download article as .pdf: Bes figurines from Roman Egypt as agents of transculturation in the Indian Ocean
This paper has the aim to widen the perspective on the study of global interaction through a specific category of objects: terracotta figurines. A new type of terracotta figurines arose in the Indian Deccan area in the period of greater development of transoceanic trade with Roman Egypt. The adoption of foreign elements in this Indian terracotta production can be read, indeed, as an indicator of increasing external contacts, and as the output of a stronger presence into the trade and cultural networks of ancient Globalization. Indo-Roman trade is the best-known part of a wider phenomenon of ancient globalization. The active parties in this trade route were Satavahana India and Roman Egypt. With a multidisciplinary approach it is possible to detect the long lasting outputs of trade contacts in local cultures. Most of all, it is possible to identify the fundamental contribution of apparently unimportant objects like terracotta figurines for personal devotion. From Egypt they reached India and were widespread into the local context; their iconography then merged with pre-existing local cults, imagery and rituals. The case study I will focus on is a peculiar type of Yaksha (nature spirit) figurine dated to the Satavahana period. A link can be indeed traced to the Egyptian representation of Bes. Examples will be used to introduce a new theoretical approach to ancient globalization studies.