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A Cypro-Geometric clay pyxis from Amathus

Une pyxide d’argile cypro-géométrique d’Amathonte
Μια Κυπρο-γεωµετρική πήλινη πυξίδα από την Αµαθούντα
Vassos Karageorghis
p. 545-553

Résumés

Une pyxis se trouvant dans une collection privée à Limassol aurait été trouvée dans une tombe à Amathonte. Ce site a déjà livré plusieurs pyxides de la même période géométrique précoce. Décorées de la même manière, elles sont toutes rectangulaires, tandis que celle que nous décrivons ici est en forme de croissant et présente sur le devant le relief d’une femme, aux bras levés, la déesse bien connue qui a été introduite à Chypre de Crète. À Chypre, elle a été assimilée à la déesse de la fertilité, dont le symbole, au Proche-Orient, est le croissant. Est-il alors vraisemblable que la forme de cette pyxis puisse être liée à la figurine ?

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Texte intégral

  • 1 The pyxis forms part of the collection of Achilleas Apostolou of Limassol. It has been registered w (...)

1Although the pyxis which we publish here was not brought to light through a proper excavation, there is no reason to doubt the information provided by its present owner, that it was found in the necropolis of Amathus in a half-looted tomb. We decided to publish this object because of the rarity of its type and the unique character of its shape and decoration1.

2The pyxis is crescent-shaped, with a flat base, and is in a good state of preservation (figs. 1-4). The decoration on its convex side is slightly worn. Length: 27 cm; max. width (including relief decoration): 11.8 cm; height (with lid): 7 cm; depth: 4.7 cm. The pyxis is decorated in the Bichrome technique, with black and purple matt paint, on the convex and concave sides and on the upper part of the lid.

Fig. 1 — Amathus pyxis, Apostolou collection, front view, with lid.

Fig. 1 — Amathus pyxis, Apostolou collection, front view, with lid.

Photo Athanasios Athanasiou.

Fig. 2 — Amathus pyxis, Apostolou collection, back view.

Fig. 2 — Amathus pyxis, Apostolou collection, back view.

Photo Athanasios Athanasiou.

Fig. 3 — Amathus pyxis, Apostolou collection, view of the inside.

Fig. 3 — Amathus pyxis, Apostolou collection, view of the inside.

Photo Athanasios Athanasiou.

Fig. 4 — Amathus pyxis, Apostolou collection, the lid.

Fig. 4 — Amathus pyxis, Apostolou collection, the lid.

Photo Athanasios Athanasiou.

3The shape of the lid follows exactly that of the perimeter of the top of the box, with a lug at the middle of the concave side which corresponds exactly to the size and shape of the top of the relief decoration at the middle of the concave side of the box, which has a hole, 4 cm deep, for fixing the lid with a pin of metal or wood (the one shown in the photo is a modern addition).

4Apart from the painted decoration, the concave side is also decorated in the middle with a standing female figure in high relief. It has a cylindrical body without any indication of feet; both arms are raised to the height of the box, just below its flat out-turned rim; the head is also just below the rim. One thus has the impression that the lid is supported on the top of the skull and held by both arms of the figure.

5Both corners of the pyxis are decorated with a vertical zig-zag line flanked by vertical lines. The rest of the concave side is divided by vertical parallel lines into four rectangular panels, two on either side of the female figure. The metope on the extreme left is decorated with a framed latticed lozenge, with the rest of the space of the metope filled with purple paint. The adjacent metope contains a small lozenge in the middle with two thick wings at each of its four corners.

6The two metopes on the other side of the figure are decorated with exactly the same motifs as the two metopes on the left side. The figure occupies a larger metope in the centre of the side, against a purple background. The eyes and mouth are rendered with black paint; there are two horizontal lines across the lower half of the body and transversal lines on both arms. In the place of the breasts there are two small swastikas in black paint. A necklace with a drop-shaped pendant is also indicated in black paint.

