Josef Briffa

Representation and Symbolic manipulation: figurines in the late Iron Age Southern Levant (8-6th centuries B.C.)

This study re-examines the representation, reproduction and manipulation of meanings in the Southern Levant during the late Iron Age (8th to the 6th centuries BC), from the perspective of the production and use of clay figurines.

Previous studies have often focused on the female figurines, particular those of Judah, generally interpreted in relation to Asherah, and to religious ritual concerned with fertility or protection. This study moves away from this interpretative paradigm by considering the entire figurative repertoire, including anthropomorphic, zoomorphic and skeuomorphic types, with the aim of understanding their meaning and use, exploring variations within and between figurines and sites. Focus is placed on figurines as expressions of symbolic capital and identity, through a study of commonality and difference.

The case-studies being proposed, consider the material on two geographical scales: at the local site level, considering the figurines of Jerusalem, Lachish and Megiddo to explore contextual differences in figurine use; on a broader regional scale, the variation across a sample of sites from across the southern Levant, considering a number of variables (including manufacture and gender) to identify common themes and variation over a wider geographic region.


 Educational background

  • BA (Hons), Archaeology, University of Malta, 2000
  • BPhil, Philosophy, Istituto Filosofico Aloisianum (Padua, Italy), 2004
  • BD, Theology, Heythrop College, University of London, 2009
  • SSL, Sacred Scripture, Pontifical Biblical Institute (Rome), 2012

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