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Early Iron Age Terracottas from Southern Portugal: Towards the Definition of a Regional Coroplastic Tradition

Francisco B. Gomes

Abstract

At the beginning of the Iron Age, the iconographic output of the communities of southwestern Iberia was radically changed by the introduction of a rich and diverse imagery with Near Eastern roots brought to the Far West by the Phoenician diaspora. Coroplasty, however, does not seem to have been a popular medium for iconographic expression within Phoenician and “Orientalizing” groups. In this regard, the communities of the inner Alentejo region of southern Portugal constitute an exception, as they developed an expressive coroplastic production that clearly outweighs other artistic media. This tradition was based on the selective adoption and adaptation of specific oriental motifs, essentially zoomorphic representations, among which representations of bulls and birds are predominant. The rural and heterarchical nature of these communities meant that coroplastic production was decentralized and heterogeneous, but a number of common features can be glimpsed that unify this production in a coherent coroplastic production.

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“Religion decays, the icon remains; a narrative is forgotten, yet its representation still magnetizes (the ignorant eye triumphs – how galling for the informed eye).”

(J. Barnes, A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, p. 133. Vintage, 2016 [1989].)

1. Changing times, changing images

  • 1 Arruda 1999–2000, 2014.
  • 2 Gomes 2015.
  • 3 In this paper, the term “Orientalizing” will be used in a broad sense to refer to the predominantly (...)
  • 4 Gomes 2015; 2016.

1In southern Portugal, as in the remainder of the southwestern Iberian Peninsula, the transition from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age entailed a deep social, political, and cultural transformation. The arrival of the first Phoenician merchants and colonists to the Iberian Far West1 seems to have had an overarching effect on the regional socio-political networks, throwing off the delicate balances on which their workings depended.2The ensuing restructuration gave rise to a complex and diversified cultural panorama, in which different communities developed specific identity and representation formulas based on changing combinations of local/regional elements with others drawn from the oriental and/or the “Orientalizing” cultural repertoire.3 Those formulas were structured, articulated and deployed to cope with each group’s (real or perceived) position in the new overall geopolitical network.4

  • 5 Celestino Pérez 2001; Díaz-Guardamino Uribe 2010.

2Within this context of rapid and intense change, the iconographic production of southern Portuguese communities also underwent a clear and rather drastic transformation. The Late Bronze Age iconographic output, in fact, had been very limited, consisting mostly of some representations connected to the tradition of the so-called “warrior stelae,” most of which have been found further inland, in an area roughly centered around the Middle Guadiana valley.5

  • 6 Viana et al. 1953, 133.
  • 7 Gomes and Monteiro 1977.

3The southern Portuguese stelae related to that tradition – those of Figueira (Lagos)6 and Ervidel II (Aljustrel)7 – show an emphasis on anthropomorphic representations, albeit schematic, accompanied by weaponry and other elements pertaining to the Late Bronze Age power and status apparatus, being altogether representative of the more characteristic iconographic features of these “warrior stelae.”

  • 8 Aubet 1984.

4The arrival of oriental groups to the Iberian Peninsula and the establishment of close and interdependent relationships between these newcomers and the regional indigenous groups had a profound impact on this general panorama, with the limited Late Bronze Age iconographic models all but disappearing and a new and complex imagery coming into being. In fact, the western Phoenician colonies seem to have acted as hubs from which craftspeople possessing a rich and complex Near Eastern iconographic repertoire began producing prestige goods that – at least in part – fuelled trade relationships with local elites and created the general social and political background for the development of the so-called “Orientalizing” horizon.8

  • 9 Jiménez Ávila 2002; 2017a.
  • 10 Almagro Gorbea, 1986; Nicolini 1991; Celestino Pérez and Blanco Fernández 2006.
  • 11 Le Meaux 2010.
  • 12 Almagro Gorbea and Torres Ortiz 2010.
  • 13 Murillo Redondo 1989; Blánquez and Belén 2003; Belén et al. 2004; Le Meaux 2010.
  • 14 Ciasca 1995.
  • 15 Horn 2005; 2011.
  • 16 Ramírez and Mateos 1992; 1993–1994; Ferrer Albelda 1995–1996; Jiménez Flores 2007.
  • 17 Jiménez Ávila 2002.
  • 18 Le Meaux 2010.

5In the Atlantic Far West, this oriental and “Orientalizing” imagery was represented and diffused through different media, including bronze casting,9 gold10and ivory working,11 stone sculpture,12 and pottery painting.13 Curiously, terracottas, which played a significant role in the iconographic production of other areas of the Mediterranean touched by the Phoenician presence,14 were not a particularly popular medium for the western Phoenician communities, nor, for that matter, for their indigenous counterparts. In fact, even if terracottas are not completely unknown in Phoenician and “Orientalizing” contexts,15 and a probable Late Archaic workshop has tentatively been located in the Phoenician colony of Gadir,16 the coroplastic output remained comparatively limited when compared to that of other media, such as works in bronze,17 or even ivory.18

  • 19 Beirão and Gomes 1984; Beirão 1986; Deus and Correia 2005; Arruda 2016a; 2016b; Gomes 2018.
  • 20 Correia 1986; 1990–1992; Jiménez Ávila 2002.

6Southern Portugal, however, constitutes a clear exception to this situation. Coroplasty is, in fact, the most frequent medium for local iconographic production, especially among the communities of the interior of the Lower Alentejo region19(Fig. 1; Table 1). This trend is further emphasized if we set aside the possible production of Phoenician and/or “Orientalizing” workshops located elsewhere20 and consider only those elements that were clearly produced locally/regionally (see below).

Fig. 1. Distribution of Early Iron Age terracottas in southern Portugal. A. “Beja Group.” 1, Palhais; 2, Cinco Réis 8; 3, Carlota. B. “Ourique-Aljustrel Group.” 4, Fonte Santa; 5, Chada; 6, Cerro do Ouro; 7, Corte Margarida. C. “Neves-Corvo Group.” 8, Corvo 1. D. “Alcácer do Sal Group.” 9, Olival do Senhor dos Mártires

Table 1. Early Iron Age terracottas from southern Portugal: basic data.

  • 21 Beirão and Gomes 1984; Beirão 1986.
  • 22 Horn 2011.
  • 23 Arruda 2016a; 2016b.
  • 24 Maia 2008; Gomes 2018.

7Despite being known for some time now,21 this significant coroplastic production has not been addressed in recent analyses of Iron Age terracottas in the Iberian Peninsula.22On the other hand, the available panorama has recently been enriched by new finds23 and the presentation of unpublished material from older excavations.24 Both these facts justify a new integrated analysis of the corpus of southern Portuguese Early Iron Age terracottas and an attempt to systematize it from an iconographic, functional, and cultural point of view.

2. The corpus: groups and materials

  • 25 See Jiménez Ávila 2017a.

8Although there are valid reasons to consider the terracottas produced by the Early Iron Age communities of southern Portugal as part of a wide, shared iconographic and coroplastic tradition (see below), the study and interpretation of these elements cannot be dissociated from the diversity of the archaeological record of these communities, which has further been emphasized by recent discoveries and research.25

  • 26 Gomes 2016.

9As far as our current knowledge goes, it seems clear that despite being closely linked and interdependent, the southern Portuguese communities followed somewhat different socio-political and cultural paths during the Early Iron Age. Material culture, architecture, and especially funerary practices, in fact, seem to indicate the existence of different local/sub-regional entities which, despite many shared features, also show unmistakable specificities reflecting different positions in regional networks as well as different socio-political and identity strategies developed in the framework of those networks.26

10Despite their shared medium and technical commonalities, the coroplastic materials studied in this contribution also reflect this internal diversity: some distinctive productions can be associated with specific sub-regional archaeological groups, a fact that should be considered when analysing the regional iconographic tradition. Therefore, in the following pages these terracottas will be divided into four distinct groups, the specificities of which will be analyzed before the discussion of those aspects that can be said to unify these materials in a significant regional coroplastic tradition.

2.1. The “Beja Group” (Fig. 1, A)

  • 27 Arruda 2016a; 2016b; Salvador Mateos and Pereira 2017; Santos et al. 2017.
  • 28 Santos et al. 2017.
  • 29 Salvador Mateos and Pereira 2017.
  • 30 See Jiménez Ávila 2017a.

11The terracottas attributed to the “Beja Group” are among the most recently discovered and studied Early Iron Age coroplastic finds from southern Portugal, having significantly enlarged the regional repertoire while raising interesting questions regarding its internal diversity and stylistic seriation.27 This material was unearthed from three necropoleis of the sixth century B.C.E., Palhais,28 Carlota, and Cinco Réis 8,29 that were uncovered during construction of the Alqueva irrigation system in the interior of Lower Alentejo, and form part of a larger group of funerary sites also identified during this construction activity. These necropoleis share very similar characteristics, including the nearly exclusive inhumation of the dead in individual (or, more rarely, double) rock-cut tombs, some of which are surrounded by quadrangular enclosures defined by rock-cut ditches, and the richness and diversity of funerary offerings and trappings accompanying the dead.30

  • 31 Arruda 2016a.
  • 32 Horn 2011, 66; for a regional perspective, see Beirão et al. 1985.

