Found by HD Johnson in the garden at Red House Farm near Sible Hedingham, Essex c1960. The British Museum agreed it was probably a stone age implement (it fits the hand beautifully) , but I have not found the letter to see what period they suggested. However a friend who has an interest in hand axes believes it is Palaeolithic (ie before 10,000 BC), which was a period of hunter-gatherers.
I have used that period as my title but stone tools continued to be used for thousands more years of the Mesolithic, and the Neolithic which brought farming, and even after the introduction of Bronze in around 2150BC metal only took over very gradually. Some stone tools were still being used for nearly 1000 more years.
East Anglia is a well known source of flint. The famous Neolithic flint mines known as Grimes Graves in South Norfolk are reckoned to have produced 16000 - 18000 tons of flint which was traded across the country.
Size: 10cm L
Central and East European, Linear Pottery Culture (Danubian I) round-bottomed burnished bowl with incised linear decoration and (5?) lugs. (Compare with less-crude, Early Bronze Age Cypriot incised polished ware.) Fragment made of 5 pieces. Only about 1/8th of the vessel is original, the remainder has been carefully reconstructed with painted plaster, repeating the existing pattern 4 times, though originally without the other (4?) lugs, which I have added. The restored parts have recreated the look of filling the incisions with lime (as is found also in Early Bronze Age Cypriot pots). Note that the original bowl was only partly black with other parts merging into reddish buff, representing different conditions in the kiln. The densest evidence for Linear Pottery Culture is on the middle Danube, the upper and middle Elbe, and the upper and middle Rhine. It represents a major event in the initial spread of agriculture in Europe. The pottery after which it was named consists of simple domestic kitchen ware: cups, bowls, vases, and jugs: without handles, but in a later phase with bases and necks and often lugs as here.
The large fortified settlement at Uzlonk (Poland) was from the end of the culture. It had 30 large trapezoidal longhouses, between 7 and 45 metres long, made of massive beams with wattle and daub infill, plus 80 graves.
Size: 22cm W
(Ex private collection Regensburg Germany)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 2014)
Sumer, is now South Iraq. The Sumerians invented the yoke for ploughing with oxen at this time. Beads are commonly found profusely in Sumerian graves, worn around arms, neck or head. These are the most humble kind, but they can be semi precious stone, glazed pottery, or glass which the Sumerians are believed to have discovered 500 years earlier, during the early smelting of copper. They may have been the first to make bronze at about the same time they invented the potters wheel (3500BC). Then about 3200 BC either they or the Egyptians invented picto-graphic writing (it used to be thought the Sumerians were first, though it should be said that a sort of proto-writing was used by the Vinca - centred around Siberia - as early as the 6th or 5th century BC). Sumerian cuneiform (syllabic and alphabetic) writing followed in about 2000 BC.
(When bought the necklace had a simple metal catch (now changed) which was anachronistic for any jewelry at the start of the bronze age, but especially something so basic.)
Size: 64cm around
(Aquired Ancient Art)
A finely preserved Sumerian clay cuneiform tablet from the city of Girsu in the kingdom of-Larsa, detailing provisions to be given to a courier/emissary travelling to Susa. Girsu is about 75km North of Ur (Then part of the Kingdom of Isin and later of Babylon) between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in modern South Iran. The text runs around 3 sides of the tablet.
Susa was 300km to the East, beyond the Tigris. Founded in 4200BC, it was part of the Uruk and then Elam cultures and then capital of an Accaddian province. However the governor rebelled in 2100 and at the time of this tablet it was ruled by the Neo Sumerian Ur III dynasty (who had conquered Elam) and was a literary centre. Later it became an important city of the Median and then Persian empires.
Cuneiform was among the first writing systems, impressed with a wedge shaped stylus in wet clay (Cuneform means wedge-shaped).
Emerging in Sumer in the late fourth millennium BCE (the Uruk IV period), cuneiform writing began as a system of pictograms. These became simplified and abstract, reducing from about 1000 in the Early Bronze Age to about 400 in Late Bronze Age (Hittite cuneiform). The system consists of a combination of logophonetic, consonantal alphabetic and syllabic signs. The original Sumerian script was adapted for the writing of the Akkadian, Eblaite, Elamite, Hittite, Luwian, Hattic, Hurrian, and Urartian languages, and it inspired the Ugaritic alphabet and Old Persian cuneiform. Cuneiform writing was gradually replaced by the Phoenician alphabet during the Neo-Assyrian Empire. By the second century CE, the script had become extinct, and all knowledge of how to read it was lost until it began to be deciphered in the 19th century.