7The box of the pyxis has a rectangular out-turned rim, the front part of which is decorated with a zig-zag to wavy band all round. The convex side of the pyxis is also decorated with metopes, six in all, filled alternatively with a large latticed lozenge and a butterfly motif. The three metopes containing a butterfly motif are larger than the others. The butterfly motif is filled with purple paint.

8The upper side of the lid is similarly covered symmetrically with geometric motifs in adjacent panels flanked by vertical lines, with a band all along its perimeter. Across the middle of the lid and including the perforated lug, the panel is filled with a vertical chain of three framed latticed lozenges, with purple paint filling the rest of the space on either side of the chain. On the extreme left of the lid, in the small triangular space, there is a group of four horizontal lines bordering the flanking lines of the band. The next band is narrow and filled with a vertical zig-zag band. The following band is decorated with two windmill motifs, adjacent to the central band. On the other side of the central band there are again two windmill motifs; in the adjacent band a vertical chain of small lozenges, each with a small dot in the middle, and in the angular space a group of four horizontal lines as in the corresponding space in the opposite corner. There is a horizontal zig-zag to wavy band all-round the edge of the lid, corresponding to that on the edge of the rim of the box.

  • 2 It was registered by the Ashmolean in 1968, which means that it was exported from Cyprus at a time (...)
  • 3 Karageorghis 1967, p. 302, fig. 73; Pieridou 1973, pl. 6.11-12.

9We have already pointed out the unique character of the shape of this pyxis. Its nearest antecedent is a clay pyxis of Late Cypriote IIIB date (Proto-White Painted ware), now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. It is said to have been bought in the Turkish village of Chatos in the Famagusta District2. It is semicircular and rests on three lug legs. It is 12.7 cm high and 15.9 cm long. It has a flat lid. The box and the lid are divided into panels and metopes which are filled with geometric motifs, including latticed lozenges, chevrons, zig-zags and diagonals. Another pyxis of Proto-White Painted ware, rectangular in shape, also supported on four legs and divided inside into two compartments, is said to have been found in Paphos. It is now in the Paphos District Museum3.

  • 4 Karageorghis and Iacovou 1990, p. 86, 95-97, fig. 8.

10The type of the four-sided, long, narrow clay pyxis, rectangular in shape with a flat lid, was probably invented at Amathus. There are two examples from Amathus Tomb 521, nos. 63 and 854. They had legs, but these were scraped off before firing, perhaps a last minute decision by the potter that this shape did not really need legs. We dated this tomb to the Cypro-Geometric IB period, i.e. the first half of the 10th century B.C. Both pyxides are decorated in the Bichrome technique, with metopes and panels filled with geometric motifs, including chains of framed latticed lozenges and zig-zag lines, in a style strikingly similar to that of our pyxis.

  • 5 Iacovou 1988, p. 55-56.
  • 6 Karageorghis 1983, pl. LIV.53 and CXLIX.23.

11There is another four-sided pyxis, of a type similar to that of the Amathus Tomb 521 pyxides and also decorated in the Bichrome technique, now in the Pierides Museum in Larnaca (fig. 5). We assigned this pyxis to Bichrome I, but Iacovou lowered its date to Bichrome II–III, on account of the shape of two jugs with zoomorphic mouths which are painted on one of its sides and which represent vases typologically not earlier than the Cypro-Archaic period. She admits, however, that this pyxis “does indeed share a number of abstract patterns with late Cypro-Geometric I pictorial vases”5. We still doubt the validity of this argument. Vases with anthropomorphic mouths were also once known only from the Cypro-Archaic period and all of a sudden this picture changed with the discovery in Tombs 49 and 78 at Palaepaphos of two jugs of Proto-White Painted and White Painted I ware, nos. 53 and 23 respectively6. They are, up to now, unique examples. Can we be sure that zoomorphic vases were not made before the Cypro-Archaic period?

Fig. 5 — Pyxis in the Pierides Collection.

Fig. 5 — Pyxis in the Pierides Collection.

Pierides Foundation Museum, Larnaca.

  • 7 Georgiadou 2014, p. 378.

