Lamia Sassine


Department of Archaeology

Research Student

  • MA in Artefact Studies, University College London, 2013-2014. Merit
    • Dissertation Title: Beyond Stereotypes: “Phoenician” Identity and Material Culture
  • BA in Archaeology, American University of Beirut, 2010-2013. Dean’s Honor List Fall 2011-Spring 2013. Distinction
Research interests

I am principally interested in the relationships between material culture, heritage, and identity, as well as in perceptions in archaeology. My other research interests include museum studies, accessible archaeology and outreach, theory, and Mediterranean archaeology from the Bronze and Iron Ages.

Thesis: Elusive Phoenicians: Perceptions of Phoenician Identity and Material Culture as Reflected in Museum Records and Displays Abstract

My research focuses on the material culture of Phoenicia, usually defined as the region in which several Iron Age (c.1200-300 BCE) city-states lay in the central Levantine coast, as well as the colonies established by those city-states in the Mediterranean, referred to as the ‘Punic world’.

The project aims to investigate the part played by different historical and modern perceptions of Phoenician culture and identity in the presentation and interpretation of what is and has been regarded as Phoenician material culture in different Mediterranean and European museums.

Given the chequered history of perceptions of Phoenicians in different national and intellectual contexts from antiquity until relatively recently, it seems likely that attitudes to what constitutes objects of Phoenician material culture will also have varied from place to place and from time to time.

Central to the thesis is consideration of notions of identity in relation to material culture, and how these have changed over the last 150 years or so.

In particular, the difficulties of assigning individual objects to specific cultures, ‘ethnicities’ or geographical regions within the context of modern archaeological approaches to ancient identity will be explored, as will some of the certainties that informed the views of earlier generations at a time when culture, language, ‘homeland’ and ethnicity were seen as largely indivisible, especially within the context of the western ideology of the nation state, and when culture history was the dominant form of archaeological interpretation.

Also crucially important is an appreciation of accounts of, and attitudes to, Phoenicians from antiquity onwards, which have undoubtedly fed into more modern European views. This will be gained from key ancient (Greek, Roman and Biblical) sources, as well as more modern (especially 19th and 20th century) European writings, both literary and archaeological/historical.

The core of the research focuses on museum displays and records pertaining to Phoenician material culture. Museum displays across the Mediterranean will be studied to see what is identified as Phoenician, why it is identified as such, and how it is interpreted.

Where available, accession records and archives will be consulted to see whether views of what is Phoenician have changed over time.

Among questions asked will be: Do different museums show similar conceptions of what is or is not Phoenician, and how selective are they in this respect? To what extent does what is displayed as ‘Phoenician’ derive from historical stereotypes inherited from past attitudes, and to what extent does it now seem legitimate to identify it as Phoenician (e.g. as a result of find location or context, or more nebulously by style, material or manufacturing technique)? Does museum labelling indicate instances in which views of whether or not an object is Phoenician may have changed since the object was acquired?

The aims, in short, are to gain a better understanding of the history of perceptions of Phoenician identity and how these have affected identification and presentation of Phoenician material culture.

Research group


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