Department of Middle Eastern Studies
Department of Middle Eastern Studies

Place, Memory, and the Miraculous Image: A Political Ecology of Anatolian Rock Monuments

A lecture by Omur Harmansah

Tue, February 18, 2014 | CAL 516: Reading Room

12:00 PM

Place, Memory, and the Miraculous Image: A Political Ecology of Anatolian Rock Monuments

Rock reliefs and inscriptions of the Anatolian peninsula dating to the Late Bronze, Early and Middle Iron Ages (ca. 1400-700 BCE) have long drawn the attention of early modern travelers, antiquarians and academics who traversed Anatolian landscapes in the hope of understanding its ancient past through its ruins. These rock monuments therefore constitute the foundations of scholarly engagement with ancient Anatolian landscapes and the configuration of its historical geography where rock relief sites act as anchoring points linking textual accounts to real topographies. In the context of the Hittite Empire and its aftermath, rock monuments have more recently been integrated to the territorial network models of empire. Despite the diversity among the siting, iconographic and epigraphic content and the general configuration of such monuments, contemporary scholarship has portrayed them as stand-alone commemorative monuments as imperial interventions for appropriating colonial landscapes and borderlands. Based on my recent field work at these sites, I argue that rock relief sites are places of long term engagement for human communities at
geologically wondrous locales such as springs, caves, sinkholes, and cannot be reduced to single inscription events. A critical archaeological approach to rock monuments not only allow us to understand their complex relationship with local landscapes but also places them in an ecology of politics that involve (repeated) practices of image-making and inscription.

Ömür Harmanşah is an archaeologist and an architectural historian of the Ancient Near East. Currently a Donald D. Harrington Faculty Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin at the Departments of Middle East Studies and Religious Studies, while he is also an Assistant Professor of Archaeology and Ancient Western Asian Studies at Brown University. He is the author of Cities and the Shaping of Memory in the Ancient Near East, published by Cambridge University Press (2013). He currently directs Yalburt Yaylası Archaeological Landscape Research Project, a diachronic regional survey project in south central Turkey. During his fellowship year at UT Austin, he is working on his second
monograph entitled Place Memory and Healing: An Archaeology of Anatolian Rock Monuments, which will be published by Routledge. He has written extensively on cities, urban space, and social memory, especially during the Bronze and Iron Ages in ancient Mesopotamia and Anatolia. His current work focuses on theories of place and landscape, while he investigates the cultural meanings of springs, caves, and such geological features from antiquity to early modernity.

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