Skip to navigation – Site map

HomeAbout the journalActualitésTerracottas in the Mediterranean ...

Terracottas in the Mediterranean Through Time II

Adi Erlich



The Study of Greek Figurative Terracottas: A Cautionary Tale

Jaimee Uhlenbrock, State University of New York, New Paltz, President of the Association for Coroplastic Studies (ACoSt)

According to the Macmillan English Dictionary a cautionary tale comprises a series of events during which something bad happens that then can be used as a warning for the prevention of unfortunate events in the future. While my presentation is not intended to label as “unfortunate” some popular directions that have been taken over the course of the last two centuries in the study of Greek figurative terracottas, it is hoped that it will provide some guidance in the avoidance of future misdirection when interpreting coroplastic material. Most important in this regard is an awareness that past scholarship and current interpretations must be used critically, and that the researcher must be willing to look beneath the veneer of an argument to its core to determine its soundness. With each study that contributes to conclusions I would advise asking its author a simple question: “How do you know that?”

Session 1: Terracottas at Shrines from Corinth

Terracottas from the Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore at Acrocorinth: The Usual and the Unusual Finds

Sonia Klinger, University of Haifa

The typical votives dedicated to Demeter and Kore from the Archaic through the Hellenistic periods raise associations with fertility, agricultural, and human, marriage, and imagery related to the underworld. Observation of the terracotta models from the sanctuary, however, reveals a wider range of imagery.

The proposed paper considers some of the usual and the more unusual finds, and even some unexplained finds. Variation in the imagery requires explanation. Do these differences point to the propitiation of different divinities within the sanctuary? To what extent were there social distinctions in terms of age and gender? Exploration of these questions offers varying viewpoints from which to appreciate the role that terracottas played in the lives of individual members of the community.

Dancers, Riders, and Standing Ladies Leading Figures in Terracotta Assemblages at Small Corinthian Shrines

Theodora Kopestonksy, University of Tennessee

In coroplastic centers such as Corinth, a wide range of terracotta figurines were produced and available for purchase. Not surprisingly, excavations from the sanctuaries at Corinth have revealed terracotta assemblages that include many different types of figurines. However, analysis of the mixed assemblages from the small shrines, shows that, rather than a random mixture, specific types of figurines often were offered in higher numbers than others. Finds from two shrines in particular demonstrate the distinctly different choices made by dedicators for the divinities at each sanctuary. For example, at Kokkinovrysi, dancing groups were the most common offering, representing more than half of the assemblage, which suggests an unusual deity for a roadside shrine: nymphs. In contrast, at the Stele Shrine under the South Stoa, horse and rider figurines dominated the assemblage attesting to a divinity associated with aristocratic and/or masculine pursuits, likely a hero. On the other hand, the Classical Corinthian mold-made standing female figurine (i.e. Kore), although not the prevailing type offered at either shrine, was present in these two and almost every other shrine in Corinth. These observations show that each shrine in Corinth had a distinct character even though they are often categorized together as a homogenous group. When certain figurines, such as the standing female, appear at all the sanctuaries, this suggests that it is an all-purpose type that can have many different identities. These figures help us to understand the appropriateness of certain types of figurines for particular locations and/or divinities. This paper contextualizes these assemblages within Corinth and, ultimately, utilizing comparative data, attempts to reconstruct ritual practice and the meaning of these offerings at small Corinthian shrines.

Session 2: Greek Figurines

Animal and Human Figurines at Minoan Peak Sanctuaries: Interspecies Relationships Expressed in Clay

Céline Murphy, The Heritage Management Organisation

Minoan anthropomorphic and zoomorphic clay figurines from peak sanctuary contexts have frequently been studied in isolation, apart from the rest of their accompanying dataset and their geographical setting. In addition, examinations of figurines representing the human body were prioritised over those of the animals. Moreover, these studies have been primarily oriented towards the figurines’ appearances in attempts to understand the concerns and beliefs they served to communicate. The anthropomorphs have been interpreted as adorants, while the zoomorphs have been considered as simple representations of livestock or domesticated vermin-hunters.

In the light of recent archaeological studies on prehistoric figurines and philosophical research on the animal-human relationship, the above dichotomous, anthropocentric and functionalist perspective needs shifting. I therefore propose to examine both types of Minoan peak sanctuary figurines together and to investigate precisely why they are so frequently associated, but also why a distinction is made between the animal and human bodies. I also consider the geographical location of such sites, and why these specific types of figurines appear together, at mountain-tops, lost in the wild Cretan landscape. Turning to an examination of the figurines’ material composition, I investigate the implications of producing and consuming both figurine types alongside each other.