12The individuality and discreet nature of this funerary group within the regional Early Iron Age horizon also extends to the associated coroplastic production. This includes distinctive hand-made, high-stemmed cups with plastic decoration in the form of small birds applied along the rim oriented inward (Fig. 2).31 This use of applied coroplastic elements to decorate vessels appears to be exclusive to this area and to this particular archaeological horizon, with no known parallels in the regional Early Iron Age. In fact, the use of coroplastic decorations applied to different types of vessels only becomes somewhat more common in Late Iron Age Iberia,32but even then, examples strictly comparable to these objects from Beja are rare (see below).

Fig. 2. “Beja Group.” Cups/burners with coroplastic decoration: nos. 1–3, Palhais (after Santos et al., 2017); n. 4, Cinco Réis 8 (after Salvador Mateos & Pereira, 2017).

  • 33 Santos et al. 2017, 242249.
  • 34 Santos et al. 2017, fig. 15; see also Arruda, 2016ª, figs. 57.
  • 35 Santos et al. 2017, fig. 15.
  • 36 Santos et al. 2017, fig. 15

13In the necropolis of Palhais (Beringel, Beja), three such cups have been brought to light. One of these (Fig. 2, n. 1) was found in a primary context in a small niche connecting to the ditch that delimited the only funerary enclosure excavated in the site, which also contained several other offering vessels.33 This cup comprises a hemispherical bowl with a hollow, apparently cylindrical or slightly conical stem, and also appears to have had a set of nine terracotta birds applied over the rim; only one was still attached to the cup at the time of the excavation, but three others that had broken off also were found.34The surviving examples show a bird with a well-modeled body, a relatively long beak, a thin neck, stylized wings, and a tapering tail, with features that are fairly schematic.35The cup also had been painted, as its interior is fully coated by a red slip, while the exterior shows a painted radial decoration which leaves the areas underneath the terracotta birds in reserve.36

  • 37 Santos et al. 2017, 247.
  • 38 Santos et al. 2017, fig. 16, n. 3.
  • 39 Santos et al. 2017fig. 16, n. 2.

14Unfortunately, the remaining two cups from Palhais were not recovered from their primary contexts, although they also may have originally been deposited in the aforementioned niche.37The better preserved of the two (Fig. 2, n. 2) has a hemispherical bowl, a massive stem, and a hollow, hemispherical, bowl-like foot. It preserves a single bird with a more schematic head and body than those of the example described above, although the latter is decorated with incised lines meant to represent the wing feathers; the tail of the bird is missing.38A third example (Fig. 2, n. 3), a cup with a conical bowl whose stem has not been preserved, has an applied coroplastic decoration representing the head and body of a bird, like those of the first cup mentioned above, but this bird also has more detailed features, such as small holes for eyes and incised lines representing feathered wings.39

  • 40 Arruda 2016a, fig. 11; Salvador Mateos and Pereira 2017, 344–345.
  • 41 Salvador Mateos and Pereira 2017, fig. 10.
  • 42 Salvador Mateos and Pereira 2017, fig. 10.
  • 43 Salvador Mateos and Pereira 2017, 344.

15Two additional examples of this type of cup with coroplastic decoration have been found in the necropolis of Cinco Réis 8 (Santiago Maior, Beja) (Fig. 2, n. 4) in the northern and eastern corners of a ditch that delimited the only funerary enclosure excavated in the site.40 Both cups are very similar, comprising roughly conical bowls, massive stems, and flaring bases.41 Each of them was decorated with eight terracotta birds applied over the rim that have well-modeled bodies, but somewhat more schematic heads and features.42The surfaces of these cups also show traces of red painted decoration.43

  • 44 Salvador Mateos and Pereira 2012, 321 and fig. 12.
  • 45 Salvador Mateos and Pereira 2012, 321 and fig. 12.
  • 46 Salvador Mateos and Pereira 2017, fig. 4.

16The necropolis of Carlota (São Brissos, Beja) has also yielded one of these cups, once again retrieved within one of the ditches that delimited the funerary enclosures of that necropolis.44This cup was decorated with two terracotta birds applied over the rim, although in this case the poor preservation of the vessel and its decoration severely hinders any stylistic considerations.45 Additional coroplastic material also was retrieved within the ditch of the aforementioned enclosure, although its poor state of preservation does not allow for any in-depth analysis; the exception is a single elongated bird figurine, very schematic, that could correspond to a vessel decoration itself.46

  • 47 Arruda et al. 2017.
  • 48 Arruda 2016a, fig. 13; Arruda et al. 2017, Fig. 11, no. 160.

17Finally, mention must be made of yet another high-stemmed cup with conical bowl, massive stem, and flaring base, recovered in the necropolis of Vinha das Caliças 4 (Trigaches, Beja).47 This cup presents the traces of four decorative elements applied over the rim, in all likelihood also terracotta birds; unfortunately, however, none of these has survived and the terracotta elements themselves have not been located during the excavation.48

  • 49 See Dias et al. 1971, 204.
  • 50 Arruda 2016a, figs. 15–17.
  • 51 Kurtz and Boardman 1971, fig. 9; Coldstream 2003, fig. 37, d.
  • 52 Brock 1951, n. 551.

18As mentioned earlier, these cups with plastic decorations are a very specific feature of the material culture of the newly-identified necropoleis of the Beja region. This type of vessel does not have any precedents in the pottery repertoire of the regional Late Bronze Age, while close Early Iron Age parallels are also very scarce,49making these cups a particularly characteristic element of the local pottery repertoire. It already has been pointed out that the application of bird figurines over the rims of different types of vessels is well documented in other Mediterranean contexts, including several Early Cypriot examples.50 Other, more recent, decorated cups are seen in some Late Geometric miniature cauldrons from the Athens 894 Workshop retrieved in Athenian tombs,51 or an equally Late Geometric bowl from Tomb X of the necropolis of Fortetsa in Crete.52

  • 53 Jiménez Ávila 2002; Graells i Fabregat 2006.
  • 54 López Palomo 1981, fig. 23.
  • 55 Beirão et al. 1985, 115.

19That said, it is difficult to trace a direct line between these much older examples and the material from southern Portugal discussed above. Nonetheless, the Mediterranean origin of the concept of applying plastic, figurative elements to the rims of vessels remains a viable hypothesis, and perhaps the missing links in the chain could be found in other media, such as bronze casting.53 On the other hand, this type of cup with coroplastic decoration practically disappeared from the southwestern Iberian archaeological record after these enclosure necropoleis of inner Alentejo ceased to be used. Only a few cups/burners comparable to these are known in Late Iron Age contexts, such as a cup from Alhonoz (Seville) with two terracotta birds decorating its stem,54 and a possible perfume burner with ornitomorphic terracotta handles applied to the rim that was found in the votive deposit of Garvão (Ourique) and mentioned in passing in a preliminary report of its excavation.55

  • 56 Santos et al. 2009, 73.
  • 57 Arruda et al. 2017, 197.
  • 58 Arruda 2016a.
  • 59 Arruda 2016a.

20A final note must be made regarding the function of these cups both in general and in the particular context of these necropoleis. It has been proposed that they may, in fact, have been used as perfume burners/ thymiatheria,56 an interpretation that seems to be confirmed by the presence of burn marks on the interior of the example from Vinha das Caliças 4.57 Their position within the funerary landscape, systematically placed inside the ditches that delimit the funerary enclosures or, in the case of Palhais, in a niche connected to one such ditch,58seems to suggest that these cups/burners played an essentially ritual role during the consecration of the funerary space and/or during the burial, as duly noted by other researchers.59 The iconography of their coroplastic decoration further emphasizes their religious role, as will be discussed below.

  • 60 Arruda 2016b; Salvador Mateos and Pereira 2017, fig. 11.
  • 61 Arruda 2016b, 355.

21Apart from the plastic decorations of these characteristic cups/burners, the assemblage of terracottas of the “Beja Group” also includes an exquisite bull figure brought to light in the necropolis of Cinco Réis 860 (Fig. 3). There are indications that a second bull figure was retrieved from this same necropolis during an earlier excavation conducted by a different team, but nothing is known about that terracotta.61

Fig. 3. “Beja Group.” Bull figure from Cinco Réis 8 (n. 1 after Salvador Mateos and Pereira, 2017; n. 2 after Arruda, 2016b, drawing by C. Pereira).

