Nicholas Salmon

Between Asia and Europe: Mediterranean networks and island identity on Rhodes, 8th to 5th centuries BC

Supported by

Arts and Humanities Research Council

Using archaeological assemblages excavated on Rhodes, this research project focuses on questions of identity within the dynamic context of maritime interaction.

Start Date: October 2014
End Date: October 2017
Theme: Objects, meanings and knowledge, Ocean trade and connections
Research discipline: Archaeology
Locations: Europe, Middle East
Staff member: Alexandra Villing
Department: Department of Greece and Rome
University and department: Department of History, Classics and Archaeology, Birkbeck College, University of London
University supervisor: Christy Constantakopoulou and Caspar Meyer

How is it possible to establish object provenance?

A multi-pronged approach will explore the use of scientific methods, such as Neutron Activation Analysis (NAA), along with typological and stylistic approaches.

What kind of imported material has been found on Rhodes?

A range of foreign material was used as votive offerings and grave goods. These include ivory figures of Egyptian deities and pottery imported from Cyprus, Corinth and Athens.

Where did Rhodes establish new settlements during the Archaic period?

We know from literary sources and archaeological evidence that Rhodes was involved in the foundation of Naukratis in Egypt as well as Gela and Akragas in Sicily.

About my research

As a significant point of contact in the eastern Mediterranean, Rhodes was subject to power politics ranging from Assyrian, Persian and Athenian imperialism during the first millennium BC.

Recent scholarship on Archaic Greek networks (800-480 BC) has focused on literary sources, which has led to broad claims about cultural identities and practices. Archaeology rarely features as evidence, and even if it does, the resulting studies often do not account for major advances in the understanding of material culture. A prime example is East Greek pottery, once believed to be locally produced on Rhodes but now recognised as mostly imported from Ionian cities.

This project seeks to address this imbalance by using artefacts excavated from Rhodes to explore how local and foreign products were used to negotiate identity on the island.

Oinochoe excavated at Kameiros.

Head of terracotta kouros excavated at Kameiros.

Aims of my research

The British Museum holds archaeological assemblages from Rhodes, mostly tomb groups and sanctuary dedications from the cities of Kameiros and Ialysos, which were excavated by Alfred Biliotti and Auguste Salzmann during the 19th century.

The project’s aim is to compare assemblages across Rhodian cities, trade harbours and sites within the island’s trade network, including Naukratis, to provide an insight into ritual and everyday practices of the people who lived there. In doing so, the project seeks to understand the context of Rhodes’ colonial foundation legends and the synoikismos of the three Rhodian cities (Kameiros, Lindos and Ialysos) in 408 BC.

The project also aims to reconstruct the original archaeological context of the British Museum’s Rhodian material dating from 800 to 500 BC. A diary of the excavations, along with related correspondence, will allow artefacts to be sorted into their original find-spots. A further objective is to produce a graphic record of these find-spots in order to assist archaeological landscape analysis.