The Lion Strikes Twice: Levantine-Styled Game Boxes and the Visuality of Myth

When and Where

Thursday, November 26, 2020 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm
Online Zoom Lecture


Dr. Liat Naeh (Archaeology Centre Research Associate)


The Archaeology Centre presents Dr. Liat Naeh (Archaeology Centre Research Associate), who will give a virtual talk on ""The Lion Strikes Twice: Levantine-Styled Game Boxes and the Visuality of Myth."

Registration is required for this event.


During the mid-2nd millennium BCE, at the cusp of a burgeoning international art age, a group of objects stands out: the well-known bone and ivory-inlaid game boxes – found all around the Eastern Mediterranean Basin – featuring the boards of the games Twenty Squares and Senet. These containers, dubbed Levantine-Styled Game Boxes, were adorned by distinct imagery of animal hunt scenes, showing lions or dogs chasing ungulates. Curiously, the animal scenes were always doubled, yet included a subtle difference between two iterations. In this way, I argue, the Levantine artists meant to capture nuances of time and space – to prolong a fleeting moment when, potentially, both the predator and the prey may have still prevailed. So far, scholars viewed such scenes as an apt metaphor for the rivalry between the two players of board games. In this talk, I maintain that the practice of 'repetition with variation' was also a visual version of the poetic language of West-Semitic myth and ritual. I consider such a poetic mode of depiction to complement the religious role of the game of Twenty Squares, which the Levantines employed to predict the future; a role they must have equated with the religious aspects of Senet in Egypt. Thus, the Levantine-Styled Game Boxes are revealed as hybrid objects of syncretism and promising keys into Levantine faith and artistic practice.

Speaker's Biography:

Dr. Liat Naeh is a scholar and a museum professional focusing on the art and archaeology of the ancient Middle East during the Bronze and Iron Ages. She is particularly interested in Levantine artistic practices and ideology in an age of global exchange with the Mediterranean, Egypt, and Mesopotamia. She has published extensively on Levantine bone and ivory carving and ritualistic furniture, and is the co-editor of a recent volume on thrones in the ancient world. Naeh is currently researching 20th-century displays of Biblical Archaeology within museum exhibitions in Israel and beyond. Prior to joining the University of Toronto Archaeology Centre as a Research Associate, Naeh was a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and at the Bard Graduate Center, both in New York. 


The Archaeology Centre