  • 62 Arruda 2016b, 373.
  • 63 Arruda 2016b, 373–374, figs. 6, 9.
  • 64 Arruda 2016b, 374, fig. 9.
  • 65 Arruda 2016b, 373, fig. 8.
  • 66 Arruda 2016b, 373, figs. 4, 5.

22This terracotta figure stands out within the Early Iron Age coroplastic assemblage of southern Portugal both by its size and by the quality of its execution. The large, hollow figure, some 45cm in length, represents a recumbent bull in an overall linear composition, despite some slight tilting of the animal’s hindquarters resulting in the omission of one of the legs, which would have been hidden beneath the body.62 Both the modeling of the body and the representation of the features are careful and comparatively life-like. Particular attention seems to have been given to the head and muzzle, where the mouth was indicated by a thin, incised line, and the nostrils by two small holes; the eyes were represented through the application of clay pastilles, a common technique in the Iron Age coroplasty of southern Portugal (see below), but in this case they were marked by deep, concentric incisions.63 The area between the horns also has been highlighted by incised lines, representing either hair or, as has been suggested, some kind of harness.64 Apart from the overall muscular volume of the bull, other areas that reflect the attempt made to render a naturalistic representation of the animal are the tail, curled up and ending in a flaring hair tuft represented by a rough palmette incised on the hindquarters of the figure,65and the bent legs, with well-defined joints and hoofs.66

  • 67 Arruda 2016b.
  • 68 Jiménez Ávila 2002, 341–343.
  • 69 Almagro Gorbea 1977, 245–250; Correia 1986.
  • 70 Correia 1990–1992; Gomes 2008.
  • 71 Jiménez Ávila 2002, 416, lám. LII.
  • 72 Almagro Gorbe and Torres Ortiz 2010, 379–384; Chapa Brunet and Vallejo 2012.

23As has been shown,67and despite some original technical solutions, the stylistic features of this bull are very close to those of other “Orientalizing” bull figures from southwestern Iberia in bronze,68good examples of which have been found in southern Portugal.69 However, the Cinco Réis 8 terracotta presents some iconographic specificities that set it aside from the model shared by most of those bronze figures. While these generally present the bull with the head turned to the side and with an open, bellowing mouth, in this case the animal is represented in a linear stance, facing forward, with somewhat less forceful facial features. Nevertheless, clear parallels can be drawn between this representational scheme and that found in several other examples pertaining to the “Orientalizing” plastic tradition, such as a bronze bull figure from the collection of the National Library of Portugal,70a bull figure, also in bronze, from Cerro del Prado (Cádiz),71 and a series of stone sculptures from southern Iberia, previously considered Iberian, but recently reinterpreted as part of an “Orientalizing” sculptural tradition.72

  • 73 Almagro Gorbea and Torres Ortiz 2010, 379.

24In a recent study of Phoenician and “Orientalizing” sculpture in the Iberian Peninsula, M. Almagro Gorbea and M. Torres Ortiz argued that this model of representation stems from a theoretical Phoenician prototype, Prototype A-1, which would make the Cinco Réis 8 terracotta iconographically parallel to their Type B bull sculptures.73The bull terracotta of Cinco Réis 8 can therefore be directly linked to a distinctive and well-established oriental model, locally adapted to an unusual medium and to the available technical and artistic skill set of the local community.

  • 74 Arruda 2016b, 374; Salvador Mateos and Pereira 2017, 345 and fig. 9.
  • 75 Arruda 2016b.

25Finally, a brief comment must be made here regarding the context of this bull figure. Like the cups/burners from Cinco Réis 8 analyzed above, it was situated within the rock-cut ditch that delimited the only funerary enclosure identified in that necropolis.74 Once again, this fact strongly suggests that this figure was imbued with a religious significance, having been deployed within the context of burial ritual and having taken part in the consecration of this particular funerary space. It has also been noted that the likely existence of a second bull figure, mirroring the presence of two cups/burners with plastic decorations, seems to point towards the existence of an elaborate symbolic system in which these elements – possibly of a sacrificial nature – were fully articulated as part of a religious and funerary narrative.75

2.2. The “Ourique – Aljustrel Group” (Fig. 1, B)

  • 76 Beirão and Gomes 1984; Beirão 1986.
  • 77 Ibidem; see also Arruda 2001.
  • 78 Beirão 1986; Correia 1993; Arruda 2001.
  • 79 Beirão 1986; Correia 1993; Arruda 2001.
  • 80 Schubart 1975.

26Unlike the terracottas of the “Beja Group,” which are recent additions to the corpus presented here, the coroplastic objects from the Ourique region are among the first to have been identified and studied.76All these early finds were recovered in the funerary necropoleis of Fonte Santa, Chada, and Cerro do Ouro, all in Ourique, that were identified and studied by C. de Mello Beirão and his colleagues between the 1970s and the 1980s.77 These necropoleis are part of a much larger funerary group documented throughout this western part of the Lower Alentejo region, the most prominent features of which are the stone tumuli covering and signaling the tombs that housed both inhumation and cremation burials.78These tumuli were built adjoining one another, forming a very characteristic funerary landscape79reminiscent of older, Middle Bronze Age funerary traditions.80

  • 81 Beirão and Gomes 1984.

27It must be said that the main characteristic of the terracottas recovered from these three necropoleis is their heterogeneity. The assemblage includes a work usually interpreted as a plastic vase, along with a protome, two figurines, and an element that could either be interpreted as a free-standing figure, or as the lid of an unknown element,81all of which show relatively different technical and stylistic features.

  • 82 Beirão 1986, 64–78.
  • 83 Beirão 1986, 74 and figs. 16–17.

28The first two of these objects were excavated from the necropolis of Fonte Santa.82 The purported plastic vase, an unicum within the Early Iron Age repertoire of southwestern Iberia, represents a well-modeled bull’s head with fairly life-like features (Fig. 4, nos. 1-2).83 Unfortunately, this head is very incomplete and only some fragments of the left side have survived (Fig. 4, n. 1). Nonetheless, some relevant features are preserved, including the left eye, represented with an uncommon degree of naturalism that includes a differentiation between the protuberant cornea and the eye lids defined by a pronounced ridge with a clearly drawn tear duct. A fragment corresponding to the left nostril has also survived, which once again shows a relatively successful attempt at a naturalistic depiction of the animal’s muzzle. The prominent nostrils were apparently positioned on top of a wide elliptical opening corresponding to the bull’s mouth and to the lower opening of the vase.

Fig. 4. “Ourique-Aljustrel Group.” Nos. 1–4, Fonte Santa (nos. 1 and 3 after Beirão and Gomes, 1984); n. 5, Chada (after Beirão, 1986); n. 6, Cerro do Ouro (after Beirão and Gomes, 1984); n. 7, Corte Margarida (after Deus & Correia, 2005).

29The features of the animal represented in this “vessel” also included the representation of the horns, unfortunately lost, which stemmed from a pronounced ridge marking what has usually been considered the top opening of the vase. A round fracture signals the position of one of the animal’s ears, which would have been represented underneath the horns, but which have not been preserved either.

  • 84 Beirão and Gomes 1984, 448; Beirão 1986, 74.

30As mentioned above, this very incomplete bull’s head has generally been interpreted as a plastic vase, having been specifically compared to several Mediterranean rhyta, such as examples from the eastern Mediterranean Bronze Age.84However, a close examination of this terracotta leaves this interpretation doubtful. First of all, the lower opening, corresponding to the animal’s mouth, is far too wide to allow a use as a rhyton in any strict sense of the word, that is to say, as a drinking or even a pouring vessel. On the other hand, the preserved portion of what has usually been considered the top opening of this vase, corresponding to the animal’s neck, is currently obscured by conservation work (Fig. 4, n. 2), but some of the exposed areas are irregular and seem to correspond to fracture surfaces rather than to a regular or finished rim, which again could suggest this piece was part of a larger whole.

  • 85 Beirão 1986, 74.

31In light of these observations, it is perhaps prudent to consider the identification of this terracotta as a plastic vase, and especially as a rhyton, as uncertain. Given the fragmentary state of this work, the available data seems insufficient to correctly reconstruct its original configuration, size, and even its function, but the possibility that the preserved fragments were part of an altogether larger and more complex element cannot be entirely ruled out. Unfortunately, the context of these fragments also does not shed particular light on this discussion, as they were found in an open area outside of the necropolis close, to Tomb 8 and on the exterior of an area enclosed by a low wall located to the southeast of the necropolis.85

  • 86 Beirão 1986, 74–75.
  • 87 Beirão and Gomes 1984, 432.

32The excavations of the Fonte Santa necropolis have also yielded a second terracotta, much smaller in scale, that preserves the anterior body of a solid-modeled carnivore, in all likelihood a feline(Fig. 4, nos. 3-4).86Preserved are the head, an unusually elongated neck, and the beginning of the body; the front legs seem to have also been represented, although they are currently lost.87A hole in the back suggests it was originally fixed to some larger element by a fitting peg, serving either as a handle or merely as a decorative fixture.

