no qarantine is required to access Italy, extra EU countries included. Check the online government information for full details and requirements.
Papers are arranged by continent (America, Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania) and divided following the main geographical areas within. Each area will be subdivided by period, from prehistory to middle ages.
Papers must be in line with to the main theme of the Conference, focusing on symbolic aspects, archaeological theory and interpretation.
The Scientific and Organizing committee will select abstracts according to these parameters and on the innovation of the proposal.
Posters are not accepted.
- To submit an abstract please fill out the on-line form below
- Abstracts should not be longer than 300 words.
- Abstract submission deadline:  October 11, 2021
- Accepted abstracts will be notified by the end of November 2021
- Abstracts of accepted papers will be published on the website by the end of November 2021

The official language of the Conference is ENGLISH. No translation services will be available.
Presentation must not exceed 30 minutes, including 5-10 minutes for questions and discussion.
Each speaker can only present one paper.
To attend the Conference Registration is mandatory.
Abstract approval is required for Speaker registration.
Papers must be presented at least by one registered author.
Speakers/first authors must hold a PhD degree or equivalent.
Registration fees:
  • Speaker: 130€
  • Listener: FREE
Registration includes:
  •  Conference paper presentation (Speakers only)
  • The option to submit your paper for the proceeding’s evaluation (Speakers only)
  • Badge (Speakers & Listeners)
  • Conference kit (Speakers only)
  • Morning and afternoon coffee breaks (Speakers only)
  • Conference dinner (Speakers only) trattoria "Enzo & Piero": https://www.trattoriaenzoepiero.it/en/
Please note that the all fees do not include any lunch, travel, transportation to the Conference venue, and accommodation.

The Organizing Committee is not going to recommend any accommodating solutions and informs its participants that no discounts or special rates are available at this time. Please look for the best offers on Booking.com and Airbnb.com in relation to the city center of Florence (Italy) or the immediate environs. Conference venue address is listed above.
Publishers may contact the Secretariat (icas@camnes.org) for arranging a stand for the duration of the Conference.
All Speakers may submit their paper for evaluation after the Conference. If the paper is accepted it will be published in the new MaReA (Material Religion in Antiquity) CAMNES Series edited by Nicola Laneri and published by Oxbow.
For further information please contact Valentina Santini of the ICAS Secretariat at: icas@camnes.org
  • Abstract submission deadline:  October 11th, 2021
  • Accepted abstracts will be notified by the end of November 2021
  • 2nd Circular including the accepted abstracts will be published on the website by the end of November 2021
  • Registration opens November 2021
  • Speaker Registration deadline: March 1st 2022
  • Listener Registration deadline: May 13th 2022
  • 3rd Circular with the Final Program will be published by April 1st 2022
  • Conference takes place 25th-27th of May 2022

ICAS 1 - LISTENER Registration Form

Registration for students and all listeners is open starting April 1st and ending May 13th 2022. This type of registration is complately free but mandatory to access the conference.
We kindly remind that the conference can only be attended IN PERSON.


Conference Program

Please check the version of the program for updates
>> V.4
9.30-10.30 Registration at conference venue - Via Faenza 43, Firenze (ITALY)
10.30-11.30 Opening Session
Guido Guarducci & Stefano Valentini (co-directors of CAMNES)
Nicola Laneri (University of Catania/ SoRS director - CAMNES)

Ian Hodder (Stanford University)
"Symbols as flows of energy"

