Jewish Identities and Traditions within the Hellenistic Period: Funerary Unguentaria as Evidence of Inventive Tradition
This work argues that unguentaria, a material often overlooked within theoretical studies, has untapped potential to further contemporary models of identity formation. This argument is framed within the observation that though recent scholarly efforts have argued against essentialist presentations of Hellenistic Jewish identities, these efforts tend to rely heavily upon textual evidence. Such a reliance is problematic because these sources relate the perspective of only a select, "elite" portion of Jewish society. This thesis uses a case study focused upon burial unguentaria from Jerusalem to assert that unguentaria may be used to counter this limitation. The vessels’ capacity to amend this current situation rests in the very characteristic which has for so long kept them isolated from theoretical studies, namely their ubiquity throughout the material record. The case study begins with a short descriptive overview, after which the significance of unguentaria within contemporary theories of inventive tradition and narrative identity formation is outlined. Upon discussing how unguentaria relate to ideas of non-essentialized identity construction, this thesis then contextualizes its theoretical application of unguentaria within current text-based scholarly trends, especially the here-termed "engaged model." The project concludes by reiterating that unguentaria should not be viewed as inconsequential materials but instead dynamic components of the archaeological record with the capacity to positively inform ongoing scholarly discussions.
Barrett, Caitlin Eilis
Master of Arts
dissertation or thesis