About a million cuneiform tablets have been excavated, only about one in 20 having been read and translated. Most are administrative lists, but they also including the Epic of Gilgamesh from around 2100 - 1200BC (there are a number of evolving versions)- often called the first work of world literature, and containing a version of the flood remarkably similar to the much later one in the bible.
The text reads:
"5 quarts of beer, ordinary 3 quarts of chickpea flour 1 scoop of vegetable oil within the city;
1 kor(?!) of beer, sweet-wart, ordinary 5 quarts of flour, for travel Puzur-Enlil.
5 quarts of beer 3 quarts of chickpea flour 1 scoop of vegetable oil within the city.
1 kor of beer, sweet-wart 5 quarts of flour, for travel Abbamu, emissary, going to Susa.
Month V (Girsu calendar)"
Size: 4.2 x 2.7 cm
(Ex. private collection, Brittany, France; acquired late 19th or early 20th Century.)
(Aquired Helios Gallery, February 2016)
Cyprus was upthrust from the sea bed about 12 million years ago, so most of the rocks are limestone, thought the modest size Troodos mountains with their important copper deposits are volcanic. For most of its history the island was covered in forest.
Human settlement came relatively late. Burnt bones of birds, fish and pigmy hippopotomi, and later tools, have been found by Acrotiri coastal caves, spanning from 10800 to 9800 BC. However these people may have been visitors and the oldest known Cypriot settlements were Neolithic I, from c. 8700 – 6000 BC. They had round, mud brick houses with stone foundations and burnt lime floors and stone pots and tools, since they had not discovered the art of making ceramics. They also dug the oldest known water wells in the world. There were already pigs and birds, but they introduced dogs, sheep, and ibex (goats) to Cyprus and possibly a few cattle, which remained wild and later died out. They also introduced and hunted fallow deer and boars and grew cereals and pulses. Average age at death was about 34. Graves are found under the floors of houses, one from 7500BC included the owner’s cat (the oldest known domestic cat: well before the Egyptians). Weaving is attested by the presence of spindlewhorls and garments were probably of wool. They were fastened with bone pins, and sewn with needles. Personal ornament is represented by stone beads, pendants and bracelets; and necklaces of dentalia shells, carnelian and greyish-green pikrite. Bone was used for handles of stone tools, for awls, pins and needles. Maces of polished stone were used as weapons.
Their most famous site is Choirokoitia (Khirokitia), a walled village of c.60 excavated houses, (where 3 houses have been reconstructed) though there may have been many more. Through most of the Neolithic period Cyprus remained relatively isolated, though there has been some imported obsidian and other imported materials found.
There is a gap in the record, and then from 5500 – 3500 BC there was a Ceramic, Neolithic II society across the island, probably brought by new settlers from Syria and Anatolia. Like the earlier settlers they lived by farming and herding. Their pottery was monochrome with combed decoration. In the final phase there was also a painted red on white ware. Burials outside the settlement became the norm. Their settlements, such as Sotira (c.50 thin-walled rectangular houses with rounded corners) were devastated by earthquakes c. 3800 BC
Polished stone tool. Although stone tools and axes are regularly ascribed to the neolithic, they continued to be made exclusively of stone in the Chalcolithic period since copper was too rare and valuable for such things. Even into the late bronze age the high cost of bronze and greater ease of working stone meant that stone tools and axes continued to be made. I intend to investigate whether stylistic differences might narrow the date attribution in this case.
The stone used for polished tools is usually Gabbro, which has a volcanic origin, as has the copper ores in the pillow lava of the lower slopes of the Troodos mountains, which were to become so important in the Bronze Age. Tools with a sharp edge were made of flint or occasionally, in the NW, obsidian imported from Anatolia. Bowls and dishes were carved from limestone or volcanic Andesite.
Size: 6 cm
(Collection General-Surgeon Dr. Josef Mayer-Riefenthaler, Vienna. Acquired in Cyprus in the 1950s & 1960s, during his deployment as UN soldier.)
(Aquired Christoph Bacher, Vienna, February 2016.)
Hollowed out stones were used as lamps well into the Bronze Age, though, again, the crudity suggests an earlier date. A wick made of plant fibre would have dipped into the oil or fat in the side channel. Presumably the stone would have absorbed some of the oil at first.
