Key Notes

We are happy to announce Katharina Meinecke and Johannes Preiser-Kapeller as Key Notes at the VIS A VIS 2020!

Travelling Images: Late Antiquity’s Visual Culture as a Global System

Katharina Meinecke

Artefacts, and the images they are adorned with, attest to a highly connected visual culture in “long Late Antiquity”(ca. 300 to 800 C.E.). In a period characterized both by enhanced connectivity and increasing political fragmentation, the same iconographic motifs are found in geographically dispersedregions, both within the late Roman-Byzantine world and beyond. On the onehand, decorative motifs of Roman (and later Byzantine) origin appear, mingled with local elements, far beyond the traditional borders of the classical world –in the Germanic West,Himyarite South Arabia, Sasanian Iran, the Umayyad Empire,and as remote as China. On the other hand, motifsespecially of Germanic and Sasanian originare attested in Roman territories. This combination of iconographies fromdifferent traditions in various local contexts created a veritable koinéof images, which was characteristic of the Late Roman and post-Roman world.This is especially true for luxury objects and the decoration of monuments commissioned by royal or elite patrons. This paper will focus on the transfer of images between Late Antique empires and the motivation of the patrons that resulted in this highly connected visual koiné. Exemplified by case studies from different late antique empires, it will reconstructthe different steps of appropriation and translationof iconographic motifsas a cross-cultural circular system, crucial in royal and elite identity formation.

Qusayr Amra

That’s why the object is a tramp. Approaching exchange, distribution, routes and entanglements with the help of archaeological network analysis

Johannes Preiser-Kapeller

The aim of the conference is the exploration of the “(un)known paths” of movement and exchange in the past. Over the last two decades, a growing number of archaeological studies has made use of concept and tools of network theory in order to survey modes, routes and impacts of the mobility of objects across various spatial and temporal scales.

The paper discusses some of the core elements of this approach, its underlying assumptions, methods, technologies as well as its potential and pitfalls. For this purpose, several case studies from the ancient and medieval period are presented and scrutinised, reaching from the individual object or archaeological site up to the level of an entire empire. The main aim is to provide a basis for further critical reflection of the possible use (or abuse) of network analytical tools and terminology for one´s own research and archaeological studies in general.

Visualisation of a network of the distribution of various types of ceramics among archaeological sites in the western Indian Ocean, 1st-6th cent. AD (left) and of the emerging linkages between sites (right) (J. Preiser-Kapeller, OEAW, 2016)