This paper thus suggests that these Minoan representations of different bodies are indicative of expressions of ontological formulations that can be understood differently than hierarchically. They point to perspectives on agency, indeed share agency, and on the types of interspecies relationships might have existed or have been been imagined at, or around, peak sanctuaries. The animal representation is consequently deconstructed here, meticulously materially examined, before being reconstructed.

Figurines in Context. An Overview of the Figurines from the Sanctuary of Despotiko

Yannos Kourayos, Director of Excavations on Paros

Erica Angliker, PhD candidate, University of Zurich

A large sanctuary dedicated to Apollo and Artemis has been discovered on Despotiko, a small Cycladic island, located in the jurisdiction of Paros, which is not mentioned in any written sources. The structure is of paramount archaeological importance because of its tremendous size and the complexity of its organization; in this regard, (in the context of the Cycladic archipelago), it is surpassed only by the sanctuary of Delos. Excavations have brought forth twenty buildings and numerous marbles statues, jewelry, common artefacts (seated female statues, a few protomes), and fine coroplastic items (vases in the shape of animals and genitalia). This paper sheds light on the cultic uses of these coroplastic items by analyzing, in detail, the entire archaeological context in which these objects were found. In the first part of this paper, we briefly present the importance of the sanctuary and its principal cultic spaces. Then, we systematically present the figurines uncovered at different spaces at the sanctuary. And finally, we discuss the role played by clay items in the sanctuary’s cultic practices, by considering the entire votive deposit. The clay items are also used to discuss aspects of the divinity worshipped at Despotiko (Apollo and Artemis). Moreover, the paper presents some comparisons with figurines found at the Delion on Paros, where similar items were also dedicated to Apollo and Artemis.

Female Terracotta Figurines of the Hellenistic Period Found in Burial Contexts in Bottiaea

Eleni D. Palla, International Hellenic University of Thessaloniki

The hundreds of female figurative terracottas that have been brought to light at the ancient Macedonian geographical region of Bottiaea, and which date back to the Hellenistic period, provide us with excellent information about the typology, diffusion, function, and purpose of those figurines. The established affinities of the terracotta figurines produced by the large terracotta workshops in Pella and Beroia, the two most important cities of Bottiaea in producing clay figurines, reveal the popularity of certain iconographic types and their variants. The main iconographic types were formed in regions of the eastern Mediterranean, and from there they spread to the local coroplastic centers of Macedonia, mainly through the trade in molds. Apart from studying the iconographic types and their diffusion, it is essential that we place figurines in specific contexts. Dealing with issues of the function and meaning of the female figurative terracottas, secure and meaningful burial contexts lead to satisfying conclusions. Modern research in Bottiaea has acknowledged the existence of clay female figurines as grave offerings only in children and female burials, therefore terracotta figurines were part of the funeral ritual and their presence in a funeral context was commensurate with the gender, age, and the religious beliefs of the deceased. Finally, we look at the complex issue of figurine types influenced by their use as grave goods or figurines manufactured regardless their usage?

Session 3. Greek Theater and Grotesques

Behind an Actor's Mask. A Study of Ancient Theatrical Activity in Dobrudia. Through the Coroplastic Finds

Linca Kucsinschi, Nanterre University, Paris

The purpose of this study is to identify and present the terracotta finds from the Romanian shore of the Black Sea that are related to the ancient theater. From this perspective, the study focuses on theatrical activity in three poleis (Tomis, Callatis, Istros) belonging to the Black Sea Area and the its evolution in Roman times, that is, from the 5th century B.C.E to the second century C.E.

The paper will present a thorough study of the iconography of the terracotta masks and actor figurines that were discovered during the first excavations in these three cities. It will also analyze the commercial activity of the area from which these terracottas were brought to light and discuss the problem of the workshops. The ultimate goal of this paper is an understanding of the differences evident among the figurines and masks of these three places in terms of export and import.

This paper finally hopes to present how active the cultural life of the Greek population in Dobrudja was during the Greek and the Roman periods in a globalized world, although certainly in its own local way.

Physically Dysmorphic Votives at the Corinthian Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore

Heather E Bowyer, PhD candidate, Arizona State University

At Corinth, Demeter and Kore’s devotional following is evidenced through the copious remains of terracotta figurines excavated by the American School of Classical Studies between 1961 to 1975 and in 1994. Within this corpus of terracotta figurines beginning in the fourth century B.C.E. and continuing through the second century C.E. exist figures with physically dysmorphic bodies and facial features, including characters believed to represent personages from Middle and New Comedy. Although these types do not dominate the larger votive corpus, their presence deserves analysis.