11.30-13.30 Lunch break
13.30-15.30 Session 1: EGYPT
chair: Valentina SANTINI 
1. Massimiliano FRANCI (CAMNES, Firenze)
The architectural system of the step pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara: its symbolic expression between social and semiotic sphere
2. María Violeta PEREYRA, Mariano BONANNO (Neferhotep Project)
Networked Symbolisms in a Private Tomb in Ancient Thebes
3. Christos KEKES (University of the Aegean)
The Human Hand as a Symbol in Ancient Egyptian Thought
4. Efstathia DIONYSOPOULOU (Center of National Scientific Research, CNRS/University of Lyon II, UMR 5189 Hisoma)
The Physical Materiality of the Divine and its Symbols: the case of Sarapis Attributes in Hellenistic Egypt
Coffee break
16.00-17.00 Session 2: ITALY & MEDITERRANEAN
chair: Stefano VALENTINI 
5. Massimo CULTRARO*, Anita CRISPINO°, Giovanni DISTEFANO^ (*National Research Council (CNR), Catania, University of Palermo; °Archaeological Park and Archaeological Museum “Paolo Orsi”, Syracuse; ^University of Calabria, Cosenza)
Beyond Iconography: The Ideology of an Aniconic Revolution in early Bronze Age Sicily
6. Ekaterine KOBAKHIDZE (Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University) – RECORDED PRESENTATION
The symbol of three – headed serpent in Etruscan art
7. María Ángeles ALONSO (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, UNED)
Meaning and value of cupping vessel’s iconography in the ancient world
9.30-11.00 Session 3: NEAR EAST 1
chair: Maria Gabriella MICALE 
8. Francesca MANCLOSSI (Centre de Recherche Français de Jérusalem)
Symbolism and ritual use of flint tools: the case of the tabular scrapers
9. Durmuş ERSUN, Abdulgani TARKAN (Artuklu University, Archaeology Department)
Ritual and Symbolism in the Matiate Underground City
10. Mordechai AVIAM (Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology, Kinneret College)
Second Temple Period Jewish Symbolism, Yes, It Is!
Coffee break
11.30-13.00 Session 4: NEAR EAST 2
chair: Aren MAEIR 
11. Ora BRISON (Tel Aviv University)
Aerial Female Figures in Art and Literature of the Ancient Near East
12. Silvana DI PAOLO (Istituto di Scienze del Patrimonio Culturale-CNR)
Investigating Human Interaction with Insects: Jewelry in Shape of Fly and Image of Flies in the Syro-Mesopotamian World
13. Maria Gabriella MICALE (Freie Universität Berlin)
Symbols, Urformen and Überlieferung in the Ancient Near East: Walter Andrae Perspective in Images and Words

Lunch break

14.30-16.00 Session 5: LEVANT
(Israel Antiquities Authority)
Is it the Hairstyle? Female Figurines with Hairdo in the Context of the 6th millennium BC Imagery of the Southern Levant
15. David BEN-SHLOMO (Ariel University)
Symbolism in a Multi-Ethnic Space: Canaanite, Philistine and Israelite Iconography in the Iron Age Levant
16. Aren MAEIR (Bar-Ilan University)
The "Symbol-Scape" of the Philistines: A reassessment
Coffee break
16.30-17.30 Session 6: LEVANT & CYPRUS
chair: Guido GUARDUCCI 
17. Norma FRANKLIN (University of Haifa)
Life, Death, and the Date Palm
18. Regine HUNZIKER-RODEWALD, Andrei AIOANEI (University of Strasbourg, France)
“Spiralock”: The Symbolic Enactment of Lived Experience by Ancient Drummer Figurines
19. Anna LEKKA (Hellenic Ministry of Culture)
Ιmages and Symbols of 12th c. B.C. pictorial pottery from Cyprus

(Trattoria "Enzo & Piero", Via Faenza 105/r)


9.30-11.30 Session 7: INDIA, IRAN, CAUCASUS
chair: Nicola LANERI 
20. Pardeep KUMAR (Department of History, Kanya Mahavidyalaya Kharkhoda, Sonepat, Haryana, India) RECORDED PRESENTATION
A Study of Youdheyas Tribe (400 B.C. – 300 A.D.) Seals in India
21. Zahra KOUZEHGARI (Université Lumière Lyon2, UMR 5133 Archéorient)
Feminine Symbolism in the Iconography of Luristan Bronzes
22. Simone ARNHOLD, Shorena DAVITASHVILI (Martin-Luther-University)
Abstract depictions of animals on Bronze and Iron Age weapons from East Georgia
23. Sarit PAZ (Tel Aviv University)
Deer Symbolism in the Kura-Araxes Culture: A view from the Village of Kvatskhelebi, Georgia
Coffee break

KEYNOTE LECTURE (recorded presentation)
Ian Hodder (Stanford University)
"Symbols as flows of energy"


Concluding Remarks

chairs: Nicola LANERI


Paper abstracts

In alphabetical order (Area / Topic / Name)


Simone Arnhold, Shorena Davitashvili
Abstract depictions of animals on Bronze and Iron Age weapons from East Georgia
So far, a number of Late Bronze Age/ Early Iron Age sanctuaries have been excavated in Eastern Georgia. Some of them were containing deposits of weapons and mock weapons with abstract depictions of animals and other strange seeming "characters" mostly in shape of abstract depictions. In Nazarlebi several weapons with very simple zoomorphic representations could be unearthed as well as some figurines of a deer, birds and others, which indicate much more detailed shaping.
The lecture aims to introduce the signs or symbols shown on these weapons and tries to compare them with the figurines as well as other zoomorphic depictions, which, although rare, are also documented on weapons from other sites. The main questions are: Where do weapons with such symbols appear? How do they date and can comparisons be made with other animal depictions in that area?

