Liat Naeh will give a Brown Bag Lunch Presentation on Thursday, November 8, from 12:15 to 1:15 pm. Her talk is entitled “The Ivory Throne of the Levantines.”

This talk will focus on an unknown aspect of the material culture of the ancient Levantines of the second millennium BCE, colloquially known as the Canaanites. In ancient Near Eastern and Levantine traditions, thrones were objects that connected the realms of the divine with monarchy on earth. Rather than being a symbolic trope, in the Levant, the act of sitting on a throne was considered performative, transforming gods and mortals into de facto kings. Being at the focal point of the royal audience, thrones were platforms for visual messages conveyed by the ruler— divine and human—to gods, court, subjects, and foreign visitors. So far, we have only known depictions of Levantine thrones of the second millennium, which were mostly carved on ivory inlays. Yet, surprisingly, we had no knowledge of full-sized thrones, creating a discrepancy in our understanding of local royal ideology and cult practices in the ancient Levant. In this talk, Naeh will present some initial results from her ongoing project, where, for the first time, she is able to identify fragments of full-sized ivory thrones used by the Levantines in varied contexts. Originating from several sites from both past and new archaeological excavations, these fragments illuminate a nuanced progression of local throne design. The talk will also explore questions regarding the semiotic nexus between ivory as raw material, and throne imagery—arguing that the symbolism of the ivory as an enlivened, powerful substance, combined with the throne’s anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, and hybrid features—were instrumental in establishing the Levantine throne as a live placeholder for its king.

Liat Naeh has just completed her doctorate at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She was previously an Associate Research Fellow at the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem and a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University and at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. Her area of interest is global exchange focusing on the art, archaeology, and religion of the Bronze and Iron Ages Levant and the ancient Mediterranean. Naeh has published extensively on newly excavated art and cult objects from southern Levantine sites. In 2017, her article “In Search of Identity: The Contribution of Recent Finds to Our Understanding of Iron Age Ivory Objects in the Material Culture of the Southern Levant,” which revisited the unsolved question of southern Levantine production of ivories during the Iron Age, won the Sean W. Dever Memorial Prize for best student paper in the field of Syro-Palestinian or biblical archaeology. Fostering a keen interest in ancient furniture and its ritualistic use, Naeh is the co-editor of a collection of articles on ancient thrones in the Near East titled “The Throne in Art and Archaeology: From the Dawn of the Ancient Near East until the Late Medieval Period” (with Dana Brostowsky Gilboa, to be published by the Austrian Academy of Sciences). At Bard Graduate Center, she will focus on her new project “The Ivory Throne of the Levantines.” This project will involve interpreting Levantine archaeological finds and studying comperanda at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in order to define and reconstruct a previously unknown class of Canaanite Bronze Age ivory thrones that embodied an amalgamation of local and global concepts of authority.