  • 88 Beirão and Gomes 1984, 432.
  • 89 Beirão and Gomes 1984, 432.

33The feline’s features have been depicted with some degree of detail. The head has a roughly geometric configuration, with a schematic representation of the ears, marked by two protuberances on the top of the head, and the eyes, which are indicated by two clay pastilles.88 The most prominent features of this figure, however, are the short, robust muzzle, with nostrils schematically represented by two uneven holes, and especially the open, snarling mouth with clearly visible sharp teeth(Fig. 4, n. 4).89

  • 90 Gomes 1983, lám. IV, B.
  • 91 Arruda 2014, fig. 11.
  • 92 Belén Deamos and Marín Ceballos 2002; Le Meaux 2010, 49–53.
  • 93 Chapa Brunet and González Alcalde 1993.

34Although somewhat ambiguous, the features represented in this figurine and its overall conception can be compared to those of the bronze feline protomes of Azougada (Moura)90and Alcácer do Sal,91 both of which seem to have been part of composite furniture elements. These similarities, added to the frequent presence of felines in the Early Iron Age iconography of southwestern Iberia,92as opposed to other carnivores, such as the carnassier figures of later Iberian art,93 seem to support the identification of this terracotta as a feline representation, possibly a lioness.

  • 94 Beirão 1986, 74; Correia 1993, 359.

35Little else can be said about the original setting or function of this figure, although its find context suggests a use in the local community’s funerary rituals. This feline figure, in fact, was found on the ground level of the enclosed area mentioned above, possibly a small temenos for which a ritual function can easily be envisaged.94

  • 95 Beirão 1986, 79-102.
  • 96 Beirão 1986, 98 and fig. 32; see also Beirão and Gomes 1984, 433.
  • 97 Beirão 1986, 98 and fig. 32; see also Beirão and Gomes 1984, 433.
  • 98 Beirão 1986, figs. 29–30.

36Two figurines retrieved in the necropolis of Chada95are virtually similar to each other. Both correspond to small, solid, and very schematic bird representations, usually identified as a dove.(Fig. 4, n. 5).96 These very stylized figurines are roughly triangular in shape, with a pointed head lacking discernible features, but for very small holes corresponding to the eyes, triangular wings, and tail; the feet are represented schematically as a vertical protrusion cylindrical in form attached to the lower portion of the body.97 Both these figurines were recovered from Sector B of the necropolis, specifically in Tomb 2, which also contained a painted-ware plate and two glass beads with occulated decorations.98

  • 99 Beirão and Gomes 1984, 433; Beirão 1986, fig. 33.
  • 100 Beirão and Gomes 1984, 433; Beirão 1986, 98.

37The necropolis of Chada has also yielded two additional fragments that, despite their comparatively small size, can be attributed to yet another coroplastic object, whose nature and iconography cannot be ascertained.99Both fragments were found on the ground level of a small, enclosed area, possibly a temenos, delimited by a low wall surrounding Tomb 2 in Sector A of the necropolis.100

  • 101 Beirão and Gomes 1984, 436; Beirão 1986, 49-50; Arruda 2001, 249
  • 102 Beirão and Gomes 1984, 436 and fig. 9.
  • 103 Beirão and Gomes 1984, 436 and fig. 9.
  • 104 Beirão and Gomes 1984, 436 and fig. 9.

38Finally, the inventory of the coroplastic material retrieved by C. de Mello Beirão and his team within the framework of his intensive research on the Ourique region is completed by a hollow figurine brought to light in the otherwise poorly known necropolis of Cerro do Ouro.101 This corresponds to a full body representation of some type of long-necked waterfowl, having usually been identified as a swan,102 whose hindquarters and tail have not been preserved (Fig. 4, n. 6). The body of the bird, that does not have its belly or legs indicated, is rendered in a schematic, but volumetrically life-like, way, as is the long, tilted-back neck; the head also shows naturalistic proportions, with a long beak, but no other distinguishable features.103 Since the part of this figurine representing the body is hollow, and its lower edge seems to be flat and regular, it has been interpreted as a lid for some other unidentified object.104This may be the reason that the lower body and legs of the bird are not represented.

  • 105 Beirão and Gomes 1984, 440–442.
  • 106 See Arruda 2001, 249.

39Not much is known about the find context of this terracotta, as little data has been published regarding the necropolis of Cerro do Ouro in general. The only notice available in the works of C. de Mello Beirão and his colleagues refers to a single urn burial containing glass beads and a silver earring/ nose ring;105 the association of the terracotta with this burial also has been suggested.106

  • 107 Deus and Correia 2005.
  • 108 Deus and Correia 2005.
  • 109 Costa 1967; 1972.
  • 110 See Gomes 2014–2015, 51–54.

40More recently, two more terracotta figurines have been documented in the necropolis of Corte Margarida in Aljustrel.107This necropolis pertains to a somewhat different funerary tradition than documented at the Ourique sites mentioned above, as the two structures so far excavated in Corte Margarida are both cist tombs housing inhumation burials and show no evidence of any complex superstructures.108 This funerary model sets this necropolis apart from the characteristic tumular architecture of the necropoleis of the Ourique region, while closely aligning it with a number of other cist necropoleis of this period documented in coastal Alentejo109 and especially in the Algarve region.110 However, none of those cist necropoleis has so far yielded any coroplastic material; this fact, together with the close geographic proximity between Corte Margarida and the Ourique region, suggests that the terracottas found in this site should be related preferably to the aforementioned coroplastic tradition described above. Their integration in a heterogeneous, but more or less unitary, “Ourique-Aljustrel Group” can therefore be proposed.

  • 111 Deus and Correia 2005, 617.
  • 112 Deus and Correia 2005, 617.

41As for the terracottas themselves, they correspond to two free-standing representations of some type of waterfowl, possibly ducks (Fig. 4, n. 7). The more complex of the two shows the bird in a standing position. The head is comparatively small, with a disproportionate large beak, but no other discernable features, while the body is represented in a schematic way, as are the feet and the tapering tail.111 The brief discussion of this figurine in the archaeological literature mentions two perforations, one in the area corresponding to the bird’s chest and another in its tail.112It is not specified whether the figurine is solid or hollow, but if the latter were the case this could mean that this figurine is actually a type of plastic vase or zoomorphic askos.

  • 113 Deus and Correia 2005, 617.

42The second figurine is even more schematic, representing the bird in a resting position, which allowed the coroplast to omit its feet. The head is rounded and featureless, with an undistinguished rounded beak, while the tapered tail is once again represented in a simple, schematic way. The bottom of the figurine presents a quadrangular opening, as well as three perforations in unspecified positions, which could indicate that it was originally fitted into some composite element.113

  • 114 Deus and Correia 2005, 616-617.

43Both figurines were recovered from Tomb 2 of the Corte Margarida necropolis, in association with a considerably rich funerary assemblage comprising an Egyptian steatite scarab, numerous glass and amber beads, and a fragment of a silver object.114They seem to have been deposited as offerings, possibly of a sacrificial nature, although a ritual and/or apotropaic function cannot be ruled out.

2.3. The “Neves-Corvo Group” (Fig. 1, C)

  • 115 Maia and Correa 1985; Maia and Maia 1986; 1996; Maia 1986; 1987.
  • 116 Arruda 2001, 273–282; Gomes 2012, 67–83.
  • 117 Gomes 2012, 67–83.

44The Early Iron Age sites of the Neves-Corvo mining area were identified and excavated in the 1980s by Mª. and M. Maia, and were the object of several preliminary presentations shortly thereafter.115 Partly as a result of the preliminary character of these reports, the nature and function of the “architectural complexes” of Neves I, Neves II, and Corvo I and their chronological and historical setting have been the object of discussion ever since.116 Currently, an interpretation of these sites as complex, multi-functional rural settlements with strong religious overtones seems to be the most consensual hypothesis.117

  • 118 Maia and Maia 1996, 88–89.
  • 119 Maia 2008, fig. 4.

45In any case, one of the reports published by the excavators of these sites mentioned the existence of an assemblage of coroplastic materials, interpreted as offerings, brought to light at the site of Corvo I;118 an illustration of some of that material was published more recently by Mª. Maia.119 Several of the objects presented in this latter work seem to correspond to small, unclassifiable fragments, with the exception of two solid, free-standing figurines that clearly can be identified as quadrupeds, despite their poor preservation.

  • 120 Maia and Maia 1996, 88–89.

