Monday, August 29, 2016


Erich Kistler, Birgit Öhlinger, Martin Mohr, Matthias Hoernes (ed.), Sanctuaries and the Power of Consumption: Networking and the Formation of Elites in the Archaic Western Mediterranean World. Proceedings of the international conference in Innsbruck, 20th-23rd March 2012. Philippika, 92. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2015. Pp. xxxii, 554. ISBN 9783447105071. €120.00.

Reviewed by Charlotte R. Potts, University of Oxford (

Version at BMCR home site

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This volume presents the collected proceedings of a conference held at the University of Innsbruck in 2012. The conference was designed to test the extent to which network theory could help to analyse and interpret the archaeological data for 'protoglobal complexities of circumstances, people and their activities' in the Archaic Western Mediterranean (p. XI). As such the publication aims to join the growing body of scholarship focused on describing and explaining connections between different Mediterranean communities in the first millennium BC, and particularly those using theoretical approaches developed in the social sciences such as peer-polity interaction, network analysis, and globalisation.1 Although the effect of such studies is yet to be fully felt, the qualities that joined and distinguished recognisable social groups from their counterparts elsewhere are increasingly coming into focus, as are the mechanisms used to enhance local and international positions within those networks.

One of these mechanisms, and indeed the one at the heart of this volume, is religious activity. In order to allow contributors to make comparisons between different sites, the organisers of the Innsbruck conference identified sanctuaries as a common frame of reference and adopted the working hypothesis that sanctuaries facilitated elite networks that would have otherwise been impossible. Notwithstanding the potential pitfalls of applying a Mediterranean paradigm to ancient religions, as highlighted by Greg Woolf,2 a number of recent publications have stressed the prominence and utility of sanctuaries in cross-cultural encounters and the formation of social groups in the Mediterranean. 3 As cosmopolitan sanctuaries became more numerous and more visible in the archaeological record during the Archaic period, more consideration of how and why these sites changed their character so markedly at this point is welcome.

The book differs from common conference proceedings in that its editors have aimed to 'follow the methodological principle of the hermeneutic cycle' (p. IX). This means that the volume begins with the original call for papers, followed by summaries of the papers, the 26 papers themselves, a critical response, and then a substantial concluding chapter that draws out common themes and attempts to establish a methodology for future research. This structure makes the challenges of the original enquiry clear.

Two theoretical parts, namely the call for papers and the concluding synthesis, bracket case studies that are divided into three sections: 'Things in Motion and Western Mediterraneanization,' 'Coastal and Inland Sanctuaries as Centers of a Western Mediterranean Elite Network,' and 'Sanctuaries and the Formation of Elites: Power of Consumption—Consumption of Power.' The case studies present material from Etruria, Latium, Sicily, Magna Graecia, Iberia, and Cyrenaica and are strongly heterogeneous in their methodologies and concerns. Archaeology, anthropology, epigraphy, and texts are used to varying effect. Although the response by Isler at the end criticises what he perceives as the loss of a Hellenocentric framework, Greek perspectives are pervasive throughout: in the first paper in the volume, which arguably sets the tone, Mauserberg focuses on notions of exchange in the Homeric epics, and throughout the volume words like emporia, oikos, and temene are used uncritically. This raises questions about whether a Greek lens is a conscious choice or simply a convenient default.

Some chapters stand out for their engagement with the central topics of sanctuaries, elite groups, and networks. Sossau's chapter, 'The Cultic Fingerprint of the Phoenicians in the Early Iron Age West?', delivers a useful critique of stereotypes of the Phoenicians derived from Greek texts and provides an excellent overview of current evidence for Phoenician presence, as distinct from Phoenician objects, at places such as Pithekoussai and Mozia. In a similar vein, Crielaard's chapter, 'Powerful Things in Motion: A Biographical Approach to Eastern Elite Goods in Greek Sanctuaries'—appearing for some reason in the third rather than the first part of the book—shows how Near Eastern cauldrons and horse trappings had different functions, meanings, and values in the varied contexts they passed through before eventually being deposited in Greek sanctuaries. There is also a wealth of useful updates and details of new finds at places such as Tavira, Pyrgi, Gravisca, and Gabii, which highlight the evolving interpretations of these sites and for now will be useful for those working in related fields.