Sarit Paz
Tel Aviv University
Deer Symbolism in the Kura-Araxes Culture: A view from the Village of Kvatskhelebi, Georgia
The Early Bronze Age village of Kvatskhelebi, Georgia, is one of the best- preserved Kura-Araxes settlements in the South Caucasus. The wide exposure, good preservation, and ample finds in situ, offer a rare glimpse of Kura-Araxes agro-pastoral village life in the early 3rd millennium BC.
While domestic animals predominate in the faunal assemblage of Kvatskhelebi, there are also various wild animals. Among them, deer remains are especially significant. A unique setting of a whole deer with various vessels and artifacts arranged around it was found in a special building at the site, attesting for a ritual feasting context. Deer bones and antlers, including numerous antler tools, were found in domestic and outdoor contexts. Finally, there are a few iconographic depictions of deer on ceramic lids from domestic contexts, and stylized painted and incised depictions on ceramic vessels. The media and styles of this imagery differ from depictions of domestic animals at the site.
The paper brings together the various evidence from Kvatskhelebi to discuss the symbolic value of the deer in this Kura-Araxes community. Using a ‘more than representational’ approach that combines assemblage theory with Peircean semiotics, it examines the ways deer are involved in various sets of human-nonhuman interactions, in which the practical, material, and semiotic are inseparably entangled.


Anna Lekka
Hellenic Ministry of Culture
Ιmages and Symbols of 12th c. B.C. pictorial pottery from Cyprus
Cypriot pictorial pottery of the 12th c. BC marks the transitional period between the end of the Late Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age. Pictorial motifs and scenes of the Pictorial White Painted Wheelmade III pottery show great variety and are not limited to the chariots of the previous period or the nature-inspired scenes of the Pastoral Style. This new narrative, which also includes human figures and not just pictorial scenes of bucolic character with bovines, caprids, and birds, is richer in subject matter and more complex and ambiguous in terms of presenting ideas. The figurative motifs derived mainly from the animal kingdom: birds, fishes, seahorses, horses, bulls, goats, deer, boars, dogs, hedgehogs. Motifs from the fauna are also common: palm trees, pomegranates, different kinds of flowers and the sacred tree. The syncretism of this period is apparent in motifs and scenes, such as the Tree of Life with its strong Syro-Palestinian characteristics, the ‘Horned God’ or the solar disc and moon.
Although, the interpretation of the images starts from the environment and its relation to human activity, images visualize ideas. Each theme is associated with a vast number of myths and traditions, the study of which leads to interesting conclusions concerning the religious syncretism. Power, prestige, religious beliefs, politics are all expressed by visual symbols. The interpretation of symbols is not simply a matter of familiarization with conventions, but also a matter of understanding the modes of communication of a particular culture, the cultural semiology, and the relations between representations and experiences, between values and beliefs.