46The features of both these terracottas are so eroded that the identification of the species of animal is difficult. One of these terracottas (Fig. 5, n. 1) does however present an identifying feature in the legs of a rider that clearly can be seen on either side of the animal’s flanks. Consequently, it seems clear that this figurine represented a horse and rider, as has been suggested previously.120

Fig. 5. “Neves-Corvo Group.” Nos. 1–2, Corvo I (after Maia, 2008).

  • 121 Aubet et al. 1999, fig. 200.
  • 122 García-Gelabert Pérez and Blázquez Martínez 2006.
  • 123 Almagro Gorbea 1996.

47The representation of horses is extremely rare in Phoenician or “Orientalizing” contexts, with a single figurine of a horse identified in the Phoenician colony of Cerro del Villar (Málaga).121In fact, the horse only seems to gain greater significance in the Iberian iconographic repertoire in later contexts, from the 5th century B.C.E. onwards,122 possibly as a result of the rise of heroic, equestrian aristocratic groups throughout the southern Iberian communities.123

  • 124 Maia and Maia 1986.
  • 125 Jiménez Ávila 2016.

48Consequently, the representation of a horse, an unicum in the coroplastic tradition discussed here, could be related to the relatively late chronology of the Corvo I complex in general, and of this coroplastic assemblage in particular. The Corvo I terracottas are, in fact, said to have been found in an open area just outside a building with three aligned compartments interpreted as a cult space, in close association with a significant number of Attic Cástulo cups dated to the second half of the 5th century B.C.E. and to fragments of core-formed glass vessels that can also be dated to the same period.124 The particularities of the Corvo I terracotta assemblage should be considered in the light of its setting in a very late stage of the regional Early Iron Age, an historical context often compared and associated with the so-called “Post-Orientalizing” horizon defined for the neighboring Spanish Extremadura.125

  • 126 Celestino Pérez and Julián Rodríguez 1991.
  • 127 Tortajada Rubio and Quesada Sanz 1999; Horn 2011, 73–75; for the Portuguese territory, see Beirão e (...)

49The most significant representation of a horse so-far documented in southwestern Iberia for this period does indeed come from one of the key sites of that horizon, the “palace-sanctuary” of Cancho Roano (Badajoz), where an elaborate bronze figure of a horse equipped with its harness and saddle has been brought to light.126 Yet, even if horse and horse-rider representations become fairly common in later, Late Iron Age contexts,127 it seems clear that the figurine of Corvo I should be associated to this earlier historical and iconographical context in which horses and horse-riding first became part of an articulated iconography of power and status.

  • 128 Maia 2008, fig. 4.

50As for the second terracotta figurine of Corvo I, all of its significant features have been completely eroded, despite being slightly better preserved than the horse and rider figurine just analyzed(Fig. 5, n. 2).128Because of this the identification of the animal is difficult. It could be that its association with the first horse and rider figurine could suggest that this too represented a horse. However, given the character of the body, the upper limbs, the beginning of an arched tail, and a now rather shapeless head, an identification as a bovine, or even some other quadruped, cannot be entirely excluded.

  • 129 Delfino et al. 2016.
  • 130 Gomes 2008.

51The lean body of this figurine could, to some extent, be used in support of an identification as a horse, since the “Orientalizing” bull figures mentioned above are usually bulkier. Nonetheless, some roughly contemporary bronze bull figures, such as the example recovered in the Arade river close to Portimão,129 or even slightly later examples, as is possibly the case of the dedications at the Castle of Alcácer do Sal,130 also show leaner bodies, whose proportions can easily be compared with that of the Corvo I figure. The specific identification of this second terracotta figurine therefore remains problematic.

2.4. The “Alcácer do Sal Group” (Fig. 1, D)

  • 131 Arruda 1999–2000; Mayet and Silva 2000; Silva 2005.
  • 132 Arruda 1999–2000; Silva 2005; Gomes 2016.

52The site of Alcácer do Sal occupies a somewhat peripheral position in the overall distribution map of the Early Iron Age terracottas of southern Portugal. Although technically part of the Lower Alentejo region, as all the other sites mentioned above, its proximity to the Sado estuary, a privileged natural port allowing easy access to the interior of Alentejo, had a profound impact on the historical process of the local communities. The presence of Phoenician merchants and colonists in the Lower Sado valley and the direct relations they established with the indigenous groups131 meant that, unlike its counterparts in inner Alentejo, the community of Alcácer do Sal became directly embedded in the interregional network mediated by the Phoenicians and developed social, political, and cultural traits closely aligned to those of other coastal “Orientalizing” communities.132

  • 133 Beirão 1986; Arruda 2001.

53That said, it should be noted that the Sado river was likely one of the primary routes, together with the Mira, for the penetration of Mediterranean materials and ideas towards the Ourique region, located in the Upper Sado and Upper Mira valleys.133It therefore is likely that both regions maintained more or less systematic contacts throughout the Early Iron Age.

  • 134 Gomes 2016; 2018.
  • 135 Gomes 2018, 92.

54The presence of terracotta figurines in the necropolis of Olival do Senhor dos Mártires (Alcácer do Sal)134 could be interpreted as a result of such contacts, representing an irradiation of the coroplastic tradition of inner Alentejo towards this more coastal region. The chronology of the terracottas of Alcácer do Sal (see below) supports this idea, as these figurines fall on the lower bracket of the time span covered by the “Ourique-Aljustrel Group” discussed above.135

  • 136 Correia 1928, 176.

55The two known examples represent bulls, although they show very different technical characteristics (Fig. 6). Both were excavated in the 1920s by V. Correia from in situ cremation burials,136 where they seem to have been laid directly on the burning pyre, as is indicated by traces of burning.

Fig. 6. “Alcácer do Sal Group.” Nos. 1–2, Olival do Senhor dos Mártires (after Gomes, 2018, photos by B. Barros).

56The better preserved of these terracottas (Fig. 6, n. 1) is missing the right hind leg and the top portion of the head, including the horns, but the overall stance and configuration of the animal can easily be grasped: it represents a standing, frontward-gazing bull, roughly modeled, but naturalistic in its proportions.

57The block-like head has a somewhat schematic representation of the animal’s features, with the eyes indicated by two pastilles, the nostrils by two small holes, and the mouth by a simple incised line. Although equally schematic, the massive body shows approximately naturalistic proportions and even some detailed features, such as the animal’s dewlap, which clearly indicates an attempt at a more life-like rendering of its physiognomy. The legs, on the other hand, received less attention, being modeled as simple, arched, cylindrical appendages without joints, and the hoofs indicated by a discoid flattening of the distal extremity of each leg.

  • 137 Arruda 2016b.

58Unfortunately, the second terracotta figurine retrieved by V. Correia in the Olival do Senhor dos Mártires is very incomplete. Only a fragment, corresponding to the animal’s left front leg and part of its chest has been preserved (Fig. 6, n. 2), severely hindering any iconographic or technical analysis. However, the characteristics of this fragment do suggest that this terracotta also represented a standing or walking bull, although this second example is technically very different from the example already discussed. First of all, the dimensions of the remaining limb suggest that this figurine would have been significantly larger than its better-preserved counterpart. The body of this second figure was hollow, having likely been modeled by fashioning a flat clay plaque into a cylindrical base, the exterior of which was then worked into the desired shape. This technique, more complex than the direct modeling of a solid clay block, is best suited for such a large figure and can be compared to the technique used to produce the bull of Cinco Réis 8.137 The modeling of the preserved leg of this figurine also shows more care and skill. Unlike the rough cylindrical legs of the previous example, the limbs of this larger bull show a clearly articulated knee and carefully rendered hoofs.

  • 138 Correia 1928, 176.
  • 139 Gomes 2016, 329-332.

59As mentioned earlier, both these figurines were found in situ in cremation burials lodged in simple, rock-cut ditches, or busta, corresponding to the 3rd Type of the tomb typology established by V. Correia for the Olival do Senhor dos Mártires necropolis.138They were deposited directly on the funerary pyre and can therefore be said to have had a sacrificial function. Despite the many issues regarding the sequence of this site, these tombs can safely be attributed to the Early Iron Age. A recent reappraisal has indeed shown that this type of tomb is attested in this necropolis from the late 7th century B.C.E., becoming predominant in the second quarter of the 6th century, before being replaced by urn burials at the turn to the Late Iron Age, in the mid-5th century B.C.E.139

  • 140 Horn 2005, fig. 8; 2011, 333.
  • 141 Delfino et al. 2016.
  • 142 Gomes 1986.
  • 143 Gomes 2008.
  • 144 Gomes 2018.

