White Marble on the Black Sea: Investigations into the Function and Meaning of Greek Sculpture in a Contact Zone of the Ancient World


Greek sculpture is a core area of Classical Archaeology, which even today is strongly influenced by stylistic considerations. Linear chronological developments as well as qualitative differences between center and periphery were and are often uncritically assumed. My habilitation thesis therefore approaches this topic from a new perspective: The starting point of my investigations are the Greek sculptures from the regions around the Black Sea, an area that was geographically as well as culturally on the periphery of the Greek sphere of influence and which, not least due to the division of Europe after the Second World War, was hardly noticed by (Central) European antiquity research. The sculptures of this region, from the Archaic period to Hellenism, are now systematically presented for the first time and examined with regard to their significance for the history of art and culture. This is done against the background of migration movements in the course of the so-called Great Greek Colonization, which led to the emergence of site-specific cultural contact zones of varying density. Sculptural works characterize the appearance of sanctuaries, public sites, and funerary monuments, and their production and transport involved a great deal of effort - they were therefore consciously selected and perceived. The consideration of the cultural-historical background of the respective sites and the inclusion of current scientific methods allow a more unbiased approach to questions about the origin, function and meaning of sculptures from the Black Sea region in a diachronic perspective. From these new perspectives, it is also possible to grasp phenomena such as deliberate seizures of specific and not necessarily contemporary pictorial ciphers, motifs, or even styles. The breaks in previously assumed stylistic series revealed in case studies are also intended to stimulate a discussion on the general treatment of Greek sculpture and its reception in cultural contact zones.

Responsible for the project:Veronika Sossau

Funding: Research Fund of the University of Basel