Efstathia Dionysopoulou
Center of National Scientific Research (CNRS)/University of Lyon II (UMR 5189 Hisoma)
The Physical Materiality of the Divine and its Symbols: the case of Sarapis Attributes in Hellenistic Egypt
This paper aims to elucidate the relationship between the Sarapis divine power and the indexes of its material representation, which were capable of mediating the god’s agency in Ptolemaic Egypt. The perspective adopted here will draw on Eliadian concept of hierophany, on Peircean semiotic sign interpretation, which considers a Symbol as a conventional and socially constructed sign (Legisign), on Gell’s concept of things agency, and on Solso’s theory of schemata, that is the components of the mental structure carried by the interpreter and allowing him to make inferences from Symbols and to construct interpretations. The paper will focus on the analysis of the attributes possessed by the god in the iconographic repertoire of Hellenistic Egypt. It will suggest, in particular, wholly new hypotheses on the origin and the symbolic meaning of his two head emblems, the atef-crown and the polos/calathos, both appeared in his iconography from early Hellenistic times. The case study analysis of the iconographical attributes of Sarapis through the aforementioned conceptual framework will seek to deepen our understanding of the different aspects of his divine power in Ptolemaic Egypt. It will also offer a valuable insight into how pre-existing symbols are re-semanticized and new ones spring up during the rise and the development of a cultural phenomenon within a multicultural society, where social imaginaries of different origins intersect one another.
Eliade, M., Traité d’histoire des religions, Paris, 1953.
Gell, A., Art and Agency. An Anthropological Theory, Oxford, 1998.
Peirce, C.S., “Logic as Semiotic: The Theory of Signs”, in Buchler, J. (ed.), Philosophical Writings of Peirce, New York, p. 1955, p. 98-119.
Solso, L.R., The Psychology of Art and the Evolution of the Conscious Brain, Cambridge, 2003.
Massimiliano Franci
CAMNES, Firenze
The architectural system of the step pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara: its symbolic expression between social and semiotic sphere
People live their daily lives through a landscape of both meaningful natural features and human-made structures and symbols. They construct their identities on such aspects. In Ancient Egypt, the architectonical expression was the result of a processual view of symbols as a political statement, because the pharaoh defined himself as the nb mnw “lord of the monuments”. This title refers to the construction of buildings, steles, obelisks, statues, etc. whose creation is credited to the sovereign and reaffirms his role as god of creation on Earth. In this way, during his reign, the pharaoh created the monumental discourse, the medium with which the State renders itself and the eternal order in a permanent public frame, communicating with the rest of the population.
Starting from this internal point of view and reassessing the social experience of symbols as representation, its structural organization, and meanings in social practice, in this note the author will reconsider the architectural system of the step pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara as tokens that represent reality as a symbolic representation of the absolute territorial power of the pharaoh.
Christos Kekes
University of the Aegean
The Human Hand as a Symbol in Ancient Egyptian Thought
The hand is the main part of the human body with which one can act. It is often observed in the human intertemporal and intercultural worldview that the hand receives various symbolic meanings. The human hand can symbolise, among other things, an abstract idea, a person, an office or a social class.
In the present study, the human hand will be approached as a symbol of power, authority, life, creation, etc., as well as a ritual conduit of divine power in ancient Egyptian thought. The analysis of the human hand, in this light, will be based on ancient Egyptian literature and iconography. More specifically, the examination of hand symbolism in ancient Egyptian perception will start from the famous motif of the Pharaoh smiting his enemies. Here the hand appears to receive a multilevel symbolism concerning firstly the projection of pharaonic and divine power, and secondly the magical aversion of the menace that the enemies of Egypt represent for the human world, as well as for the Cosmic Order. Various other motifs will also be examined, as well as ancient Egyptian artefacts, for example hand-shaped amulets.
Furthermore, emphasis will be placed on the analysis of written records referring to the human hand and to specific gestures. Various written sources reflect the ancient Egyptian perception of the human hand as a symbol of power, authority, or even of the ideal and dominant Egyptian. Ancient Egyptians appear to have used specific gestures to demonstrate their authority, their protective or hostile mood, etc. In this context, relevant references in the Pyramid Texts, the Coffin Texts, the Book of the Dead, magical texts and the Amarna Letters will be examined along with various other texts and epigraphic evidence dating from the Old Kingdom to the Graeco-Roman Period.
María Violeta Pereyra, Mariano Bonanno
Neferhotep Project
Networked Symbolisms in a Private Tomb in Ancient Thebes
Dated to the post-Amarna period, the tomb of Nefehotep −TT49− presents stylistic and thematic characteristics whose interpretation is proposed here from a holistic perspective.
The symbolic capital (Bourdieu 1971: 295-334) exhibited throughout the decorative program of the monument expresses the convergence of pre and post-Amarna beliefs. In this context, the ritual performances inside the architectural structure were developed in accordance with the symbolism of each spatiality. Thus, the space of the chapel becomes an area of interconnection with the Hereafter, a place for the execution of rites required for the deceased to join the divine corporation after their segregation from the earthly world. The east-west orientation of TT49 culminates in the niche of the statues, located at the western end of the chapel, in which four pillars evocative of the cardinal points reinforce the idea of totality. In addition to architectural elements, iconic motifs were used to represent the social and divine ties that supported Neferhotep's posthumous life. Spatiality conditioned the symbolic and effective circulation inside the monument on the day of burial, during the practices of the funeral cult −continuously repeated forever− and in periodic celebrations of the necropolis.
We propose here a symbolic reading of the space of the chapel based on the needs of the deceased for his re-conversion and integration into the unity of the tomb as a structure that contains an aesthetically and symbolically constructed message according to the times of political and religious transition he belonged to.


Pardeep Kumar
Department of History, Kanya Mahavidyalaya Kharkhoda (Sonepat), Haryana, India
A Study of Youdheyas Tribe (400 B.C. – 300 A.D.) Seals in India
The Youdehyas tribe kingdom started in 5th century B.C. in North India. The area of Youdehyas state was situated between the Indus and Ganga River. A lot of archaeological sources of this dynasty are found in di erent states of India like Haryana, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. The literary sources of Youdehyas are described in the text of Mahabharta and Brihtsama. Panini’s Asthadhyahi mentioned about this tribe. The Important sites of this kingdom are Khokhrakot (Rohtak- Haryana), Nourangabad (Bhiwani-Haryana) and Sunet (Punjab). The archaeological remains are found mainly in form of coin and seals. Seals are the important aspect of this tribe. The aim of this paper is the study of terracotta seals and describes the depiction features of the seals. Youdheyas inscribed the Brahmi script on their seals and an attempt will be translate the script of seals. The political, religious and social aspect of the seals will be studied.