In this paper, the dysmorphic figurines will first be examined according to their types, sizes, decoration, and production technique. The role of the figurines is validated through their presence at the site and their number. The figurines will be compared to additional Corinthian dysmorphic figurines to ascertain if the Demeter and Kore sanctuary types are localized, or distributed throughout the polis.

Next, a connection of these Demeter and Kore votives to Dionysos during the Late Classical through Roman Imperial periods will be proposed. This suggestion is founded on their presence at the sanctuary, Demeter and Kore’s mythological connection to Dionysos, and the standardization of theatrical performance and its popularity on the Greek mainland during the fourth century B.C.E. Given this evidence, an argument will be made for dysmorphic, Middle, and New Comedy figurines as a characteristic votive offering during this period at the sanctuary.

The Athlete Grotesques of Smyrna The Originality of a Subject of Caricature and the Identification of a Production Workshop

Isabelle Hasselin Rous, Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities, Louvre Museum

The figurines from Smyrna are easily recognizable by their very distinctive clay and careful technique. They are divided in three categories: replicas of well-known statuary types, hand-modeled miniatures, and highly detailed representations of aberrant physical or mental conditions, the so-called grotesques. The last ones are among the most original productions of the city. This article aims to specify the difficult definition of such an atypical production. Furthermore, it points out a very particular type on which few have commented: the athletic caricatures. The question of a specific workshop is also considered.

Session 4. Modern Attitudes: Collections and Fakes

The Collection of Terracottas of Raffaele Gargiulo in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples

Riccardo Berriola, National Archaeological Museum of Naples

This paper will be about the collection of terracottas of Raffaele Gargiulo (1785-after 1864), ceramist and restorer, leading figure of the Museum of Naples, and Neapolitan merchant of antiquities in the twenties and thirties of the 19th century. The sale of his collection to the Museum of Naples was proposed in December, 1852. But it was only after more than two years of negotiating that the sale was finalized on May 29, 1855, for 6000 ducats. In order to understand the figure of Gargiulo as an antiquities and art merchant, 315 documents, kept in the State Archive of Naples and in the Historical Archive of the Archaeological Superintendence of Naples, have been analyzed. By the study of 11 royal decrees dated between 1807 and 1852, the legislative framework in force at the time was rebuilt, as part of the trade and export of archaeological and art objects. In Gargiulo’s collection of terracottas small figurines (443 specimens, or 73.88%) is the most documented class, accounting for about three-quarters of the collection. The provenances recorded are mainly Apulia and Campania, with 578 items, or 95.54%. Most prevalent are the towns of Gnathia, Ruvo, and Canosa in Apulia, and Capua and Cales in Campania. If the architectural material is dated from the end of the 6th century B.C.E. to the 1st century C.E., the coroplastic material lies mostly between the mid-4th to the end of the 3rd B.C.E. The pottery ranges between the 4th century and 3rd century B.C.E., especially that with plastic and polychrome decoration, and achromatic ceramics. The chronology of plastic vessels represented is wider, falling between the late 6th and the 3rd centuries B.C.E. The lamps, finally, are dated to the 1st century C.E.

Terracottas Are a Forger's Best Friend

Kseniya Polezhaeva, PhD candidate, Lomonosov Moscow State University

The history of the art market should be viewed as beginning at the time when there was such a phenomenon as the collecting of antiquities in the second millennium B.C.E. In classical Greece, there were lists with detailed descriptions, such as material, weight, characteristics, name of the customer, etc., and the first suggestion of provenance begins to appear. The phenomenon of the private collection is well documented by the 1st century B.C.E. in Rome. At the same time, the market was flooded with fakes and the first experts to identify them were artists, restorers, and copyists, as well as aesthetes from the nobility.

Now the art market is global; its main players are professional intermediaries (auction houses and private art dealers), experts, restorers and buyers. But there is no clear, understandable pricing. In this situation, the market for ancient Greek and Roman sculpture provides an example of exceptional stability - both from the point of view of consumer interest, and in terms of value. Demand for such items is always there, and prices, although they do not beat records at auctions compared to works of the twentieth century, are quite high.

Hence, it is not surprising that figurines, which were forged in antiquity and in Renaissance Rome, still remain the object of criminal assault. The crimes associated with the circulation of Greco-Roman sculpture occur all over the world. Most often, there are thefts of such items, their illegal removal from sites, and the fraud that is associated with falsification.

