Josef Briffa

Representation, Agency and Symbolic manipulation

in the Late Iron Age Southern Levant (8-6th centuries B.C.)

My research intends to move beyond the typological approach to the late Iron Age II figurines in the Southern Levant, offering a more nuanced understanding that places figuration firmly in its social context, at a time of considerable social, political and religious upheaval.

The study will build on the extensive work done on figurines in the region, but which has often been limited to specific types (the Judean Pillar figurines, in particular) or very circumscribed regions. I will consider how superficially similar sets of objects (including the female figurines, horse and rider figures, zoomorphic ones, and others) may be used in different cultural contexts, through a comparative cross-cultural study, considering their specific differences and similarities and their possible significance. With a careful consideration of the archaeological context, through archaeological reports, and unpublished field notes, I will examine how a contextual reading of the body sheds light on wider issues of social organization and complexity in the region.

This reading of the figurines engages with their conceptual complexity, and will also examine social meaning and agency, particularly how symbolic significance is created through ritual.


 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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