As a whole, however, the case studies do not consistently engage with the theoretical agenda or one another. Meaningful comparisons between the papers are no doubt hampered by varied interpretations of the key terms 'sanctuary', 'elites', and 'networks'. The religious sites under consideration range from monumental temples (as at Pyrgi, discussed briefly by Baglione et al.) to multi-functional elite buildings (for example, the 'regia' at Gabii discussed by Fabbri and the apsidal house at Torre di Satriano presented by Osanna) and a deposit in an agora (at Selinunte) which may be, as argued here by Baitinger, a metalworking store rather than a sacred deposit. This diversity of religious sites undermines the notion of sanctuaries as spaces of particular religious and socio-economic significance, and does not distinguish the enquiry from a more general consideration of the relationship between religion, or even more broadly ritual, and consumption for social gain. The people involved in activities at these sites also diverge, with papers discussing 'sailors and seafaring merchants' (in Pappa's chapter on South Iberia), 'Greek settlers' and 'semi-nomadic tribes' (discussed by Gönster with regard to Cyrenaica), 'a variegate crowd of sailors and traders' (proposed for Elba by Corretti et al.) and the aforementioned Phoenician stereotypes of undifferentiated 'merchants' and 'colonizers' (critiqued by Sossau). Clarity about how such groups represent, or are distinct from, 'elites' could have sharpened the analysis at many points in the volume. The range of sites and people discussed risks diluting the intention to study the relationship between sanctuaries and elites into an anodyne finding that some goods were consumed at some sites for the benefit of some people.

The concluding chapter attempts to remedy this lack of focus by providing a substantial overview (47 pages long) of the contributions and their relevance to the bigger picture. In many ways this chapter could stand in for the whole. The editors' appraisal of the successes and shortcomings of their endeavour here are frank. Significantly, they take on board Isler's point that many of the artefacts under discussion are 'silent' and cannot illustrate social networks, particularly in light of the processes discussed in Crielaard's chapter; other forms of evidence or approach are needed. In an effort to move the subject forward from this position they conclude by outlining the main themes of the papers and suggesting they form 'eight points to an alternative archaeology of proto-globalisation.' The choice of the word 'proto-globalisation' is not explored in depth and instead the editors look to Appadurai's distinction between the '"circulation of forms"' and the '"forms of circulation"' (the volume quotes Appadurai's terms) as a way to study the interplay between global and local phenomena. In this reviewer's opinion this is a missed opportunity, as the strength of the volume lies in the way in which the case studies illustrate various theories encapsulated in recent work on globalisation. Globalisation offers a framework for the development of shared practices and values as well as the local differences and identities that arise in response to shared practices.4 Regardless of the methodological approach, however, the volume contributes to ongoing discussions about how to describe and understand connectivity in the ancient world. If it had included a map, and had used the concluding chapter as an overarching framework and inserted the case studies at relevant points, then its impact could have been much greater.