When falsifying sculptures, criminals, as a rule, pay special attention to its material and techniques. The most convenient material for making a fake is terracotta. In this it surpasses marble, bronze, wood. Second only to precious metals, the technical and technological research cannot reveal the time of the creation of the work. The popularity of terracotta forgeries is primarily due to the convenience and low cost of their manufacture. This report reviews the milestones in the history of terracotta fakes by examining the cases of Alceo Dossena, Shaun Greenhalgh, and other forgers.

Session 5. Terracottas in the Ancient Near East

Beyond Terracotta Bone and Stone Figurines from Seleucia on the Tigris

Roberta Menegazzi, Centro Ricerche Archeologiche e Scavi di Torino per il Medio Oriente e l’Asia

The site of Seleucia on the Tigris in present-day Iraq provides us with the largest coroplastic corpus of the Seleucid and Parthian Near East, made up of over 11,000 examples. Beside terracottas, twenty archaeological campaigns brought to light around 300 bone and stone figurines, mainly coming from the American excavations of the dwelling block G6. As with the terracottas, the majority of the bones and stone figurines from Seleucia share significant features, such as size, finishing, and iconographies. Since the same subjects were produced in terracotta, as well in stone and bone, the question arises if different materials implied differences in personal or social status of the user, or rather were meant for different uses. The aim of this paper is to present some preliminary results of the study of the bone and stone figurines, focusing in particular on their connections with the terracottas.

A Unique Female Figurine's Head from En Gedi

Anna de Vincenz, W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research

During the 2013 excavation north of the synagogue compound at En Gedi, a unique head of a female figurine was retrieved. This head is hand-made of a light clay and is hollow. The nose is pointed and its continuation forms the eyebrows. The eyes are made by adding two circular clay bands with a small clay dot in the center. The mouth is an incised line, which seems to have cut the lower part of the nose as well. The outstanding feature of this figurine is the hair. It is put together by three twirled bands of clay on each side of the face and four short twirled bands forming a ponytail. The back of the head is covered by ten such twirled bands. The figurine is heavily burnt and the rest of the body (if there was any) is missing. The findspot in the excavation in a destruction layer dated to the Late Byzantine period points to a date into that period, however no parallel has been found.

In this presentation I will be looking at the hairstyle, of which parallels can be found on mosaics in Istanbul and Ravenna, for example. Other parallels can be drawn from Roman sculptures, which show similar hairstyles, or even from earlier examples dated to the Hellenistic period. Analyzing the facial features one is reminded of statues from ancient Mesopotamia, but also of figurines produced during the Late Byzantine and Umayyad period.

Coroplasts as Ritual Experts? The Religious Role of Figurine Producers in the Iron II Levant

Erin Darby, University of Tennessee

This paper explores what ritual knowledge figurine producers possessed and how that knowledge may have been acquired. Did producers maintain their own specialized body of ritual knowledge and religious iconography or did they have access to the knowledge base curated and transmitted by ritual specialists? Did only the leader of a production line need this knowledge? Were religious symbols adapted from other media or were they based in some other visual vocabulary? Was the process of production accompanied by specialized rituals?

While these questions are difficult to answer with surety, they pose challenges to our reconstruction of the production and function of figurines. In fact, our (often unspoken) assumptions about the answers to these questions impact the way we interpret ancient religious objects in general. Furthermore, posing these questions humanizes the production process for cultic objects, complicating our explanations for how such objects were generated. These questions also ask us to articulate our assumptions about visual literacy in the ancient world and which groups of people in a given culture had access to particular types of ritual knowledge.

To that end, this paper first summarizes the current state of knowledge about figurine production in the Iron II Levant, including objects from both domestic structures and non-domestic cultic assemblages. It then compiles ethnographic studies of craftspeople to articulate some of the scenarios that could account for the way coroplasts gain and maintain ritual knowledge. Moving to the textual record, the paper will summarize what can be said about the production contexts of figurines and other cultic items within the Mesopotamian corpus, where figurine ritual texts are in greater abundance. Finally, the paper will address the various possible explanations for how coropolasts may have acquired and curated their ritual knowledge in the Iron II Levant, assessing the likelihood of each explanation.

Session 6. Terracottas from the Iron Age in the Levant

The Characteristics of the Figurine Fragment Assemblage Discovered in the Temple Mount Soil

Aaron Greener, Post-doctoral fellow, Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa

Gabriel Barkay, Bar-Ilan University

Zachi Dvira (Zweig), PhD candidate, Bar-Ilan University.