Zahra Kouzehgari
Université Lumière Lyon2, UMR 5133 Archéorient
Feminine Symbolism in the Iconography of Luristan Bronzes
The so-called Luristan Bronzes are a distinct group of metalwork, including bronze and iron, that belongs to a geographical region in Lorestān, Iran, generally dated to 1200- 700 B.C. The main feature of Luristan Bronzes is their decorations with sophisticated motifs and iconographic style, including simple naturalistic themes and fantastic creations on them. The male and female characters are both represented in frontal symmetrical position at the center of framed scenes, a key characteristic of the Luristan Bronzes. Unlike most of the contemporary iconographies, the females represented on Luristan Bronzes are not shown just in their feminine roles, such as giving birth to their children or holding their breasts as in Mesopotamia or Elam. They are depicted as “Mistress of Animals” fighting with fantastic (male?) figures or creatures, often overcoming them. Even in the feminine scenes, they take a superior position by giving birth to male characters. Regarding the fact the skeletal remains and the funerary objects in the graves do not provide us much information about the gender of the people buried in them, and these objects are reported from contexts without texts; their iconography can help us to distinguish the gender of the people in the graves. Importantly, the Luristan Bronzes’ iconography seems to reflect rich information about the evolving importance of women in Luristan, which has not been taken into consideration in previous studies. The proposed paper aims to provide a detailed survey of the motifs, iconography, and the narrative scenes depicted on Luristan Bronzes from a semiotic perspective, with a particular focus on the feminine iconography and symbolism. This study provides an original and innovative contribution to the archaeological literature of this region, especially during Late Bronze Age to Iron Age, assessing the political, social, and cultural role and place of women in the Luristan society.


Massimo Cultraro1, Anita Crispino2, Giovanni Distefano3
1National Research Council (CNR), Catania, University of Palermo; 2Archaeological Park and Archaeological Museum “Paolo Orsi”, Syracuse; 3University of Calabria, Cosenza
Beyond Iconography: The Ideology of an Aniconic Revolution in early Bronze Age Sicily
This paper traces the emergence of a complex of ritualized symbols in the material culture of the Castelluccio culture, conventionally identified with the early Bronze Age in Sicily (2200-1700 cal. BC). Against an earlier background of isolated elements attested in the late Copper Age, the Castelluccio complexes produce a unique set of symbols and iconographies which document articulated religious constructs and formalized behaviors. The pottery decorative patterns, dominated by a rigorous geometric style, include aniconic representations of humans and animals, mostly in the case of selected typologies of pottery connected to ritual contexts. Indeed, the carved door-slabs of some tombs reproduces spiraliform motifs which permeate funerary rituals. In this latter case the contrast between the linear motifs in the pottery and the elaboration of circular elements adds emphasis to the elaboration of innovative ideologies and related iconographies focused on the funerary domain.
Of relevant importance is the presence of bossed bone plaques, finely incised with alternating circular and geometric motifs. These artefacts, which resemble single examples from Apulia, Malta, Mainland Greece and Troy, could be related to ritualized activities, either in domestic and funerary spaces. Here, tomb elaboration, feastings and other forms of patterned behaviors provide the emergence of institutionalized ritual authority by local elites. The introduction of repeated aniconic symbols, where the real image has been conventionally altered, provide a deep change into spiritual beliefs through formal behavioural routines.       

Ekaterine Kobakhidze
Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University
The symbol of three – headed serpent in Etruscan art
A supposed image of Medea first appeared in world art on Etruscan ceramics made from Etrusco-Corinthian ware during the Orientalizing period. Particularly, on famous amphora, preserved in the Allard Pierson Museum of Amsterdam, dating from 660-640 BC, probably found in the Etruscan city of Caere where according to widespread opinion, Medea and a three-headed dragon have been pictured.
The woman wrapped in a long cloak, facing the three-headed snake, and touching the two upper heads with outstretched arms has been quite enthusiastically connected to the episode of the Argonaut myth, according to which Medea puts the dragon guarding the Golden Fleece to sleep with a spell. The basic argument that an image of a woman with three-headed serpent depicts Medea, emanates from inscription “Metaia”, appearing on an Etruscan Caeretan olpe of the same period, which represents an Etruscan transliteration of Medea's name. Apart from this, the connection between Medea and the woman pictured on the olpe, at a glance, is bolstered by the fact that Medea also appears surrounded by snakes on Greek ceramics.
The paper gives analyses of previously undertaken research, Greek and Roman literary sources and recently discovered archeological material, providing a solid precondition for substantive and new conclusions- the amphora discovered in Cerveteri with the image of the woman and a three-headed serpent is not Medea and could represent some unknown local mythological story.
This story most probably reflects the voyage of a deceased person to the underworld or some ritual connected to the burial, where the three-headed snake is a symbol and has a concrete semantics discussed in the paper.