Except for the "spout", it looks very like a very early, Aceramic (pre-pottery) Neolithic bowl (9th-8th millenium BC) of similar diameter in the Cyprus Museum, though more shallow. If made later it was a poor and crude example. A harder stone would have been preferable for either purpose but more difficult to obtain than limestone.
If it is a small, crude, limestone mortar, it is almost impossible to date but very evocative. However I would have expected a smoother interior. Households had much grinding equipment for different purposes but grinding stones (or pestles) are found in collections more often than mortars. It probably comes from a settlement as such things were not normally put in tombs (though in the neolithic I am less sure). If it is a mortar, this must have been for grinding small quantities of some flavouring or medicine or pigment. It was collected in Cyprus but this is a very obvious example of how meaning is lost from a lack of excavation context.
Crack opposite spout. (There was no information as to whether the shells it was sold with were excavated at the same time, but it seems possible so I have retained them).
Size: 4 x 9 x 8 cm
(Ex collection of David Read, acquired between 1966-1969 while working as a government official in Cyprus. He explored the ancient sites and museums and got to know local collectors and historians.)
(Aquired 14th Dec 2017 through Chiswick Auctions from failed lot 152 (part))
Following Neolithic II without a cultural break was the Erimi culture of the Chalcolithic Age, found especially in the South and West (3800- 2300 BC). Though still basically a stone-age society they discovered and worked the small amount of (uncombined) native copper crystals which canbe found on the surface of the earth. Only a few small items could be hammered out of this soft, pure copper: small chisels, hooks and jewellery. There was growing social, as well as technical complexity which became more explicit in the Bronze Age. Houses and grave-goods now show some social differentiation. Though most people were buried within settlements a select few were buried in cemeteries of rock-cut tombs. As well as large plain, storage and cooking pots they made red-on-white pottery such as the item below, and cross-shaped Picrolite stone (or sometimes pottery or limestone) figurines with stumpy spread arms. These latter suggest a ritual or votive use. The island was probably ruled by regional chiefs.
In the late Chalcolithic Red on White ware disappeared and Monochrome wares dominated. There were some large communities of substantial, round stone and mud-brick houses, many abandoned before the Bronze Age. A few signs of Anatolian influence appear from 2800 BC onwards. The arrival of new Anatolian settlers around 2500 BC brought the first true Bronze-Age culture in Cyprus: the Philia culture. However Chalcolithic culture continued in much of the island well into the Philia period.
Chalcolithic Red on White ware continued from Neolithic Red on White, but died out in the late Chalcolithic (though it was perhaps continued by the very rare White Painted Philia ware).
If accepted as genuine this is a very rare near-intact Red on White beaker (restored chips on rim) from the middle Chalcolithic period. However there is current disagreement about whether this pot is Cypriot Chalcolithic. Its provenance was lost at the death of the last owner and it is not on the Art Loss register. The main shape is typical but not the out-turned rim. The decoration (but certainly not the shape) is like much from the Cypriot Mid Bronze Age, White Painted Ware, but cross-hatched triangles have been found on chalcolithic pots (though rare). The piece is thick-walled and heavy for its small size. It may not even be Cypriot but no convincing alternative has been suggested. Bought 2014 It has currently been returned to the dealer after doubt was cast on its attribution. More research is current. I have asked for first refusal.
(Ex. private collection Wiltshire UK. Acquired at auction from a deceased estate in a mixed lot of Victorian pottery. All previous provenance had been lost or thrown away. [March 12016: suggested to be from N. Mesopotamia/NW Iran and after research, North Iran is now accepted.] Since discovered in a Bonhams auction catalogue 1999, lot 394)
(Aquired 2014. RETURNED TO DEALER. Now considered Chalcolithic from North Iran.)
Cruciform figures made of green picrolite stone are the most emblematic remains from the Cypriot Chalcolithic period: one even appears on the Cypriot one Euro coin. They have been found across the island but mostly in the South West. Quite large numbers of these have been found, both in graves and in houses, including an apparent manufacturing site in Souskiou. Frequently these are found in a child's grave and perhaps had been worn by the mother during her pregnancy (and possibly earlier to promote it). All the adult burials containing these figures (where we know the sex), have proved to be female. Though the middle Chalcolithic starts in 3600BC, most cruciform figurines were made after 3000 BC. At the start 0f the late Chalcolithic (from 2700 BC) the production of figurines died out and though late chalcolithic culture continued in some areas well into the Bronze Age Philia period, the next significant production of figurines was the "plank" figures starting about 600 years later.