The Temple Mount Sifting Project (TMSP) is the first comprehensive and systematic archaeological project retrieving and studying artifacts from all periods, which originate from within the Temple Mount Compound. Thus far, the meticulous wet sifting has enabled the discovery of over 250 figurines fragments. The majority date to the Iron Age II, while others are from later periods, especially the Hellenistic, Roman and Early Muslim periods.

We will present several of the interesting figurines from all periods, but focus on the unique characteristics of the Iron Age II Judahite figurine assemblage. A comparison of the TMSP figurines to similar assemblages from Jerusalem and Judah, as well as to those from neighboring regions, highlights the absence of figurines with “foreign” influences at the Temple Mount. We suggest that the reason for this is related to a Judahite rejection of outside influences during Iron Age II, which found its greatest manifestation in the cultic and national center on the Temple Mount. Our broad study and fresh observations allowed us also to make updated generalizations regarding the use of the figurines in Judah during the Iron Age II.

Warriors and Matrons The Late Iron Age Society at Karkemish Through the Coroplastic Arts

Barbara Bolognani, University of Bologna

The paper presents a recent study on the Iron Age clay figurines from Karkemish. Data and results presented in this paper are mostly based on the analysis of new finds from the joint Turco-Italian expedition at Karkemish (2011-2015 campaigns). According to the subject of figurines, these have been divided into two main classes: The Handmade Syrian Horses and Riders (HSHR’s) and the Syrian Pillar Figurines (SPF’s). Many aspects of these figurines are dealt with in this paper, from the definition of types to the manufacturing technique, from the contextual to the iconographic analysis. A precise chronological frame, as well as a defined regional production is also argued. These figurines are, in the fact, the material evidence of the new socio-political scenario under the Assyrian hegemony. The close relationship among these figurines with social changes that took place with the Neo-Assyrian political and military influence is presented here. Costumes, gestures, and subjects portrayed in the coroplastic repertoire are clear indicators of the gradual acculturation of the Assyrian agency to local traditions. Within this flourishing social background, clay figurines represent a miniaturist expression of values and social roles lived by people at Karkemish and in the Middle Euphrates Valley under the Neo-Assyrian domination.

Figurines from Tel Beer-Sheba and Tel Malhata Two Late Iron Age Sites in the Judean Negev

Dr. Raz Kletter, University of Helsinki

The lecture will discuss the figurine assemblages from two sites in the Negev of Judah, dating mainly to the later Iron Age Period: Tel Beer Sheba and Tel Malhata. The Late Prof. Pirhiya Beck defined in her studies the style of the well-known Tel Malhata figurative cult stands. A question can be asked whether the independent figurines from this area and period also exhibit a unique style. Tel Beer Sheba furnished the largest collection of clay figurines found in the Negev so far with 341 items, while Malhata added “only” 79 items. I will discuss various types of figurines (Judean Pillar Figurines, male figures, zoomorphic vessels, horses, horses and riders, birds/snakes, bed mode6sl, a kernos, etc.), and address the similarities and differences between the figurines from these two sites.

Session 7. Production: On Coroplasts, Technology, and Workshops

Techniques of the Coroplast Evidence from the Ancient Marion and Arsinoe

Nancy Serwint, Arizona State University

It is a truism in the artistic corpus of ancient Cyprus that clay was the ubiquitous medium for votive sculpture in most places on the island. Although many sites support this assertion, the cities of Marion and Arsinoe, situated on the northwest coast, evidence the most extensive presence of terracotta sculpture for any one locale. Excavation begun by Princeton University in 1983 produced over 30,000 fragments of terracotta sculpture, and the corpus provides an extraordinary opportunity for the study of the coroplastic arts. Since the conclusion of excavation activities, the Princeton team has embarked on an aggressive investigation of the material remains, and the terracotta sculpture has received particular attention. With a chronological breadth of over 600 years and a range in scale from miniature to over-lifesize, the material is ideal for consideration of how production techniques and manufacturing strategies were practiced over time. Recent study of the material has involved modern replication of the ancient forms, which not only has allowed researchers to reproduce several types of objects, but also has invited consideration, in a most immediate way, of how ancient artisans handled their material and developed expedient work strategies. This paper will offer commentary on the latest phase of the study of the Marion/Arsinoe terracotta coroplastic assemblage, focusing on the techniques employed for small and large-scale works in clay.