David Ben-Shlomo
Ariel University
Symbolism in a Multi-Ethnic Space: Canaanite, Philistine and Israelite Iconography in the Iron Age Levant
The Southern Levant is an arena for several ethnic groups and political entities during the Iron Age (1200-600 BCE). Various elements of the material culture revealed in archaeological excavations in the past decades in this region are figurative, or carry iconographic details. These include for example figurines, figurative ceramics, pottery decoration, ivories and glyptics. The paper will compare the symbolic world, of three ethnic groups and/or political units in the Southern Levant: the Canaanites, the Philistines and the Israelites as reflected by these artifacts. These three groups probably represent different types of societies: The Canaanites are considered the indigenous culture of the land, continuing from the Bronze Age (later linked with the Iron Age Phoenicians); The Philistines a new immigrant society arriving from the west; and the Israelites are a new ethnic and/or social group possibly practicing a new religion and maybe a different social and political order. The basic characteristics defining each iconography will be defined and discussed. It will be examined if and how the different possible traits of these groups is reflected by their iconography, and what influences and interactions occurred between them according to the symbols and styles appearing on these objects.

Norma Franklin
University of Haifa
Life, Death, and the Date Palm
The image of a date palm with a single trunk represents a cultivated date palm, and at its base o shoots are usually shown unfurling. These o shoots grow into a new date palm, identical to the mother palm as they are its clones.
Offshoots represents the ongoing cycle of life that takes place at the base of the date palm, and are a powerful apotropaic symbol of eternal life, not merely new life. Sometimes the whole palm tree is depicted, often represented in a highly stylized form, but often only the o shoots are shown as a pair of volutes flanking a central triangle.
In the 9th c BCE the symbol of the date palm and the volute motif came to represent eternal life in Assyria. The symbol of the date palm spread westward and became a protective device, preserving eternal life, and so becoming associated with funerary cult and ritual. The triumph over death symbolism of the date palm continued into the classical period and beyond.

Regine Hunziker-Rodewald, Andrei Aioanei
University of Strasbourg, France
“Spiralock”: The Symbolic Enactment of Lived Experience by Ancient Drummer Figurines
Scattered in an area of about 10,000 km2 covering both sides of the Jordan Valley, several female drummer figurines made of terracotta, from the late Iron Age I/early Iron Age II, show on their exposed abdomen a spiral that has so far remained unexplained. The quite large inward-tapering curve, connected to the frame drum by a ridge, is located slightly below the females’ drumming right hand. Their naked, bejeweled body, which fits in the palm of a hand, is mold-shaped only at the front, suggesting a closeness of aesthetic presence and handling. Our interest is in the cognitive concept underlying the sign of a spiral (cf. Hodder 2020) and its connection to drumming as referring to an imagined practice. Drawing on the theory that material signs store agency and thus co-create reality (Malafouris 2018), we think with and about these figurines in a process of meaning-making that enacts the lived experience of their (female) users. Lived experience is here associated with bodily performance and transformation in time: on the one hand, drumming as a means of being heard recalls ancient theophoric birth names such as “DN has heard”, which indirectly testify to the existential distress of women wishing to become pregnant or awaiting birth. In the drummers’ gesture studied here, the asking-to-be-heard performance is connected to a protective symbol winding in towards a center where all movement is locked (Ingold 2007). The spiral recalls, in this context, practices of sympathetic magic such as tying knots to stop the womb bleeding and thus protect against miscarriage. Transformation in time, on the other hand, becomes real with some figurines being appropriated to a new situation by adding a hand-modeled baby to the drum-spiral feature by way of giving material expression to a successful pregnancy.
Aren Maeir
Bar-Ilan University
The "Symbol-Scape" of the Philistines: A reassessment