These images were at first thought to represent a fertility goddess, but are now generally believed to have been potent charms intended to promote successful pregnancy and childbirth by sympathetic magic. However it has also been suggested that the 2 known, very large (c 40cm) limestone versions might have been cult figures and all the smaller ones portable representations of them. The most common type of cruciform figure are tiny and, like this one, simplified with a pierced head to hang them around the neck from a thong. The most famous types, however, are larger and more detailed with facial features and fingers, 6 -14cm high. They appear to be in a crouching pose and all have outstretched arms and long neck, which gives them a cruciform shape. The outstretched arms are thought to refer to a birthing position, still widely used in many parts of the world, where the crouching woman's arms are supported by an assistant from behind. One of the largest of these figures has a tiny version of itself depicted hanging around its neck. There were also other figures made of limestone and pottery, some the latter depicting childbirth. After death they were placed in the graves of women and children.
Vertical grooves on and (sometimes) between the arms, as on this one are a feature of a number of examples but it is unclear what they signify.
There is a restoration of a lower leg, more extensive on the (plain) back of this figure. Some people like the restored sections of an antiquity to be distinct from the original parts but why this was done in such a different colour in this case is a mystery. However, judging from a photograph an eminent archaeologist thought the figure was authentic. He thought that the fine striations were the result of both manufacture and wear and were quite typical. This means it had been worn and afterwards probably inserted with a burial. Picrolite stone had been used for ornaments long before, and picrolite beads have been found in Acrotiri caves from 6000 years earlier.
(Collection General-Surgeon Dr. Josef Mayer-Riefenthaler, Vienna. Acquired in Cyprus in the late 1950s, or more likely 1965-(67?), during his deployment as UN soldier.)
(Aquired Christoph Bacher, Vienna, February 2016.)
Lower half of a Chalcolithic cruciform figure, broken just below the (always outstretched) arms. This figure would have been relatively large (perhaps 10cm since the neck of these figures is always very long, forming the characteristic almost symmetrical cross). These iconic figures of Chalcolithic Cyprus are found across the island but particularly in the South West where they (and probably this piece) were mostly made. In a few instances the arms are replaced by a second figure at right angles to the first, or the second figure may even stand on top of the other, forming a double cross.
They are usually considered to be birthing figures, probably intended to magically promote successful pregnancy and childbirth and are found only in the graves of children, and women (where sex can be determined). They are depicted in a crouching position used in childbirth (or as in the small pierced versions, probably alluding obliquely to this position) in which a helper would have supported the woman from behind.
The vertically divided V shape on the front of the torso suggests the stylised depiction of breasts found on two much larger limestone cruciform figures, one probably from Souskiou, now in the J Paul Getty Museum at Malibu. The shape is also very suggestive (probably intentionally) of a displaced female pubis with vaginal cleft. Indeed the other figure, the “Lemba Lady” now in the Cyprus Museum, has both breasts and vagina which echo the same shape. This latter figure also has similarities to some neolithic figurines. At one time all these figures were generally believed to represent a fertility goddess and as recently as 2004 Louise Steel suggested these larger figures were cult figures to which the small, portable versions referred.
The figure is broken cleanly across the middle. Whether this might have been done deliberately I do not know. Certainly there is some evidence this was done to many Early/Middle Cypriot plank figures, “killing” them to enter the world of the dead. However it has been pointed out to me that plank figures are not well fired and it is easy to break them accidentally. Certainly a few cruciform figures seem to have been deliberately broken or defaced and the famous ceramic model of a house with a door found at Lemba, containing terracotta figurines also relating to childbirth, seems to have been deliberately defaced before burial, by the door of a house. This may have been at the point that figurines ceased to be made at the end of the Middle Chalcolithic, when there seems to have been a general change in beliefs, practices and social organisation of communities.
Size: 4.6cm high
(Ex 1960s Savva collection (Savva was a Cypriot living in England. I am uncertain if this might be Savva the artist) . Exported from Cyprus, 1960s, by repute. The dealer said he was told it had been stored in a box with other antiques wrapped in 1960's newspaper.)
(Aquired from Art Ancient, London October 2017.)