60However, the upright stance of these bull figurines clearly sets them apart from the “Orientalizing” models described above. Even though at least one terracotta possibly representing a standing bull has been uncovered in the Phoenician colony of Morro de Mezquitilla (Málaga),140the predominant iconographic models during the Early Iron Age of southwestern Iberia show the animal in a recumbent posture. As such, the posture of the bulls from Alcácer do Sal seems more closely aligned with that found in a series of bronze bull figurines documented throughout the southern Portuguese territory and generally attributed to the Late Iron Age, including the examples from Portimão141 and Corte Pereiro (Alcácer do Sal),142and the votives found in the area of the Castle of Alcácer do Sal itself.143 Since their general context precludes an attribution of the bull terracottas of the Olival do Senhor dos Mártires necropolis to that later period, they tentatively have been dated to a late stage of the local Early Iron Age, in the early 5th century B.C.E., and can be interpreted as a missing link between the iconographic production of that period and that of the Late Iron Age.144

3. Diversity and Unity: towards the definition of a regional coroplastic tradition

  • 145 Horn 2005; 2011, 111–116.

61As we have seen, considerable emphasis has been put on the diversity and heterogeneity of the coroplastic production of the southern Portuguese Early Iron Age communities. At this point, however, it is important to review a number of commonalities that strongly suggest that these materials, or at least, the vast majority of them, pertain to a common coroplastic tradition. The most basic feature is, of course, the medium for iconographic expression itself. It has already been mentioned that clay was not, in any sense, the preferred artistic medium of the archaic western Phoenician craftspeople nor, for that matter, of the “Orientalizing” communities of southern Iberian.145

62In this sense, southern Portugal, and especially the inner Lower Alentejo, appear as an anomaly, since terracottas clearly outnumber other sculptural objects, such as bronze figurines, by nearly three to one, being the clearly preferred iconographic medium. This tendency is even more marked if we consider that several of the aforementioned bronze figurines could have been produced in specialized workshops outside the Portuguese territory, further emphasizing the role of coroplasty as the preferred medium for the local iconographic output.

63The specific ways that the clay medium was worked also give a certain degree of coherence to this assemblage, as all of the works catalogued above seem to be hand-made. Despite showing a certain range of different modeling techniques, from figurines directly sculpted out of solid pieces of clay to others with hollow bodies that were produced using a more sophisticated approach, not to mention specific techniques for the rendering of details, among which the most characteristic is the use of clay pastilles for eyes and other features, there is no evidence whatsoever for the use of moulds for the production of any of the terracottas described above.

64Apart from the clay medium, however, these terracottas also share a relatively coherent spatial and even chronological setting. From a geographic point of view, all the examples listed above were found in the inner Alentejo region, or in sites directly connected to that region, such as Alcácer do Sal. Meanwhile, no Early Iron Age terracottas have been documented so far in other neighboring regions, such as Algarve, Central Alentejo, or Estremadura, further emphasizing the specificity of this particular coroplastic tradition.

65As for their chronological setting, the terracottas discussed can all be dated to a time span that ranges from the early to mid-6th century to the 5th century B.C.E. The latter date can perhaps be fine-tuned to a degree, as the data from Corvo I clearly show some changes taking place during the second half of the 5th century, both in the iconographic focus of the coroplastic production and in its context of use and display. The “Neves-Corvo Group” therefore could be considered a sui generis offshoot of this coroplastic tradition, incorporating new cultural inputs and iconographic models suited to a changing socio-political landscape. The lower date for the bulk of this coroplastic tradition could therefore be tentatively set around the mid-5th century B.C.E.

66Yet another aspect that emphasizes the shared background of these terracottas is their use, reflected in their find contexts. Except for the Corvo I material, which, once again, should be considered as part of a connected, but somewhat lateral, tradition, all the terracottas discussed above were recovered from funerary contexts. Naturally, this does not mean they all fulfilled the exact same function within the framework of funerary practices. The terracottas from the “Beja Group,” for instance, seem to have a primarily cultic and ritual function related to the consecration of the funerary space, although an associated sacrificial function cannot be excluded.

  • 146 Jiménez Ávila 2001, 119.

67Some of the figurines from the “Ourique-Aljustrel Group,” such as those from Fonte Santa, seem to have played a similar role. It was previously suggested that these could have been used to decorate lost earthen superstructures that were built on top of the stone tumuli of this necropolis,146 but the more recent finds of Palhais, Carlota, and Cinco Réis 8 seem to shed a new light on the function of these figurines and their association with the temenos of Fonte Santa.

  • 147 Maia and Maia 1986.
  • 148 Moneo 2003, 364–368; Horn 2011; for southern Portugal, see Beirão et al. 1985.

68In the case of Chada, of Corte Margarida, and of Olival do Senhor dos Mártires, the situation seems reversed, as the terracottas from those sites appear to have had a predominantly sacrificial function, although once again a previous use in religious and consecration rituals cannot be entirely excluded. As for the particular case of Corvo I, the coroplastic finds from this site seem to be associated with a religious space, forming part of a larger assemblage that comprised a number of prestigious imports, such as Attic pottery and core-formed glass vessels.147All these objects could have been part of ritual paraphernalia, but an interpretation as offerings is more consistent with their apparent position outside of the cult building. In this sense, and once again, the terracottas from Corvo I seem to anticipate a usage that will become common for their later, Late Iron Age counterparts, often found in sanctuaries and favissae across the southern and eastern Iberian Peninsula.148

69Some further comments must be made regarding the iconographic repertoire of this assemblage, in which some clear trends can be identified. First of all, it should be noted that despite some stylistic and technical diversity, the Early Iron Age terracottas of southern Portugal represent a very limited number of iconographic subjects.

  • 149 Jiménez Ávila 2002; Murillo Redondo 1989; Blánquez and Belén 2003; Belén et al. 2004; Almagro-Gorbe (...)
  • 150 Celestino Pérez 2001; Díaz-Guardamino Uribe 2010.
  • 151 Ferrer Albelda 1995-1996; Jiménez Ávila 2017b.

70A comparison with the roughly contemporary iconographic output of Phoenician and “Orientalizing” communities of southwestern Iberia clearly shows that many common motifs, such as cervids, bucks, and rams, and mythical animals, such as griffons, sphinxes, and sirens149are entirely absent. Particularly conspicuous, however, is the absence of anthropomorphic figures, either human or divine, a staple feature of both the Late Bronze Age150and the Phoenician/”Orientalizing” iconographic traditions.151

  • 152 Arruda 2016a.
  • 153 Arruda 2016b.

71The local iconographic output, therefore, seems to be based on the very selective adoption of a small number of iconographic motifs borrowed from the Near Eastern repertoire brought to the Peninsula by the Phoenicians. Zoomorphic representations were clearly preferred over anthropomorphic ones, and two broad iconographic motifs seem to have particularly resonated with local groups: birds152and bulls.153

  • 154 Prados Torreira 2004; Arruda 2016a.
  • 155 Horn 2005, fig. 5.
  • 156 Belén and Escacena 1997, fig. 8.
  • 157 Schubart 1985, 165.
  • 158 Jiménez Ávila 2002, lám. 45, no. 125.
  • 159 Olmos and Fernández-Miranda 1987.
  • 160 Arruda 2016a, 419.
  • 161 Le Meaux 2010, 3235.
  • 162 Almagro Gorbea 2008; Santos et al. 2017, fig. 16, no. 1.

72Birds are very well documented in the western Phoenician and “Orientalizing” iconography of southwestern Iberian.154They are the most common motif among the few known terracottas from those cultural contexts, being represented in two examples from Cabezo de San Pedro (Huelva)155 and El Carambolo (Seville),156 as well as in two others from the Phoenician colony of Morro de Mezquitilla.157 Additional representations can be found in bronze, such as the so-called Carriazo Bronze, found at an unspecified location in the Seville province158or, further east, in the thymiaterion of La Quéjola (Albacete).159 Both of these objects are particularly expressive, as the birds, ducks in the first case and a possible dove in the second, have been associated with female figures, in all likelihood divine representations of the goddess Astarté.160This association strongly suggests that isolated representations of birds could correspond to iconic, metaphoric representations of the goddess herself. Birds can also be found in carved ivories and in painted pottery,161 as well as in graffiti etched into pottery vessels and sherds,162 clearly showing the relevance of this motif during the period analyzed here.

  • 163 García-Gelabert Pérez and Blázquez Martínez 1997; Ornan 2001.
  • 164 Schubart 1985, 165.
  • 165 Jiménez Ávila 2002.
  • 166 Almagro-Gorbea and Torres Ortiz 2010, 379384.
  • 167 Le Meaux 2010, 4347.

73Bulls, on the other hand, have long been associated in Near Eastern mythology and iconography with male divinities, and particularly with celestial gods such as Adad and Ba’al.163 This motif, and, in all likelihood, its divine connotations, also traveled to the Far West, as representations of bulls are often found in the western Phoenician and “Orientalizing” iconography of southern Iberia. In fact, and despite the rarity of terracotta representations of bulls – only two examples from Morro de Mezquitilla are known164 –bulls are often represented in bronze,165 in stone,166 in carved ivories, and in painted pottery.167

  • 168 Almagro-Gorbea 2002.