Fingerprints on Terracotta Figurines and Oil Lamps from the Late-Roman Beit Nattif Workshop

Achim Lichtenberger, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

Kimberlee Sue Moran, Associate Teaching Professor & Director of Forensics, Rutgers University

The paper deals with an assemblage of waste material from a Late Roman workshop of figurines and oil lamps in Beit Nattif in southern Judaea. The workshop was active around 300 C.E., and the waste of it was found dumped into two cisterns during the Mandate period and later, partly published by Baramki in 1936. More than 700 fragments of oil lamps and figurines were found forming a coherent group of material, which is unique to the southern Levant during this period. The authors analyzed the plastic fingerprints on the objects, which were left during the production of the lamps and figurines when the clay was pressed into moulds. It is possible to identify several individual fingerprints, some of them on multiple objects. In the talk, we present some of the results, which considerably increase our knowledge about workshop organization, workflows in the production and dynamic innovations within a workshop.

Piazza Arditi (Verona) A Coroplastic Workshop between the 1st Century BCE and the 3rd Century CE

Claudia Cenci, Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio per le Province di Verona, Rovigo e Vicenza

Roby Stuani, PhD candidate, Universitat de Barcelona

We are presenting a study of coroplastic material, comprising mostly clay figurines and masks, that was produced in the artisan district of Piazza Arditi, located in the western area of the Verona suburb. WE also will examine the production organization of the atelier dated from the 1st century B.C.E. to the 3rd century C.E. Here several production structures have been identified, including kilns and clay processing tanks.

The oldest stage of the workshop, obliterated during the 1st century C.E., has yielded a good number of clay figurines and ceramic fragments that represent an important cross-sample of the production of Verona in early decades of the 1st century C.E., while the production of terracotta masks, thanks to the archaeological data, is dated to the 2nd and 3rd century C.E.

Session 8. The Ancient Near East

The Figurine from Ouleh and the Iconography of the Ghassulian Chalcolithic

Ianir Milevski, Head of the Prehistoric Branch, Israel Antiquities Authority

Found in a burial cave of the Ghassulian Chalcolithic, the clay figurine from Quleh is quite unique in the repertoire of the period (ca. 4500-3,800 BC) in the southern Levant. The iconography of the figurine, however, fits well with other artifacts of the Ghassulian culture, mostly applications on ossuaries found in several burial caves. The figurine was found in an ossuary of Cave K-1 together with human bones, broken in four parts from which three were restored. Our suggestion is that this figurine is a local representation of the southern Levantine Chalcolithic, while other figurines made of ivory and bone, represent a foreign influence of the Badarian culture in Egypt. This lecture will present the figurine in order to understand both its formal characteristics and its significance within its context in particular, and its “Sitz im Leben” of the Chalcolithic of the southern Levant in general. By introducing the figurine we will discuss not only its iconographic and symbolic values, but also its archaeological find spot.

Why figurines? Reflections on the Production and Possible Significance of Zoomorphic Figurines from Tel Bet Yerah

Nadeshda B. Knudsen, PhD candidate, Tel Aviv University

The study of material culture from prehistoric periods is beset with analytical limitations due to the absence of written or other sources that could facilitate a clear understanding of the proper use and importance of its objects. However, in contrast to the obvious function of most artefacts, the study of miniature animal figurines poses additional challenges as, in themselves, they afford no immediate apparent practical application.

The multiple excavations at Tel Bet Yerah over the last century have yielded a large quantity of such zoomorphic figurines dating to the Early Bronze Age. As part of on-going research on ceramic animal figurines from the southern Levant, this case study offers the opportunity to explore some possible reasons for their production and purpose during the start of the 3rd millennium B.C.E. This was a period of apparent peaceful co-habitation between the local inhabitants and the recently arrived migrant Khirbet Kerak Ware (KKW) people, who are thought to originally derive from Transcaucasia. Both of these groups simultaneously retained their independently distinct material culture packages and their own segregated and particular communal activities throughout this time. Moreover, they were also both consistent in their production and use of distinct miniature zoomorphic figurines.

Viewed through the prism of the period, this paper will incorporate aspects of spatial use and organisation, animal economies and related material culture, as well as the technological and cognitive applications of figurine production. Benefitting from the prime opportunity of intra-site comparisons, an enhanced narrative is offered, indicating that alongside differing types of manufacture, there may equally be varying realms of social and cultural meaning attributable to miniature animal figurines, rather than merely a single over-arching emphasis and identity.