Around 2500BC, new settlers from Anatolia (South Turkey) brought Bronze-making and new technology to Cyprus, plus new animal species. They may have been refugees from Indo European invasions. (In Anatolia these conflicts led to the Accadian empire of Sargon the 1st.) They introduced ploughs and sickles and the warp-weighted loom and had mud-brick houses or compounds built on stone footings (rectangular rooms arranged around a courtyard). Pit and rock-cut chamber tombs were outside the walls. They brought in donkeys and re-introduced cattle to the island in large numbers.
The Philia, as they are now called, quickly moved from the North coastal plain into the foothills of the copper-rich Troodos mountains. They introduced copper smelting but most of the metal had only accidental impurities. Harder bronze was made by including arsenic (which is found in many Cypriot copper ores) to the soft copper, but this was mostly in the next (ECI) period. (Only later, in the ECII period, was the less toxic tin added, which had to be imported.)
They introduced ploughs and sickles and the warp-weighted loom and had mud-brick houses, or compounds, built on stone footings (rectangular rooms arranged around a courtyard). Pit and rock-cut chamber tombs were outside the walls. They brought in donkeys and re-introduced cattle to the island in large numbers. These animals pulling their new ploughs allowed larger areas to be taken into cultivation, which started an expansion of the population
The Philia also made flat-bottomed red polished ware pottery (often with broken-line incised decoration). There are strong similarities with Anatolan Red Burnished ware (eg from Tarsus and Troy), though the latter had dishes and sometimes used the potters wheel - neither of these introduced in Cyprus. However the famous Philia large jugs with cut-away spout have parallels in western Anatolia.
However the Philia culture took a long time to occupy the whole island and the process appears to have been peaceful. They are chiefly associated with the vertical centre of the island, North to South, with not much in the East and West). A few outlying areas clung to Chalcolithic culture till possibly as late as 2300 BC. The Early Cypriot I culture which took over from them spread similarly slowly, starting around 2300BC, and again the process seems to have been assimilation rather than conquest.
It is only recently with the work of Webb and Frankel that the Philia period has been accepted as predating Early Cypriot. The dates of Cypriot Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age periods tend to be regularly revised. Most knowledge comes from cemeteries and there has been limited digging of stratified occupation sites of this period, partly due to the 1974 Turkish invasion and occupation of the North, which led to a UNESCO ban of archaeological co-operation.
This is pre-history. There are no lists of Kings as in several other civilisations of the time, and no written records until the late Bronze Age. Even these, in a version of Minoan Linear A script, have not yet been deciphered, due to the small number of extended texts.
Philia Red Incised Polished Ware. The majority of the red slip has been lost. The jug with cut-away spout is an iconic shape from the small repertoir of Philia period pottery as catalogued by Webb & Frankel. There is an almost identical piece in a photo from the Department of Antiquities, Nicosia: http://eca.state.gov/files/bureau/icpp/cypruspc/00000004.htm except that my one has incised abstract decoration to the upper body which, as is usual is in this period, is made up of discontinuous straight lines. However it also has a handle made from 3 strips twisted together, a sort of compromise between a twist and a plait. Twisted handles are found occasionally from the Early Cypriot onwards and plaited ones in the Iron Age. But I have been told this might be the only known, relatively complete example with a plaited handle from the Philia period. One fragmentary example is known from tomb 9 at Nicosia Ayia Paraskevi excavated by Stewart in 1955. Mine has an awkward experimental look, as though the potter didn't quite know what she (or he) was doing. Perhaps it was an attempt to copy hair braiding. This makes me wonder if this piece is transitional between Philia and Early Cypriot (The end of the Philia culture used to be put at 2300BC but is now edging towards 2200BC, so perhaps this jug comes from between these dates. A pair of relief eyes on either side of the spout have been applied to give the jug the appearance of a bird with an out-stretched neck, as in the example from the Department of Antiquities. The zoomorphic appearance is typical of Ancient Cypriot pottery from the Philia right on into the Early Iron Age (see my Iron Age jugs which both have painted eyes near the rim). The jug becomes a personage. The spout is cut away in a characteristic way which was continued into Early and Middle Cypriot jugs (see my Middle Bronze Age jug) though not in the south.
This piece is likely to have come from the North (from a site such as Vasilia) or from the Ovgos Valley, both areas of the island which have been under Turkish occupation since 1974. Although tomb looting goes on across the island, if it was acquired after 1974 it is most likely to have been looted and sold from the occupied area. I am attempting to find out from his estate when the famous artist who collected it is likely to have bought it.