12The Pierides pyxis is decorated with metopes and adjacent bands in the same style as the Amathus Tomb 521 pyxides and our new Amathus pyxis, filled with motifs of late Cypro-Geometric IB. We should also underline the prominent place given to windmill motifs both in the case of the Pierides pyxis and our Amathus pyxis. Considering the above, we are inclined to suggest that all pyxides mentioned may be of late Cypro-Geometric I date and perhaps products of the same Amathus workshop. The hypothesis of an Amathusian production may perhaps be supported by a comparison with the style of the decoration of ceramic products of the same period from Amathus, namely the plates7.

  • 8 Des Gagniers and Karageorghis 1976, pl. XIX.2.

13The pyxis in a form other than the four-sided clay box or chest has a long tradition in Cypriote ceramics, notably in the Early and Middle Bronze Ages in Red Polished, Black Polished and White Painted wares. These vessels are ovoid in shape, with a flat or flattened base and an opening which was covered with a flat lid. It is possible that they are models of originals carved in wood, which were in use in daily life and imitated in clay which was more suitable and durable for vessels placed in tombs as funerary gifts. An almost rectangular box with rounded corners in Red Polished ware from Limassol-Ayios Nicolaos may support this suggestion8. The wooden boxes may have been decorated with engraved linear geometric motifs.

  • 9 Åström 1972, p. 554-555 and p. 611-615; Karageorghis 1974, Kition Tomb 9 u.b. 354.
  • 10 Åström 1972, p. 614-615; Courtois, Lagarce and Lagarce 1986, p. 137-138.
  • 11 Courtois, Lagarce and Lagarce 1986, pl. XXIV, 10.
  • 12 Caubet, Courtois and Karageorghis 1987, p. 44-46.

14During the Late Cypriote period ivory was extensively used for boxes of a variety of shapes, mainly cylindrical, but also imitating bird forms and in one case a bathtub, all with lids9. Quite remarkable is an ivory gaming box from Enkomi, oblong and four-sided, supported on four short legs and covered with a flat lid10 and another from the Swedish Excavations at Enkomi (Tomb 11, no. 34)11, all of Late Cypriote IIIA date. Several limestone and one four-sided chest with engraved or painted decoration but with no lids have been assigned to Enkomi Levels IIIA and IIIB12.

15The above-mentioned boxes made of non-ceramic material and their imitations in clay were obviously used as containers of small objects, such as pieces of jewellery. Apart from clay, limestone and ivory, there may have been others of metal, not yet discovered.

  • 13 Hermary 2014, p. 292-294, no. 410.

16The potter or potters who produced the two four-sided boxes from Amathus Tomb 521 and probably the one in the Pierides collection were quite imaginative. They created a skeuomorphic clay model, light and practical, the four sides of which offered ideal spaces for geometric painted decoration. But even more imaginative was the potter of our Amathus pyxis, decorated also with a figure in high relief. There is one parallel for this, in limestone, now in the Cesnola Collection in the Metropolitan Museum, New York (fig. 6). It is said to have been found in the necropolis of Idalion. It was recently studied by Hermary, who dates it to the ‘Late Geometric’ period. It was made by an able craftsman, who decorated its two short sides with a standing nude female figure with uplifted arms and one of the long sides with an ibex and a dog, all in relief. The other long side is decorated with metopes filled with engraved geometric motifs, including swastikas, lozenges and framed triangles13.

Fig. 6 — Limestone chest with decoration in relief.

Fig. 6 — Limestone chest with decoration in relief.

Now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Cesnola Collection, 1984-76 [74.51.5163].

  • 14 Caubet, Courtois and Karageorghis 1987, p. 44, no. 4.

17Another limestone box from Golgoi, decorated with engraved geometric motifs, is dated by Hermary to the “Geometric” period. In my contribution in an article by Caubet, Courtois and Karageorghis, I referred to the limestone box from Idalion in the Cesnola Collection and suggested that Hermary’s boxes Cat. nos. 409 and 410 may date to the Cypro-Geometric I period, because of their relief and engraved decoration14.

  • 15 Karageorghis 1977.