Table of Contents

1. Martin Mauersberg: Obsolete Perceptions? Frameworks of Intercultural Exchange in Ancient Narrative
2. Veronika Sossau: The Cultic Fingerprint of the Phoenicians in the Early Iron Age West?
3. Eleftheria Pappa: Oriental Gods but Domestic Elites? Religious Symbolism and Economic Functions of Phoenician-Period Cult Loci in South Iberia
4. Petra Amann: Gaben unter Eliten. Zu den etruskischen mulu/muluvanice-Inschriften
5. Marion Steger: La Tomba dei Guerrieri a Montagna di Marzo alla luce della diffusione delle 'iscrizioni parlanti' in Sicilia dall'età arcaica alla prima metà del V sec. a.C.
6. Christian Russenberger: Bildproduktion und gesellschaftliche Entwicklung der indigenen Kulturen West- und Zentralsiziliens in archaischer Zeit
7. Holger Baitinger: In weiter Ferne, so nah! Einheimisches und Fremdes im Spiegel der Metallfunde von Selinunt
8. Stefano Vassallo: Oggetti in movimento in età arcaica e classica ad Himera, porto sicuro per uomini, merci, idee
9. Yvonne Gönster: The Silphion Plant in Cyrenaica: An Indicator for Intercultural Relationships?
10. Marco Fabbri: A Seat of Power in Latium Vetus: The Archaic Building Complex on the Arx of Gabii
11. Lucio Fiorini: The Sacred Area of Gravisca: Ethnic and Religious Interactions in Comparison
12. Maria Paola Baglione – Barbara Belelli Marchesini – Claudia Carlucci – Maria Donatella Gentili – Laura Maria Michetti: Pyrgi: A Sanctuary in the Middle of the Mediterranean Sea
13. Silvia Martina Bertesago – Valentina Garaffa: Manifestazioni del sacro di età arcaica nella mesogaia della costa ionica. I depositi votivi di "Grotte delle Fontanelle" a Garaguso
14. Alessandro Corretti – Franco Cambi – Laura Pagliantini: 'The Finest Harbour': The Argonauts (and the Others) on the Island of Elba
15. Maria Cecilia Parra: Il santuario del Capo Cocinto: "nuovo" osservatorio occidentale di presenze multiculturali
16. Francesca Spatafora: Santuari e luoghi sacri in un'area di frontiera: la valle del Belice tra elimi, sicani, punici e greci
17. Monica de Cesare: Aspetti del sacro a Segesta tra l'età arcaica e la prima età classica
18. Clemente Marconi – Valeria Tardo – Caterina Trombi: The Archaic Pottery from the Institute of Fine Arts Excavations in the Main Urban Sanctuary on the Akropolis of Selinunte
19. Johannes Bergemann: Drehscheiben der Kulturen? Ländliche Heiligtümer in Sizilien: Gela und Agrigent im Vergleich
20. Jan Paul Crielaard: Powerful Things in Motion: A Biographical Approach to Eastern Elite Goods in Greek Sanctuaries
21. Margarita Gleba: Sacred Cloth: Consumption and Production of Textiles in Sanctuaries and the Power of Elites in Archaic Western Mediterranean World
22. Erich Kistler – Martin Mohr Monte Iato: Two Late Archaic Feasting Places between the Local and the Global
23. Birgit Öhlinger: Indigenous Cult Places of Local and Interregional Scale in Archaic Sicily: A Sociological Approach to Religion
24. Massimo Osanna: Seats of Power and Power of Consumption in the Hinterland of the Ionian Coast of Southern Italy during the Archaic Age
25. Gabriel Zuchtriegel: Archaic Latin Sanctuaries: Ritual Consumption in the Mediterranean Context
26. Raimon Graells i Fabregat: Zwischen Privatem und Öffentlichkeit. Das festliche Bankett als soziale Praxis in Katalonien im 6. Jahrhunderts v. Chr
27. Hans Peter Isler: Conclusione
28. Erich Kistler – Birgit Öhlinger – Matthias Hoernes – Martin Mohr: Debating "Sanctuaries and the Power of Consumption" – or: Eight Points to an Alternative Archaeology of Proto-Globalisation


1.   For example, P. Horden and N. Purcell, The Corrupting Sea: A Study of Mediterranean History (Oxford 2000); I. S. Lemos, 'The Lefkandi Connection: Networking in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean', in L. Bonfante and V. Karageorghis (eds.), Italy and Cyprus in Antiquity 1500-450 B.C. Proceedings of an International Symposium held at the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America at Columbia University, November 16-18, 2000 (Nicosia 2001), 215-226; I. Morris, 'Mediterraneanization,' Mediterranean Historical Review 18.2 (2003), 30-55; I. Malkin, A Small Greek World: Networks in the Ancient Mediterranean (Oxford 2011); D. Demetriou, Negotiating Identity in the Ancient Mediterranean: The Archaic and Classical Greek Multiethnic Emporia (Cambridge 2012); T. Hodos, 'Stage Settings for a Connected Scene: Globalization and material-culture studies in the early first-millennium B.C.E. Mediterranean,' Archaeological Dialogues 21 (2014), 24-30; E. Isayev, 'Polybius' Global Moment and Human Mobility through Ancient Italy', in M. Pitts and M. J. Versluys (eds.), Globalisation and the Roman World. World History, Connectivity and Material Culture (Cambridge 2015), 123-140.
2.   G. Woolf, 'A Sea of Faith?', in I. Malkin (ed.), Mediterranean Paradigms and Classical Antiquity (London 2005), 126-143.
3.   Including H. Kyrieleis, 'Intercultural Commerce and Diplomacy: Near Eastern, Egyptian and Cypriote artefacts from the Heraion of Samos', in V. Karageorghis and O. Kouka (eds.), Cyprus and the East Aegean: Intercultural Contacts from 3000 to 500 BC. An international archaeological symposium held at Pythagoreion, Samos, October 17th-18th 2008 (Nicosia 2009), 139-143; F. de Polignac, 'Sanctuaries and Festivals', in K. A. Raaflaub and H. Van Wees (eds.), A Companion to Archaic Greece (Chichester 2009), 427-443; E. Isayev, 'Italy Before the Romans', in A. E. Cooley (ed.), A Companion to Roman Italy (Chichester 2016), 2-32.
4.   The most up-to-date review will appear shortly in T. Hodos (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Archaeology and Globalization (in press, 2016).

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