Thursday, January 21, 2021

Primitive Cypriot figurines of the Archaic Period

 Despite rule by artistically sophisticated cultures including the Assyrians and the Egyptians, some Cypriots of the Archaic Period produced simple handmade figurines with crude faces, cylindrical bodies and plain clay trail or pellets to form hats, eyes, ears, etc., known as the snowman technique. Predominantly found in a sanctuary context, these models included not only priestesses and worshipers, but scribes, actors, musicians, mythological creatures, animals, and scenes of rural life.

"Male figurines (soldiers, horsemen, charioteers, worshipers) are usually associated with sanctuaries of male divinities. A characteristic example is the sanctuary of Ayia Irini on the northwest coast of Cyprus. Here, a huge number of terracotta figurines of various sizes (even life-size) were found placed around the altar. Dated in the Cypro-Archaic period (7th-6th c. BCE), they are considered dedications associated with a male divinity that seems to have been worshiped in more than one capacity."

"Female figurines were usually related to the cult of the Great Mother Goddess. The worship of a female fertility deity, possibly identified with Astarte (Ishtar), is attested in Cyprus dating from the Bronze Age. During the Geometric and Archaic periods, the Near Eastern Astarte merged with the local Aphrodite, who was venerated in Cyprus in large temples, such as those at Kition and Palaepaphos, as well as in numerous rural sanctuaries. There are several iconographic types, all related to ritual activities associated with the cult of a fertility deity: priestesses with hieratic garments, frequently holding powerful symbols of fertility, such as birds, flowers or fruits, worshippers with uplifted arms, musicians (tambourine and flute players), and  ceremonial dancers. There is also a number of nude female figurines. This type had been extensively used in North Syria to depict Astarte but was rather strange to Cyprus, where female figures were almost always shown dressed. Female figurines are frequently found in graves, too, suggesting that the fertility goddess was also a symbol of regeneration." - Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens

Terracotta statuette of a man riding a donkey, ca. 600–480 B.C.E., Cypriot at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The man steadies two large jars that are fastened in front of him on either side of the animal's back. The jars are types that would hold wine or olive oil. The statuette captures what would have been a frequent sight, not only in ancient Cyprus but also for centuries thereafter. 

Terracotta group: making flour, ca. 600–480 B.C.E., Cypriot, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The figure at the right is grinding grain in a quern with an elliptical stone. Her companion stands over a sieve that is probably set on a low wicker tray or basket. At the left end is a large shallow scoop. Vignettes of daily life, particularly the preparation of bread, are common among Cypriot terracottas of the Archaic period. They have come to light mainly in tombs. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

Terracotta woman baking bread, ca. 600–480 B.C.E. Cypriot, , at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In a representation known from only two examples, a woman is shown leaning over an oven and throwing the disks of dough onto the hot walls. The oven has a hole at the bottom for air to enter and a wide mouth at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Terracotta figurine tomb gift of a woman coverying her mouth 600-500 BCE, Cypriot, that I photographed at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. 

Terracotta horse and rider tomb gift, Cypriot, 600-600 BCE, that I photographed at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
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