18The figure of the “Goddess” with uplifted arms, a well-known import from Crete to Cyprus in the 11th century B.C.15, which is given a prominent place on our Amathus crescent-shaped clay pyxis and on the Idalion limestone pyxis, is obviously significant not only for the dating of the two objects, but also for their association with this important early Iron Age divinity which was associated with the local goddess of fertility and which developed into Aphrodite-Artarte. I believe it is legitimate to associate the two pyxides decorated with the figure of the ‘goddess’ with priestesses of this divinity, in whose tombs they were placed, containing their jewellery. We may even go as far as to suggest that the crescent, the oriental symbol of this goddess of fertility, may be linked with the shape of our Amathus pyxis.

  • 16 Winter 1983, p. 114, fig. 43, on a gold amulet from Minet el Beida.
  • 17 Muller 2002, p. 53-54, no. 143 on the façade of a clay model of a sanctuary from Tell el Far’ah.

19The crescent, as the symbol of the “celestial queen” Astarte, appears in Syro-Palestine as early as the Late Bronze Age16 and continues into the Iron Age17.

20The new Amathus pyxis is an important addition to the very limited corpus of pyxides of the Cypro-Geometric period, not only because of its rich geometric motifs, but also because of the religious aspect of part of its decoration and perhaps of its shape.

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Bibliographie

Åström 1972 = L. Åström, Other Arts and Crafts, in P. Åström, The Swedish Cyprus Expedition, vol. IV, Part ID (1972).

Brown and Catling 1980 = A. Brown and H. Catling, “Additions to the Cypriot collection in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1963-77”, Opuscula Atheniensia XIII (1980), p. 91-137.

Caubet, Courtois and Karageorghis 1987 = A. Caubet, J.-C. Courtois and V. Karageorghis, “Enkomi (fouilles Schaeffer 1934–1966). Inventaire complémentaire”, Report of the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus (1987), p. 23-48.

Courtois 1984 = J.-C. Courtois et alii, Alasia IIILes objets des niveaux stratifiés d’Enkomi (fouilles C.F.A. Schaeffer 1947–1970) (1984).

Courtois, Lagarce and Lagarce 1986 = J.-C. Courtois, J. and E. Lagarce, Enkomi et le Bronze Récent à Chypre (1986).

Des Gagniers and Karageorghis 1974 = J. Des Gagniers and V. Karageorghis, Vases et figurines de l’Âge du Bronze à Chypre. Céramique rouge et noire polie (1974).

Georgiadou 2014 = A. Georgiadou, “Productions et styles régionaux dans l’artisanat céramique de Chypre à l’époque géométrique (xie-viiie s. av. J.‑C.)”, BCH 138 (2014), p. 361-385.

Hermary 2014 = A. Hermary, The Cesnola Collection of Cypriot Art. Stone Sculpture (2014).

Iacovou 1988 = M. Iacovou, The Pictorial Pottery of Eleventh Century B.C. Cyprus, Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology LXXIX (1988).

Karageorghis 1967 = V. Karageorghis, “Chronique des fouilles et découvertes archéologiques à Chypre en 1966”, BCH 91 (1967), p. 275-370.

Karageorghis 1974 = V. Karageorghis, Excavations at Kition, I: The Tombs (1974).

Karageorghis 1977 = V. Karageorghis, The Goddess with Uplifted Arms in Cyprus (Scripta-Minora 1977-78 in honorem Einari Gjerstad) (1977).

Karageorghis 1983 = V. Karageorghis, Palaepaphos-Skales. An Iron Age Cemetery in Cyprus (1983).

Karageorghis 1985 = V. Karageorghis, Ancient Cypriote Art in the Museum of the Pierides Foundation (1985).

Karageorghis and Iacovou 1990 = V. Karageorghis and M. Iacovou, “Amathus Tomb 521. A Cypro-Geometric I group”, Report of the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus (1990), p. 75-98.

Muller 2002 = B. Muller, Les “maquettes architecturales’’ du Proche Orient Ancien (2002).

Pieridou 1973 = A. Pieridou, Ο Πρωτογεωµετρικός ρυθµός εν Κύπρω (1973).