The jug is flat-bottomed which is normally the case with Philia pottery, while Early and Middle Cypriot wares were almost always round bottomed, except in the South where the flat bottom can be found nearly to the end of the EC period. Only with Base ring Ware and Handmade Bichrome Ware in the Late Bronze Age did pots reappear which could sit on a flat surface, joined later in that period by imported Mycenaean wares and Cypriot wares derived from them. The jug was sold to me as Early or Mid Bronze Age so I was quite excited when I realised what it must be. I had been hoping for a while that I might find a piece from the first culture of Anatolian settlers who brought bronze-making technology to Cyprus - and here it is.
Repaired from numerous pieces, surface of slip worn, some losses and (red) patches of restoration.
Size: 40 cm x 18cm
(Ex. collection: Walter Womacka, Germany (1925-2010). Womacka was a Socialist Realist painter and head of the School of Art and Design Berlin-Weissensee from 1968 until 1988.)
(Aquired Helios Gallery Aug 2015)
Fine 15” (38cm) spear head, sold to me as 1200 BC, the time of the Trojan war, but now suggested on stylistic grounds to be probably from early in the Cypriot Early Bronze Age. However if this is the case it should be made of arsenic bronze rather than tin bronze. This is untested. The offset knob or button on the tang occurs on Philia culture examples (the first phase of the Bronze Age dated before the Early Cypriot period, so around 2450 to 2200 BC) but the rounded shoulder is more typical of EC I-II date (2200 to around 2000 or so) Very similarly shaped spears but with hooked tip to the rat-tailed tang were common in Cyprus and the near east and they existed right through the Bronze age, though in the Late Bronze Age many spears had sockets. The socket is functionally superior but more complex to make.
This spear is so fine it would have been a prestige object which only important people might have owned (and been buried with). The spear tip would have been cast in a two part mould and then hammered. Forging bronze is tricky – mistakes can’t be rectified as with iron. It would have been fixed into the handle (with knob-end visible) by boring a hole and splitting the end; afterwards binding the split end with laching cord*. The angled tang prevents it being pulled out. A 6 ft or at most 8ft wooden shaft is likely. There are longer spears, held with both hands, depicted later in the bronze age (eg Acrotiri fresco 1600 BC). Throwing spears were also later and had smaller heads. Spears were the most common weapon of the time. Although there is no direct evidence, combat reconstruction suggests it may, as later, have been used largely one-handed in battle with a shield in the other hand, but impromptu use might be different. There are no defences or other indications that the Early Bronze Age was a period of conflict on the island, but spearheads are found in tombs – though not as often as later in the Bronze Age. They may have been status symbols or simply standard weapons carried by males who had to be prepared for the dangers of everyday life. Spears might also have been used for hunting and ceremonial purposes, though in more recent times hunting spears usually had smaller heads than this. Often in northern Europe such bronze objects were deposited as a propitiatory offering in water in which case they were usually first bent or broken to remove them from this world. Similarly weapons placed in Cypriot tombs were often deliberately bent. Cyprus was the chief Mediterranean source of copper and Homer said that his heroes wore Cypriot bronze armour. Indeed, most western languages derive their word for copper from Kupros (Kypros), the Greek name for the island**. Copper made Cyprus rich but 200,000 tons of ancient copper slag suggest 200 million pine trees cut for fuel, which deforested the island. The industry largely died around 300 AD due to lack of fuel.
* fixing illustration and other information: Andrea Salimbeti: http//salimbeti.com/micenei/weapons2.htm
** via Latin: early Latin “aes cyprium” which means “Cypriot ore”; later Latin “Cuprum”. The name Kupros may itself derive from the Sumerian for copper. The native Bronze Age name for Cyprus was Alashiya but the Greek language and customs gradually supplanted Cypriot, following extensive Greek immigration in the 12th and 11th century BC.