74One carved ivory plaque from the necropolis of Medellín (Badajoz), in particular, represents a fight scene between a divine figure, interpreted as Melqart, and a bull, which clearly can be connected to a very long line of Near Eastern mythical narratives, including Gilgamesh’s fight with the Celestial Bull, showing that those narratives and, by extension, the associated iconic and mythological significance of the bull, were known in the Iberian Far West.168

  • 169 Cardoso and Arruda 2016.

75On the other hand, the adoption and adaptation of this motif by local communities may have been facilitated by, or even boosted by, the local economic and symbolic significance of bovines. Although we know very little about the economic structures of most of the communities that produced the coroplastic material discussed above, it is safe to say that most were essentially rural, and cattle must have played a significant practical, but also symbolic, role in their lives, as suggested, for example, by the study of the faunal remains from the necropolis of Alcácer do Sal.169

  • 170 Arruda 2016b.

76In any case, as has been pointed out in a recent study, the joint deployment of a bull figure (or possibly two) and cups/burners decorated with birds in the ditched enclosure of the necropolis of Cinco Réis 8 suggests that these two motifs may have been appropriated due to their close identification with a divine couple associated with fertility, fecundity, and the regeneration of nature.170The combined deployment of these representations in these ritual and funerary contexts shows the complementarity of both motifs, and their incorporation into a fully articulated religious narrative that, despite its clear oriental overtones, became embedded in local beliefs and practices.

  • 171 Belén Deamos and Marín Ceballos 2002.
  • 172 Gomes 1983; Arruda 2014.
  • 173 Jiménez Ávila 1998; 2002.
  • 174 Almagro-Gorbea and Torres Ortiz 2010, 375–379.
  • 175 Le Meaux 2010, 4953.
  • 176 Horn 2011, n. 410.

77Representations of felines – lions, or, more likely lionesses – such as that of Fonte Santa are much less often encountered in the coroplastic assemblage discussed here, but they are very common in the oriental and “Orientalizing” iconography of southern Iberia.171 Besides examples in bronze from the Portuguese territory and beyond that are discussed above,172 several other examples are known in bronze,173 stone,174 ivory, and painted pottery.175Terracotta versions, on the other hand, are almost unknown for this period, but for a single paw fragment, possibly from a tripod bowl, from the Phoenician colony of Toscanos (Vélez-Málaga).176

  • 177 Belén Deamos and Marín Ceballos 2002, 170175.
  • 178 Idem, 175–182.
  • 179 Arruda 2016b.

78In Near Eastern mythology and iconography, felines are often associated with female deities, especially with Inanna/Ishtar/Astarté,177an association that seems to have traveled to the Far West with the Phoenician colonists and craftspeople.178 As such, it could be suggested that the association between a feline and a bull representation in the necropolis of Fonte Santa could be equivalent to that between bull and bird figures in contexts such as Cinco Réis 8,179 standing once again for a male/female, god/goddess dualism deeply imbued with a significance related to fertility, fecundity, and rebirth.

79For the social, political, and iconographic context of the motif of the horse/horse-rider, this has already been discussed above, and little can be added at this point.

  • 180 Ferrer Albelda 1995–1996; Jiménez Ávila 2017b.
  • 181 See, however, Gomes 1983.

80In conclusion it can be said that the motifs represented in the Early Iron Age terracottas of southern Portugal can be said to stem from a vast and readily available iconographic repertoire with deep Near Eastern roots introduced in the West by Phoenician colonists and craftspeople. However, those motifs represent only a small part of those available in that repertoire, denoting a clear and conscious selection by local communities. The criteria for such a selection cannot be entirely reconstructed, but it is likely that the few motifs that were locally assimilated and reproduced were the ones that more closely fitted local ritual and cosmological constructs. A process of syncretism and even partial interpretation may have mediated the translation of these symbols into local religious systems, but it is interesting to note that only the symbols, and never the actual representations of the divinities, fairly common in western Phoenician contexts,180made their way into the iconographic production of these communities, where indirect and iconic symbolism was preferred over the direct display of anthropomorphic divinities.181

81Once again, it is difficult to fully reconstruct the chain of transmission through which these exogenous iconographic motifs were made available to the local communities of southern Portugal, and particularly of the inner Alentejo region. Apart from direct contact with the Phoenician colonial and commercial interface, other ways of diffusion also can be envisaged, such as through direct contact with other indigenous, “Orientalizing” groups occupying nearby areas. Iconographic motifs, their meanings, and their translation also may have been dependent on, and mediated by, local/regional sociopolitical networks encompassing not just colonial groups, but also local groups from other areas of southwestern Iberia.

82These iconographic motifs were locally adapted to an unusual medium (for the time) that was readily available and easy to work with a limited specialized know-how. In fact, the relative ease with which clay could be worked and modeled using the comparatively expedient techniques documented by the figurines presented above must be considered when discussing the polymorphic nature of this coroplastic tradition.

  • 182 Arruda 2001; Jiménez Ávila 2017a.

83The heterogeneous nature of the terracottas discussed in this contribution can, in fact, be explained by the socio-political framework in which their production took place. Except for Alcácer do Sal, which can likely be considered a “secondary center” within the coroplastic tradition discussed here, the communities that produced these terracottas were essentially part of rural, heterarchical settlement networks with no apparent centralized power structures.182 Given this particular socio-political structure, it is likely that the coroplastic production of these communities was equally decentralized, taking place at a local level with the available raw materials, workforce, and technical skillset. Apart from nature itself, inspiration was surely drawn from other iconographic materials circulating at the regional and supra-regional level, but such models seem to have been translated differently depending on local taste and skill, with no discernible degree of standardization.

84These terracottas can be said to be not only an effective way to study the impact of foreign, Near Eastern iconography and imagery in the artistic production of local communities, but also can be open windows into the socio-political structure of these communities and the fluid ways in which their artisans adopted and adapted that imagery to their own discourses and practices, in conscious, articulated, and meaningful ways that deserve an ever more meticulous exploration.

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Notes

1 Arruda 1999–2000, 2014.

2 Gomes 2015.

3 In this paper, the term “Orientalizing” will be used in a broad sense to refer to the predominantly local cultural horizon which came to being in southern Iberia in the wake of the arrival of the first Phoenician merchants and colonists. The selective and creative adoption and interpretation of Near Eastern cultural traits seems in fact to have been one of the distinctive traits of local communities during the earliest stages of the Iron Age, and played a significant part in their adaptive strategies in the face of a new and dynamic geopolitical situation. The term will however be used within quotation marks, as a recognition of the problematic nature of this concept and its conventional use (both cultural and chronological) (e.g., Blázquez Martínez 2005). It is hoped that, throughout this contribution, it will become clear to readers that the “Orientalizing” horizon is a complex, diverse and dynamic entity and that local, indigenous agencies and strategies were as important in this process as the exogenous inputs (see van Dommelen 2006).