Winter 1983 = U. Winter, Frau und Göttin, Exegetische und iconographische Studien zum weiblichen Göttesbild in Alten Israel und in dessen Umwelt, Urbis Biblicus et Orientalis 53 (1983).

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Notes

1 The pyxis forms part of the collection of Achilleas Apostolou of Limassol. It has been registered with the Department of Antiquities, in compliance with the Antiquities Law. We thank the collector for proposing to us to publish this object and for all the facilities which he offered for its study. Athanasios Athanasiou took the photographs of the pyxis.

2 It was registered by the Ashmolean in 1968, which means that it was exported from Cyprus at a time when there was tomb-looting and illicit export of antiquities on a large scale in Turkish Cypriote enclaves, especially in the areas of Palaepaphos and Alaas (see Brown and Catling 1980, p. 118, no. 71). At the same time the Ashmolean acquired a number of such illicitly exported Proto-White Painted ware vases together with other Cypriote antiquities, some of them donated by the collector James Bomford, who was a frequent visitor to “antiquities shops’’ in the Turkish quarter of Nicosia.

3 Karageorghis 1967, p. 302, fig. 73; Pieridou 1973, pl. 6.11-12.

4 Karageorghis and Iacovou 1990, p. 86, 95-97, fig. 8.

5 Iacovou 1988, p. 55-56.

6 Karageorghis 1983, pl. LIV.53 and CXLIX.23.

7 Georgiadou 2014, p. 378.

8 Des Gagniers and Karageorghis 1976, pl. XIX.2.

9 Åström 1972, p. 554-555 and p. 611-615; Karageorghis 1974, Kition Tomb 9 u.b. 354.

10 Åström 1972, p. 614-615; Courtois, Lagarce and Lagarce 1986, p. 137-138.

11 Courtois, Lagarce and Lagarce 1986, pl. XXIV, 10.

12 Caubet, Courtois and Karageorghis 1987, p. 44-46.

13 Hermary 2014, p. 292-294, no. 410.

14 Caubet, Courtois and Karageorghis 1987, p. 44, no. 4.

15 Karageorghis 1977.

16 Winter 1983, p. 114, fig. 43, on a gold amulet from Minet el Beida.

17 Muller 2002, p. 53-54, no. 143 on the façade of a clay model of a sanctuary from Tell el Far’ah.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1 — Amathus pyxis, Apostolou collection, front view, with lid.
Crédits Photo Athanasios Athanasiou.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/bch/docannexe/image/920/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 421k
Titre Fig. 2 — Amathus pyxis, Apostolou collection, back view.
Crédits Photo Athanasios Athanasiou.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/bch/docannexe/image/920/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 479k
Titre Fig. 3 — Amathus pyxis, Apostolou collection, view of the inside.
Crédits Photo Athanasios Athanasiou.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/bch/docannexe/image/920/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 268k
Titre Fig. 4 — Amathus pyxis, Apostolou collection, the lid.
Crédits Photo Athanasios Athanasiou.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/bch/docannexe/image/920/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 365k
Titre Fig. 5 — Pyxis in the Pierides Collection.
Crédits Pierides Foundation Museum, Larnaca.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/bch/docannexe/image/920/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 389k
Titre Fig. 6 — Limestone chest with decoration in relief.
Crédits Now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Cesnola Collection, 1984-76 [74.51.5163].
URL http://journals.openedition.org/bch/docannexe/image/920/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 569k
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Référence papier

Vassos Karageorghis, « A Cypro-Geometric clay pyxis from Amathus  »Bulletin de correspondance hellénique, 143.2 | 2019, 545-553.

Référence électronique

Vassos Karageorghis, « A Cypro-Geometric clay pyxis from Amathus  »Bulletin de correspondance hellénique [En ligne], 143.2 | 2019, mis en ligne le 05 mars 2020, consulté le 16 août 2022. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/bch/920 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/bch.920

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Auteur

Vassos Karageorghis

Archaeologist. Former Director of the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus and Former Vice-president of the Pierides Foundation.

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