Recent study of the Philistine culture has demonstrated its highly entangled nature, indicating the multi-faceted origins and complex developmental processes. In this light, reassessment of various symbols appearing in the Philistine material culture are in need or reassessment, replacing largely monolithic previous interpretations, and taking into account a more complex set of meanings.
Dina Shalem, Ianir Milevski, Nimrod Getzov, Ehud Galili and Anat Cohen-Weinberger
Israel Antiquities Authority
Is it the Hairstyle? Female Figurines with Hairdo in the Context of the 6th millennium BC Imagery of the Southern Levant
Four female figurines with a distinguished hairdo of long locks were found in three sites in the northern part of Israel, where they are related to the second half of the 6th millennium BC. Only the head and neck are presented, modeled in one piece of clay, which originally was, plausibly, attached to a body. Although only the upper part is shown the hairdo stands out as an important motif, hitherto unknown in this part of the Ancient Near East. The figurines were found in ‘En Esur and ‘En Zippori, two villages that had developed into very large settlements in the last quarter of the 6th millennium BC, and Neveh Yam, which was a fisher’s village located by the Mediterranean Sea. Another type of a female image, distinguished by its large eyes, is known from two of these sites. This paper will, for the first time, present the four figurines with hairdo in their cultural and iconographic contexts and suggest possible connections with distant locations.

María Ángeles Alonso
Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED)
Meaning and value of cupping vessel’s iconography in the ancient world
The medical use of cupping vessels is documented since 5th century BC in Greece, that is, since the birth of scientific medicine and its great development with Hippocrates and his school. L.J. Bliquez defines this tool as a “basic Hippocratic instrument... frequently attested in the texts of the Corpus”, and Archaeology con rms that it was commonly used by physicians. Moreover, the cupping vessel was represented in funerary art: two of these objects appear in a stele coming from the Ionian cost and dated ca. 480 BC. This is the first known representation of a tool that, as medicine spread and developed in Hellenistic and Roman periods, continued to be represented until the 5th century AD.
The aim of this paper is to study the connotation of cupping vessel’s iconography during Antiquity. To this end, we will analyze the representations of this tool that are documented between the 5th century BC and the end of Antiquity in the former Roman Empire. By looking into this corpus, we will delve into the typology and context of the monument including the representation; the interrelation and interdependence between image and epigraphic text (in the case of inscribed monuments); the interrelation of the cupping vessel with other implements or figures in the image; and the comparison between depictions and archaeological remains. In addition, and considering ancient medicine’s background, we will try to know, among other questions, to what extent the cupping vessel was a means to signify professional identity, if it was a symbol that dignified the medical profession or if it was used to discern the Hippocratic physician.
In this way, we will try to understand the process by which this physical object became an iconographic item with meaning and, consequently, to know the symbolic value that the cupping vessel had in Antiquity.


NEAR EAST (Christianity)

Durmuş Ersun, Abdulgani Tarkan
Artuklu University, Archaeology Department
Ritual and Symbolism in the Matiate Underground City
Midyat district of Mardin province was called Matiate in the ancient period. The city of Matiate is located in the Tur Abdin region and the name of the city is found in texts dating to the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II and Shalmaneser III periods. Matiate Underground City is in Estel and it is part of Midyat. The Underground city was built in a catacomb architecture. The Catacombs were built in the form of underground galleries for burial purposes in the rst years of the spread of Christianity. Due to the massacre policies initiated by the Roman Emperors against Christians, people began to settle in the catacomb areas over time. The inhabitants of the city not only underground living spaces, but also built centers of worship. One of the structures is the synagogue in the underground city. There are various symbols on the dome of the synagogue. The synagogue and its symbols will be introduced to the scientific World fort the first time here. The symbols are the 8-pointed star, the tree of life, the hamesh and the equestrian figure. Here, the synagogue structure will be evaluated in the context of rituals and symbols.


NEAR EAST (General)

Ora Brison
Tel Aviv University
Aerial Female Figures in Art and Literature of the Ancient Near East
This paper directs a spotlight on enigmatic depictions of female figures as winged creatures or mythical birds of prey. These aerial females are described in a variety of mythological texts, and iconographies of the different cultures of the Ancient Near East and the Aegean.
The images and narratives of the winged female figures metamorphose into many different forms and types over time and in different places and cultures. Some are depicted as ugly, bad-tempered, fierce and harmful while others are portrayed as beautiful, sexually alluring and irresistible.
The descriptions and representations of these aerial females raise many questions concerning the significance and symbolism in their various cultures. They are described as essentially wicked creatures having demonic characteristics, often associated with storms, winds and wilderness as well as with the underworld. They are portrayed as extremely dangerous to humans. My paper centers on several such aerial female figures, some from Mesopotamia (like Inanna/Ishtar, Lamashtu and Lilitu), and others are from Egypt (Isis), Ugarit (Anat), the Hebrew Bible and early Judaism (Lilith, Aluqah), and from the Greco-Roman cultures (like the Sirens and Harpies).
I suggest a comparative perspective via close reading and examination of the literature and iconography of aerial female figures in different cultures and an in-depth research of their common and different traits and characteristics. There are, underlying common cultural ideologies and symbolisms which bring about these phenomena in a cross-cultural way. Hopefully my study can contribute to a better understanding not only of the significance and the symbolic importance of these aerial females, but also to a broader understanding of the paradigm of females in Ancient Near Eastern art and literature.
Silvana Di Paolo
Istituto di Scienze del Patrimonio Culturale-CNR
Investigating Human Interaction with Insects: Jewelry in Shape of Fly and Image of Flies in the Syro-Mesopotamian World

