Ancient images as much as texts attest to the worldviews and symbol systems of past societies. On the occasion of its 20th anniversary, the Swiss Society for Ancient Near Eastern Studies invited an international group of distinguished scholars to explore new approaches to the pictorial heritage of ancient civilizations. In an age concerned as never before by the global impact of visual media, archaeologists and art historians were asked to address ancient images as media and primary sources for the history of human civilization.
The symposium concentrated on the 1st millennium BCE, when ideas and objects originating in distant cultures entered a period of unprecedented interaction with the advent of early empires and large interregional trade networks. It highlighted ancient states and people in contact, exchanging and adapting concepts and beliefs alongside with their merchandise and skills.
The fifteen papers published here cover a large area from Thebes to Persepolis, paying particular attention to the zones of contact in the Levant. They establish dialogues between the autochtonous and the imported, the monumental and the minute: palace reliefs and statuary, metalwork and ivory carving, vase painting, seals and coinage. They do not consider images primarily as art but as media designed to convey messages, political or cultural, social or religious. Images are thus taken seriously, being addressed as documents involving human intellect and knowledge, tradition and creativity, economy and practical use, consumers' taste and craftsmen's competence.