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Ancient Levantine

Beaker or Goblet, 101 CE–300 CE. Ancient Levantine. Gift of Theodore W. and Frances S. Robinson.

Also known as
Eastern Mediterranean (Syrian), Levantine

While the borders of the area known as the Levant have shifted over time, the ancient Levant encompassed most of modern-day Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and western Syria. Topographically, its borders were defined by the Taurus mountain range in the North, ancient Mesopotamia to the East, the Arabian Desert in the South, and the Mediterranean Sea to the West. 

This broad territory was home to a number of tribes and kingdoms such as the Aramaeans, Nabateans, Philistines, and Canaanites, each of which had their own distinct artistic and cultural identities. Each was also influenced not only by one another, but also by the larger civilizations at their borders. Over time, those larger powers like the Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Macedonian, and Roman empires fought for, and held, control over the region.

While the early works of Levantine tribes and kingdoms are easily distinguished, later material from the region can be difficult to attribute, thanks to the strong and varied cultural influences within the region. Such is the case for the ancient Levantine works held in the Art Institute’s collection, which utilize methods and materials from the West, but also forms and decorative techniques from the East. While it is difficult, or even impossible, to attribute these objects to a particular culture without archaeological context, they nonetheless provide valuable insight into the confluence of ideas and aesthetics of the time.

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