The Iron-Age Coroplastic Production of the Northern Levant Defining Chronologies and Inter-Regional Productions

Barbara Bolognani, University of Bologna

This paper shows for the first time a comprehensive study of the coroplastic art from the Neo-Syrian kingdoms during the whole Iron Age. The study is part of a recently concluded Ph.D. research project that aimed at defining regional trends for the coroplastic production of the northern Levant. Thus, first of all, a general introduction to the many problematics encountered during the research is provided, i.e. the relative paucity of raw data and previous errors of method. Second, the new method adopted in the research is described, demonstrating that the coroplastic art of the northern Levant is characterized by a great heterogeneity in terms of numeric finds, chronologies, and types. Different traditions are in fact tentatively identified in the following micro-regions: the Middle Euphrates Valley (Karkemish, Tell Ahmar, Tell Amarna, Zeytinli Bahçe Höyük, Saraga Höyük, Kefrik, Deve Höyük, Tell Shiukh Fawqani), the Amuq Plain (Tell Tayinat, Tell Judaidah, Chatal Höyük), the Islahiye Valley (Zincirli Höyük), the Aleppo Plateau (Tell Afis, Tell Abou Danne, Tell Rifaat, Neirab), the Upper Orontes Valley (Hama), and the Khabur Valley (Tell Halaf). The heterogeneity of these clay figurines reflects the multi-ethnic character of these Neo-Syrian states. From one hand, during the Iron I period the incursion of the Aegean foreign element has deeply stimulated the local production of part of this large region. From the other hand, toward the end of the Iron II and full Iron III periods we assist to a new growth of figurine finds mirroring the penetration of a new wealthy economic model imported with the Neo-Assyrian provincialization of the northern Levant.

Session 9. Phoenicians Around the Mediterranean

Marking Food Phoenician and Punic Terracotta Moulds

Meritxell Ferrer, Postdoctoral Researcher, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelon

Mireia López-Bertran, Universitat de València

This communication analyses the existence of terracota moulds used to mark food, mostly loaves or cakes. These materials are neither numerous nor studied in depth. It is our intention to focus on three points: first, to prepare a data base with all the moulds recorded so far in the Phoenician and Punic western Mediterranean; second, to offer a contextual analysis of the findings, and, thirdly to undertake an iconographic study keeping in mind that these pieces present mould-made decoration imbued with high symbolic meanings such as demon-like faces or palm trees, among others.

Phoenicia and Beyond: Comparative Analysis of the Persian-Period Terracottas from Tel Dor and Ashkelon

Tanya Sokolsky, M.A. candidate, University of Haifa

Tel Dor is a coastal site in southern Phoenicia. The excavations at Tel Dor, conducted by E. Stern, A. Gilboa and I. Sharon, yielded some 430 Persian-period figurines. Stern published a basic typology for the figurines, dividing them to general types and categorizing them as either eastern (Levantine) or western (Greek). My current study aims at looking at the figurines as an assemblage rather than individual items, by reassessing Stern’s typology, and incorporating quantitative and comparative aspects and petrographic analysis for provenience. The terracotta assemblage may shed light on the social identity of the population at Dor in the Persian period.

My research demonstrates that the categories of "eastern" and "western" types are not useful, but rather the picture is more complex. The new typology points to Phoenician types originating in Cyprus and northern Phoenicia, as well as Greek-influenced types, and many types that are local to Tel Dor. Moreover, despite the "Babylonian Gap" there is a continuity of certain types from the Iron Age, indicating that the Tel Dor population maintained both ancient and new traditions. As a whole, the assemblage is not varied, but quite standardized and is mainly Phoenician in character, emphasizing the association of Tel Dor with Phoenicia.

The Tel Dor assemblage is compared with that of yet another coastal city in southern Israel, Ashkelon. According to historical sources Ashkelon was dominated by Tyre during the Persian period, and therefore considered by many to be Phoenician, despite its distance from Phoenicia proper. This comparison indicates significant differences between the assemblages: The Ashekelon assemblage is much more eclectic and includes many more Greek types than Tel Dor.

This study therefore, shows significant differences between the figurines of Dor and Ashkelon, which shed light on differences in cultural life and traditions of populations in these cities. The differences are viewed in light of the location of the two cities and their status in relation to Phoenicia.

