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Clay figurines were produced in Greece from the prehistoric period down to Late Antiquity. They are usually statuettes or reliefs of baked clay and are found in large quantities at all ancient sites. They served as dedications for domestic shrines and decorative items for houses, grave gifts made as part of burial rites or offerings to deities in sanctuaries. They were often buried in sacred deposits (bothroi=pits).

Archaeological contexts and the stylistic and typological evolution of the figurines themselves provide evidence for their study. Their variety gives an insight into the public and private life of ancient Greeks.

The clay figurines in the Ioannis Misthos Collection occupy a very important place among antiquities donated from time to time to the National Archaeological Museum. Most of these come from Myrina and were presented to the Museum in 1884.

Myrina, named after the Amazon of the same name, was an ancient city of Aeolis in Asia Minor and was situated between Smyrna and Pergamon, to which it was annexed in the 3rd century B.C. The city was destroyed by an earthquake in 106 A.D.

Myrina was of little political importance in ancient times. It became famous centuries later when the grave offerings from its cemetery came to light. Most of these are figurines dating from the Late Hellenistic and Roman period. The cemetery was known to the villagers of Asia Minor as early as 1870, and it was probably from them that Ioannis Misthos, who came from Asia Minor, bought the figurines. The Myrina cemetery was excavated by the French Archaeological School of Athens between 1880 and 1883.

Bibliography: National Archaeological Museum (Áthens 2010) 90-93 [Ch. Ávronidaki-Ĺ. Vivliodetis]