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Between Graven Images and Zoroastrian Texts: How to Study Ancient Iranian Religious Iconography?

Feb 21, 2018 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
306 Royce Hall, 10745 Dickson Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095 United States
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Michael Shenkar (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

The study of the Iranian religious iconography has been traditionally bound to the Zoroastrian texts. Deities, animals and symbols have all been usually interpreted based on the descriptions found in the Avesta and in the Middle Persian literature.

However, to treat these problematic texts as a source of Iranian imagery comparable with the Bible for the Byzantine art or with the Buddhist sacred texts for the Buddhist art, is certainly misleading. The potential and the relevance of the Zoroastrian texts even for the interpretation of the Sasanian religious iconography is quite limited, and we should be careful applying their contents to the artistic traditions of other Iranians in different historical periods. Instead, priority should be given to the iconographic analysis in context of Mesopotamian, Hellenistic and Indian religious imagery.

About the Speaker

Shenkar is the Associate Professor of Pre-Islamic Iranian studies. His specialization is the study of civilizations and cultures of the pre-Islamic Iranian world through their material remains and visual representations. His research interests encompass the archaeology, art, and religions of pre-Islamic Iran and Central Asia, including Zoroastrianism (with a particular focus on religious iconography), the culture of the Eurasian nomads, the Sogdian civilization, and the “Silk Roads”. Prof. Shenkar is currently director (together with Dr. Sharof Kurbanov of the Tajik Academy of Sciences) of the excavations at the Sogdian town of Sanjar-Shah (5th-9th centuries CE) in northern Tajikistan.

This event is co-sponsored by The UCLA Asia Pacific Center.

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Feb 21, 2018
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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306 Royce Hall
10745 Dickson Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095 United States
+ Google Map