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Fenicios, Griegos y Cartagineses en Occidente.

By Jose Maria Blazquez. Historia, serie menor. Madrid: 1992. Pp. 546 (paper).

Since 1980, Spanish and German archaeologists have transformed our knowledge of Phoenician and Carthaginian archaeology in Spain, making it clear that a Semitic cultural presence was established by 800 B.C. in Andalusia, and that it exercised a profound influence on the autochthonous peoples. Fruits of this interaction were the Tartessian and Iberian civilizations, established by 600-550 B.C., and which flourished for three centuries.

Professor Jose Maria Blazquez is a prominent investigator in this field, known as an ancient historian and textual commentator, as well as the excavator of the city of Castulo on the middle reaches of the Guadalquivir River. He has long defended the importance of the Semitic contribution to western Mediterranean cultures and has correctly insisted that it cannot be marginalised. This book gathers together twenty-six of his published essays, twenty-three of them since 1982. They are grouped thematically and chronologically, accompanied by big, modern bibliographies, and explicitly intended for the convenience of students. The illustrations are few and small. As a tool for students, this compilation is sensible; but the bibliographies are repetitive and indiscriminate, making it hard to know which are the important primary sources. The decision to include few visual aids hinders the narrative that relies heavily on the readers' knowledge of Iberian and Mediterranean topography.

The essays are mainly on the Phoenician presence in the far west (439 out of 541 pages of text). The opening essay dates from 1983 and is an overview that includes materials published up to 1980. The next three concern the dating of engraved stelas of warrior graves in the southwest. Other essays discuss orientalizing ceramic sequences, or impart a summary on such diverse subjects as cult spaces at Castulo, carved ivories from Cancho Roano, and the Greek element in the sculptures from Porcuna (Obulco). Historical themes figure too: the Greek origin of the Geryon myth, the Carthaginian Empire in Spain, and Carthaginian mining in Spain.

Uniting all these studies is a normative, positive view of ancient history and archaeology. Texts are privileged over archaeological data, which are taken at face value, and gaps in the text-based history are filled in with artifacts, without resolving the incongruities that result. The end product is a vision of the Semitic west that is not so much unsympathetic as unimaginative. The approach is historically conservative and linguistic. While this can be defended, it is achieved at the price of relegating the anthropological insights that enrich our understanding of Etruria and Greece. In fact, Phoenician-Carthaginian trade can be seen as a cultural process expressed as successive modes: from diplomatic trade to entrepots to emporia. The classical texts do not clarify this, but anthropological models certainly do. Other writers address the materials differently, and their revisions of Carthaginian Spain and the Iberian cultures will be awaited with interest.
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Author:Harrison, Richard J.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1994
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