The Cypriot Collection of the National Archaeological Museum...>>

Cypriot female figurines

Material: Clay
Height: 0,15-0,19m.
Date: Late Cypriote period (1450-1200 BC)
Place of Exhibition: Room 64 (Collection of Cypriot Antiquities) nos. 14646, 22654, 11935, 11935

These hollow handmade female figurines are typical examples of the so-called 'base-ring' ware of the Late Cypriot period. They are nude, frontal and bird-faced, whilst their anatomical details are rendered by means of incision. The figures consist of three parts joined together before firing. The solid head displays a number of dominant features, such as the large flat hooked nose, the impressed pellets for eyes and the symmetrical flat ears perforated with two large holes from which hang large, dangling ringlets of clay. The bird-like face suggests some Syrian prototype. The torso, which widens around the hips and the legs and narrows towards the toes, was executed around a piece of wood, which was then removed before firing. Figurines of this type hold their hands in front of their breasts or touch them. In other examples, they place their arms on their waist or hold a baby or a bird. The impressed rings around their neck may be intended to suggest a necklace. Horizontal lines are incised above the navel and occasionally there are diagonals between the breasts. The pubic triangle is outlined with a double line and filled with parallel lines of oblique incised grooves. The figurines are apparently standing on tiptoe.

Figurines of this type are mainly found in tombs on Cyprus and it has been suggested that they symbolize regeneration. Indications of the presence of fertility rituals conducted in open air Cypriot sanctuaries are found throughout the Bronze Age.

The Great Goddess was the most important deity in Cyprus from the Chalcolithic Age (3900-2500 BC) onwards, the Paphos region being the primary centre of her worship. Of eastern origin, she protected agricultural fertility and productivity. The Great Goddess was adopted by the Achaean colonists who arrived in Cyprus in the 12th-11th century BC, who knew her as 'Anassa'. She protected the king, the state and, together with the so-called "ingot god", metallurgy. Later, the Greeks of the mainland included the Cypriot Great Goddess in their pantheon, naming her 'Aphrodite', whom Homer calls Kypris' ('Cypriote') and Hesiod considers to be of Cypriot birth. The Phoenicians, after settling at Kition in the 9th century BC, identified the Great Goddess with their main deity, Astarte.

ibliography: V. Karageorghis, The coroplastic art of ancient Cyprus, II. Late Cypriote II-Cypro-Geometric III ( 1993) 3-12. Idem, Ancient Cypriote art in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens (thens 2003) 82-83.

Position in the museum