Terracotta figurines are proposed as a particularly useful object corpus through which to access social identities in Hellenistic Babylonia. Cross-cultural interaction between Greeks and Babylonians has traditionally been the primary interest of scholars researching this society, and figurines were often recruited as evidence for the opposition of ethnic identities. In this work, a new approach to the figurines is proposed, which deemphasizes the categorical rigidity of typology and substitutes a flexible methodology of accessing multiple inter-object entanglements. A particular case study of “nude heroic” figurines (which are often considered evidence for display of cultural difference) is explored in detail, utilizing the entanglement approach. This research reveals that the hybrid qualities of objects were often selected with a sensitivity to both Greek and Babylonian cultural traditions, and with the aim of mutual acceptability. The evidence presented indicates that ethnicity-based concerns were not always the paramount interests in Hellenistic Babylonian identity formation, nor the primary way in which that society was divided.
Figurines, statues, Herakles, lion hunting, hybridity, entanglement, miniature, clay, terracotta, Babylon, Ancient Near East, Hellenistic, Greek, classification, typology
Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque Art and Architecture | Classical Archaeology and Art History | Near Eastern Languages and Societies
Critical Approaches to Ancient Near Eastern Art
Langin-Hooper, Stephanie M. 2013. “Terracotta Figurines and Social Identities in Hellenistic Babylonia,” in M.H. Feldman and B. Brown (eds): Critical Approaches to Ancient Near Eastern Art, De Gruyter, Berlin and Boston. p. 451-479.