Session 10. Phoenician Terracottas in Cult

The Cult of Youth Phoenician Influence on the Terracottas from the Roman Temple at Omrit

Adi Erlich, University of Haifa

Omrit is located in northern Israel, sitting atop a foothill of Mount Hermon overlooking the Hula valley. The site encloses a cultic complex with three major phases: an early shrine dated ca. 50 B.C.E., a Roman imperial temple of the Herodian period, (ca. 20 B.C.E.) and a second phase of the temple from the time of Trajan (ca. 100 C.E.). During the excavations, about 100 figurine fragments were found throughout the temple and its temenos, dated to the 1st century B.C.E. The terracottas were found scattered in and around the temple, as a result of the constructions activity of the later phase.

The Omrit figurines are divided to two groups. The first group, small-scale figurines (ca. 10-20 cm high) in the Hellenistic tradition, comprises a typical assortment of deities, mortals, and animals. The figurines are well established in the Late Hellenistic-Early Roman period in the Levant. Part of the iconography finds exclusive parallels in Hellenistic Phoenicia, in figurines from Kharayeb and stone reliefs from the Hellenistic shrine at Umm el-Amed, both in the Tyre region.

The second group is of large-scale figurines (ca. 30-50 cm high) of children with upraised arms with open palm, endemic to Omrit. I suggest that they belong to a specific cult performed at the temple, related to rites of passage, and perhaps mystery rituals, or thanksgiving ceremonies for children's welfare and health. Children's cults are known elsewhere in Phoenicia, at the Eshmun temple near Sidon, and the shrine at Kharayeb near Tyre. Furthermore, petrographic analysis points to the Tyre region as the origin of the terracottas. The upper Galilee was under the control of Tyre and Hellenistic-Phoenician influence is evident in nearby sites of the Hellenistic period, such as Tel Anafa and Tel Kedesh. The terracottas from the temple at Omrit render the cult at the site as a local, Phoenician cult of a personal character.

Sunken Votives? Figurines from the Seabed and Seashore in Southern Phoenicia

Meir Edrey, University of Haifa

Assaf Yasur-Landau, University of Haifa

Figurines are the most commonly found popular cult expression in the southern Levant. They can be found in domestic, cultic, or funerary context and are most often interpreted as representing deities, and to a lesser extent humans performing cultic activities. The latter are commonly attributed to the Phoenician culture in the eastern Mediterranean, which exhibits not only a wide range of figurine types, such as the naked female, the pregnant female, musicians, and bakers, as well as other rarer forms, but also the largest caches of figurines found in the southern Levant. At the Phoenician temple at Kharayeb alone, over 15,000 figurines were found dated to the Persian and Hellenistic period, and similar, yet significantly smaller, favissa pits were also found at sites such as Dor, and Akko.

To these contexts, one must add another seldom-mentioned source—the Mediterranean seabed. Since the emergence of underwater archaeology during the mid-20th century, many figurines, as well as other cultic objects, such as ship and boat models, were found on the seabed near Levantine and Cypriot ports. We suggest that the frequent occurrence of such objects in the Mediterranean represent cultic maritime activities performed by sailors on route in the Mediterranean, rather than the cargo of shipwrecks as was previously suggested. An analysis of such finds, their spatial, and cultural context, as well as their chemical composition, may provide evidence for the use of such figurines and other votive objects as offerings presented by mariners to apotropaic deities in the hopes of a safe journey, or as gratitude for their safe return.

The Terracottas of the Iberian Sanctuary of la Serreta (Alcoi-Cocentraina-Penàfuila, Alacant, Spain)

Ignacio Grau Mira, Universitat d’Alacant

Mireia López-Bertran, Universitat de Valènci

Iván Amorós, PhD candidate, SIP, Museu de Prehistòria de València

The terracottas of la Serreta comprise the biggest sample of this material found in Iron Age eastern Iberia. They are formed by nearly 15000 fragments and 434 identified pieces, most of them representing devotees attending to an open-air sanctuary. They are mostly mould-made, although a small sample is hand-made and wheel-made, and more often than not a combination of techniques is recorded. The aim of this presentation is threefold: first, we will explain the system of classification in order to have a complex and comprehensive typology. Second, the main features of each type will be explained. Finally, an interpretation of the materials will be considered, keeping in mind two features: on the one hand, the corporeal issues that these figurines construct in connection to the ritual practices that were undertook at the site, such as gestures and body decoration, and, on the other hand, we will shed light into the social and ritual implications that figurines embodied, such as rites of passage in connection with age and gender, and the value of kinship relations. In all, the Serreta figurines reveal a complex society connected to Mediterranean traditions in representing human bodies (Punic and Greek), using clay, but also adapting the terracottas to the local constructions of people.

Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search