In the Western world, people view most invertebrates with fear, dislike, and strong aversion; however, in the Islamic world, they can denote status and blessing when they come into contact with humans. This is because the value and perception of insects, and more in general of all invertebrates, changes based on cultural norms and codes established in human societies and transmitted via collective behaviors. The case-study presented here explores some aspects of cultural entomology and the in uence of ying insects in the societies of the ancient Near East. Thus, this contribution will investigate the role, meaning and symbology of the y in the Syro-Mesopotamian world through the examination of different kinds of y-shaped jewelry and other related artefacts.
Maria Gabriella Micale
Freie Universität Berlin
Symbols, Urformen and Überlieferung in the Ancient Near East: Walter Andrae Perspective in Images and Words
Symbols as living and powerful elements that can survive through time, space and cultures are the core of the intellectual dialog between Walter Andrae and Ananda Coomaraswamy. Andrae’s theoretical reasoning on symbols in ancient Near Eastern art and architecture, which plays a significant role also in his archaeological reports, forms the foundation for this relationship, documented in Coomaraswamy’s research as well as in the unpublished epistolary correspondence between the two scholars. Andrae’s arguments appear also in his unpublished notes; here, completely free from the constraints of scholarly publications, they give us not only the chance to investigate Walter Andrae’s contemporary environment but also his possible influence on other scholars who may have been familiar with mystical beliefs.
My paper will investigate Walter Andrae’s interpretation of symbols in the ancient Near East and their role in the transmission of a primordial knowledge across time and cultures. It will also address the question of a possible, not always openly recognized, reception of Walter Andrae’s interpretations by his contemporary scholarly peers and its reflection in the whole literature on the ancient Near East.

NEAR EAST (Judaism)

Mordechai Aviam
Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology, Kinneret College
Second Temple Period Jewish Symbolism, Yes, It Is!
In her monumental book, Rachel Hachlili suggested that Jewish art in the Second Temple period, had no symbolic meaning. During the last 20 years, two decorated objects were discovered, which shed new light on the Jewish symbolism during the Second Temple period. The first is an etched stone found in the debris of Yodefat, the Jewish Galilean town which was destroyed by the Romans in 67 CE. The second id the decorated stone base which was found in the center of the synagogue of Magdala, dated to the first half of the first century CE, which was decorated from five sides. In this paper I'll analyze the decorations and try to prove the existence of Jewish symbolism in this period.

NEAR EAST (Prehistory)

Francesca Manclossi
Centre de Recherche Français de Jérusalem
Symbolism and ritual use of int tools: the case of the tabular scrapers
Tabular scrapers are a specific kind of stone tools, essentially multi-purposes knives, characterized by the intentional retention of cortex on the dorsal face. Attested in the Near Eastern lithic assemblages from the Late Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age (6th-3rd millennium BCE), they were produced in the desert regions and traded within the Mediterranean zone. Beyond their practical use, mainly associated with the processing of animals, these tools are of particular interest because of their ritual utilization that, crossing time and space, changed and adapted to different circumstances.
By following all the steps of their chaîne opératoire and combining contextual, quantitative and qualitative data, in this paper I will focus on the aspects that better show the symbolic nature of these tools: 1. the selection of specific raw materials, 2. the “inefficient” strategies of production, 3. the long-distance trade system involving nomad groups and settled populations, 4. the special “contexts” in which they have been found, 5. the evidence of deliberate breakage, and 6. the presence of incised motifs on the cortex.
Although recognizable as a single category of stone tools with a clear symbolic and ritual meaning, tabular scrapers were associated to different behaviours and practices, and they could be used in various ways. Despite fundamental underlying continuities, tabular scrapers represent a complex, changing and dynamic system which can shed new light on ancient populations.

Conference venue (CAMNES-Lorenzo de' Medici)

Ex-Church of S. Jacopo - Via Faenza, 43 - Florence (Italy)

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