4 Gomes 2015; 2016.

5 Celestino Pérez 2001; Díaz-Guardamino Uribe 2010.

6 Viana et al. 1953, 133.

7 Gomes and Monteiro 1977.

8 Aubet 1984.

9 Jiménez Ávila 2002; 2017a.

10 Almagro Gorbea, 1986; Nicolini 1991; Celestino Pérez and Blanco Fernández 2006.

11 Le Meaux 2010.

12 Almagro Gorbea and Torres Ortiz 2010.

13 Murillo Redondo 1989; Blánquez and Belén 2003; Belén et al. 2004; Le Meaux 2010.

14 Ciasca 1995.

15 Horn 2005; 2011.

16 Ramírez and Mateos 1992; 1993–1994; Ferrer Albelda 1995–1996; Jiménez Flores 2007.

17 Jiménez Ávila 2002.

18 Le Meaux 2010.

19 Beirão and Gomes 1984; Beirão 1986; Deus and Correia 2005; Arruda 2016a; 2016b; Gomes 2018.

20 Correia 1986; 1990–1992; Jiménez Ávila 2002.

21 Beirão and Gomes 1984; Beirão 1986.

22 Horn 2011.

23 Arruda 2016a; 2016b.

24 Maia 2008; Gomes 2018.

25 See Jiménez Ávila 2017a.

26 Gomes 2016.

27 Arruda 2016a; 2016b; Salvador Mateos and Pereira 2017; Santos et al. 2017.

28 Santos et al. 2017.

29 Salvador Mateos and Pereira 2017.

30 See Jiménez Ávila 2017a.

31 Arruda 2016a.

32 Horn 2011, 66; for a regional perspective, see Beirão et al. 1985.

33 Santos et al. 2017, 242249.

34 Santos et al. 2017, fig. 15; see also Arruda, 2016ª, figs. 57.

35 Santos et al. 2017, fig. 15.

36 Santos et al. 2017, fig. 15

37 Santos et al. 2017, 247.

38 Santos et al. 2017, fig. 16, n. 3.

39 Santos et al. 2017fig. 16, n. 2.

40 Arruda 2016a, fig. 11; Salvador Mateos and Pereira 2017, 344–345.

41 Salvador Mateos and Pereira 2017, fig. 10.

42 Salvador Mateos and Pereira 2017, fig. 10.

43 Salvador Mateos and Pereira 2017, 344.

44 Salvador Mateos and Pereira 2012, 321 and fig. 12.

45 Salvador Mateos and Pereira 2012, 321 and fig. 12.

46 Salvador Mateos and Pereira 2017, fig. 4.

47 Arruda et al. 2017.

48 Arruda 2016a, fig. 13; Arruda et al. 2017, Fig. 11, no. 160.

49 See Dias et al. 1971, 204.

50 Arruda 2016a, figs. 15–17.

51 Kurtz and Boardman 1971, fig. 9; Coldstream 2003, fig. 37, d.

52 Brock 1951, n. 551.

53 Jiménez Ávila 2002; Graells i Fabregat 2006.

54 López Palomo 1981, fig. 23.

55 Beirão et al. 1985, 115.

56 Santos et al. 2009, 73.

57 Arruda et al. 2017, 197.

58 Arruda 2016a.

59 Arruda 2016a.

60 Arruda 2016b; Salvador Mateos and Pereira 2017, fig. 11.

61 Arruda 2016b, 355.

62 Arruda 2016b, 373.

63 Arruda 2016b, 373–374, figs. 6, 9.

64 Arruda 2016b, 374, fig. 9.

65 Arruda 2016b, 373, fig. 8.

66 Arruda 2016b, 373, figs. 4, 5.

67 Arruda 2016b.

68 Jiménez Ávila 2002, 341–343.

69 Almagro Gorbea 1977, 245–250; Correia 1986.

70 Correia 1990–1992; Gomes 2008.

71 Jiménez Ávila 2002, 416, lám. LII.

72 Almagro Gorbe and Torres Ortiz 2010, 379–384; Chapa Brunet and Vallejo 2012.

73 Almagro Gorbea and Torres Ortiz 2010, 379.

74 Arruda 2016b, 374; Salvador Mateos and Pereira 2017, 345 and fig. 9.

75 Arruda 2016b.

76 Beirão and Gomes 1984; Beirão 1986.

77 Ibidem; see also Arruda 2001.

78 Beirão 1986; Correia 1993; Arruda 2001.

79 Beirão 1986; Correia 1993; Arruda 2001.

80 Schubart 1975.

81 Beirão and Gomes 1984.

82 Beirão 1986, 64–78.

83 Beirão 1986, 74 and figs. 16–17.

84 Beirão and Gomes 1984, 448; Beirão 1986, 74.

85 Beirão 1986, 74.

86 Beirão 1986, 74–75.

87 Beirão and Gomes 1984, 432.

88 Beirão and Gomes 1984, 432.

89 Beirão and Gomes 1984, 432.

90 Gomes 1983, lám. IV, B.

91 Arruda 2014, fig. 11.

92 Belén Deamos and Marín Ceballos 2002; Le Meaux 2010, 49–53.

93 Chapa Brunet and González Alcalde 1993.

94 Beirão 1986, 74; Correia 1993, 359.

95 Beirão 1986, 79-102.

96 Beirão 1986, 98 and fig. 32; see also Beirão and Gomes 1984, 433.

97 Beirão 1986, 98 and fig. 32; see also Beirão and Gomes 1984, 433.

98 Beirão 1986, figs. 29–30.

99 Beirão and Gomes 1984, 433; Beirão 1986, fig. 33.

100 Beirão and Gomes 1984, 433; Beirão 1986, 98.

101 Beirão and Gomes 1984, 436; Beirão 1986, 49-50; Arruda 2001, 249

102 Beirão and Gomes 1984, 436 and fig. 9.

103 Beirão and Gomes 1984, 436 and fig. 9.

104 Beirão and Gomes 1984, 436 and fig. 9.

105 Beirão and Gomes 1984, 440–442.

106 See Arruda 2001, 249.

107 Deus and Correia 2005.

108 Deus and Correia 2005.

109 Costa 1967; 1972.

110 See Gomes 2014–2015, 51–54.

111 Deus and Correia 2005, 617.

112 Deus and Correia 2005, 617.

113 Deus and Correia 2005, 617.

114 Deus and Correia 2005, 616-617.

115 Maia and Correa 1985; Maia and Maia 1986; 1996; Maia 1986; 1987.

116 Arruda 2001, 273–282; Gomes 2012, 67–83.

117 Gomes 2012, 67–83.

118 Maia and Maia 1996, 88–89.

119 Maia 2008, fig. 4.

120 Maia and Maia 1996, 88–89.

121 Aubet et al. 1999, fig. 200.

122 García-Gelabert Pérez and Blázquez Martínez 2006.

123 Almagro Gorbea 1996.

124 Maia and Maia 1986.

125 Jiménez Ávila 2016.

126 Celestino Pérez and Julián Rodríguez 1991.

127 Tortajada Rubio and Quesada Sanz 1999; Horn 2011, 73–75; for the Portuguese territory, see Beirão et al. 1985, fig. 29, nos.61–62; Gomes 2008.

128 Maia 2008, fig. 4.

129 Delfino et al. 2016.

130 Gomes 2008.

131 Arruda 1999–2000; Mayet and Silva 2000; Silva 2005.

132 Arruda 1999–2000; Silva 2005; Gomes 2016.

133 Beirão 1986; Arruda 2001.

134 Gomes 2016; 2018.

135 Gomes 2018, 92.

136 Correia 1928, 176.

137 Arruda 2016b.

138 Correia 1928, 176.

139 Gomes 2016, 329-332.

140 Horn 2005, fig. 8; 2011, 333.

141 Delfino et al. 2016.

142 Gomes 1986.

143 Gomes 2008.

144 Gomes 2018.

145 Horn 2005; 2011, 111–116.

146 Jiménez Ávila 2001, 119.

147 Maia and Maia 1986.

148 Moneo 2003, 364–368; Horn 2011; for southern Portugal, see Beirão et al. 1985.

149 Jiménez Ávila 2002; Murillo Redondo 1989; Blánquez and Belén 2003; Belén et al. 2004; Almagro-Gorbea and Torres Ortiz 2010; Le Meaux 2010; Horn 2011.

150 Celestino Pérez 2001; Díaz-Guardamino Uribe 2010.

151 Ferrer Albelda 1995-1996; Jiménez Ávila 2017b.

152 Arruda 2016a.

153 Arruda 2016b.

154 Prados Torreira 2004; Arruda 2016a.

155 Horn 2005, fig. 5.

156 Belén and Escacena 1997, fig. 8.

157 Schubart 1985, 165.

158 Jiménez Ávila 2002, lám. 45, no. 125.

159 Olmos and Fernández-Miranda 1987.

160 Arruda 2016a, 419.

161 Le Meaux 2010, 3235.

162 Almagro Gorbea 2008; Santos et al. 2017, fig. 16, no. 1.

163 García-Gelabert Pérez and Blázquez Martínez 1997; Ornan 2001.

164 Schubart 1985, 165.

165 Jiménez Ávila 2002.

166 Almagro-Gorbea and Torres Ortiz 2010, 379384.

167 Le Meaux 2010, 4347.

168 Almagro-Gorbea 2002.

169 Cardoso and Arruda 2016.

170 Arruda 2016b.

171 Belén Deamos and Marín Ceballos 2002.

172 Gomes 1983; Arruda 2014.

173 Jiménez Ávila 1998; 2002.

174 Almagro-Gorbea and Torres Ortiz 2010, 375–379.

175 Le Meaux 2010, 4953.

176 Horn 2011, n. 410.

177 Belén Deamos and Marín Ceballos 2002, 170175.

178 Idem, 175–182.

179 Arruda 2016b.

180 Ferrer Albelda 1995–1996; Jiménez Ávila 2017b.

181 See, however, Gomes 1983.

182 Arruda 2001; Jiménez Ávila 2017a.

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References

Electronic reference

Francisco B. Gomes, « Early Iron Age Terracottas from Southern Portugal: Towards the Definition of a Regional Coroplastic Tradition », Les Carnets de l’ACoSt [Online], 19 | 2019, Online since 11 June 2019, connection on 19 May 2022. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/acost/1729 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/acost.1729

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About the author

Francisco B. Gomes

UNIARQ – Centre for Archaeology of the University of Lisbon; School of Arts and Humanities of the University of Lisbon; Foundation for Science and Technology.
franciscojbgomes@gmail.com

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Copyright

Licence Creative Commons
Les Carnets de l'ACoSt est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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