Date of Award

2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Art & Archaeology of Mediterranean World

First Advisor

Lauren Ristvet

Abstract

A new political power, Caucasian Albania, grew in the eastern Caucasus between the collapse of the Achaemenid Empire and the consolidation of the Sasanian Empire (ca. 300 BCE – 300 CE). During this period, the region was a multi-polar intersection of Mediterranean, Iranian, and Steppe zones of interest and socio-political frameworks. Although never comfortably integrated into the Seleucid, Roman, or Arsacid empires, residents in the eastern Caucasus interacted with all of them. Antik Albania, however, has remained at the margins of modern scholarship, creating a gap in our perceptions of the networks flowing across antiquity.

In this dissertation, I provide an archaeological, historical, and historiographic investigation of Antik Albania that addresses that gap. It focuses on Albania’s interactions with the Mediterranean world, while also exploring the ancient Iranian context. Additionally, it examines the intellectual history of the Russian Empire, the Soviet South Caucasus, and contemporary Azerbaijan that generated most archaeological data and previous scholarship on the region.

Building from an examination of textual sources, I consider the way that the landscape of the eastern Caucasus shaped movement and connectivity. The mountainous terrain created distinct transit corridors through the space, but instead of positioning themselves directly along one of these, the Albanians chose to build their base of power in more distant space that controlled a juncture between low- and highlands. Despite their choice of an out-of-the-way location, the material culture associated with Albanian state administration demonstrates that local political authorities constructed their own vocabulary of power, which freely incorporated and re-imagined elements from Mediterranean and Iranian neighbors. Finally, mortuary data reflecting social identity highlight the sustained presence of mobile pastoralist populations connected to the Pontic and Eurasian steppes. These data show the fluidity between elements of the population that have been previously been presumed to be either mobile or sedentary.

Throughout this study, I argue that the ‘remoteness’ of Albania in both its ancient context and within our Anglo-American scholarly one is, in, fact a conceptual strength of the space. It prompts us to wrestle with diverse datasets and conflicting intellectual histories, enriching and expanding our vision of a connected antiquity.

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