Size: 15” (38cm)
(Ex British private collection acq 1980s)
(Aquired ArtAncient 2014)
(Previously dated till 1900) Although there were changes, in general the innovations of the Philia phase remained and where developed further. The new culture, which seems to have been indigenous, spread slowly so that there is again overlap with the previous one. Rule was probably by local chiefs. Cyprus was rich in copper and, despite relative isolation in EC I & II, by EC III they were the largest producer and exporter in the Mediterranean basin, though this poduction was still small in relation to the explosion of production in the Late Bronze Age. The early and mid bronze age was a largely peaceful, prosperous and independent period and pots were sculptural, biomorphic shapes and often very elaborate and fanciful. The potters wheel (invented Sumeria 3500 BC) was never used in the Cypriot early or middle Bronze Age, but after the more uniform Philia period, regional stylistic variants developed. Pottery was all variations on Red Polished Ware, either plain or decorated in various ways. The flat bottomed pottery of the Philia was now succeeded by round bottomed, or occasionally even pointed-bottomed vessels.
Houses were stone or mud-brick on a stone base, generally composed of several rooms around an open courtyard. Walls and floors were rendered with lime plaster with low benches and hearths against the walls and pivot holes for doors. There were mortars sunk into the floor and lime plaster bins for storage jars and pots. There were no towns yet.
Pottery was Red Polished ware or Red/black Polished ware (bowls, jugs, amphorae,and storage jars, spindle whorls), or a course variant (as in Philia pottery) used for cooking pots, though these and loom weights were never put in tombs. Many tools were still made of stone (querns, rubbers, pounders and chert sickle blades) but there were also bronze knives, chisels, needles awls personal ornaments and a few axes, spear-heads and arrow heads.
Funerals involved feasting and the consumption of alcoholic drinks and were occasions for the display (and cementing) of status in the provision of grave goods. One must presume that there was originally some idea that the dead could make some use (or anyway get some benefit) from the objects left in their tombs, but other social factors must have modified what was actually left. Why, after all, should they need the large number of simple bowls which were presumably a residue of the feasting. They would, however be indicative of the number of significant people linking themselves to the kin-group.
Through most of the Bronze Age, from Early Cypriot (2300/2400BC) through Late Cypriot IIC (1200BC) most burials (at least the known, high status ones where most of these objects were found) were in rock cut tombs, often in limestone and often prone to flooding. Consequently many objects have calcium salt deposits on them and may have floated around. The bodies were laid on rock cut benches, or in niches for children and infants, and the vessels and other objects and offerings were laid on the floor. At first tombs were sometimes re-used but later the old bones were retained, though dis-articulated, and new burials added. Outside the sealed tomb was a Dromos (entrance shaft).
Early Cypriot III and Middle Cypriot I effectively constitute one, important period. Red Polished ware continued as the chief pottery through the Middle Bronze Age, but, as we will see later, now joined by small quantities of high status painted wares.
A rare and very early flat bottomed amphora with vertical handles. Red/black polished ware from early in the Early Cypriot period, covered in a dense pattern of incised chevrons and diagonal checkerboards, filled with white lime. This is almost a Black Polished Ware piece, with only a little red retained at the bottom. The black areas of the slip were achieved by reducing oxygen in the kiln to reduce the iron oxide in the clay (still visible in its red, iron oxide colouring at the bottom). Possibly this flat bottom is a hang-over from the earlier Philia styles. It is a Cypriot Bronze Age stylistic trait that the joining of handles to a pot body is normally effected by pushing the handle through holes in the body and then smoothing off on the inside. This gives a particularly strong connection. In this vessel the handles have been pushed a considerable distance through the fabric but not smoothed off so that spikes have been left sticking out on the inside. Whether this was because fingers could not reach far enough inside to do it (which could be the case) or they simply forgot is not clear. Possibly the pot was made for the funeral it was used in, and dramatic external appearance was what mattered, rather than suitability for repeated re-use.
Very old reconstruction from many fragments.
October 2018, I finally received my 6 pieces from the Cyprus Museum (Jacksonville USA) dispersion auction, but very sadly despite paying an exorbitant amount to have them all professionally packed in individual boxes this piece was badly broken in transit. The box showed no damage. The heavy but soft pottery fabric caused by low temperature firing may be partly to blame, plus probably old glue which had weakened, plus quite a lot of missing fabric on the inside which had not been restored, leaving many vulnerable mend lines. Most of the breaks were on old mend-lines but there were new ones and many small fragments. I had several high-res photos from before the breakage and hoped the small pieces of exterior could all be re-used,and indeed all but the finest grains on the surfaces have been used with the minimum of in-fill, and the appearance seems very close to how it was.
Size: 28cm high
(Ex Museum of Cyprus, Jacksonville, New Carolina, USA. Assembled by Dr Takay Crist after the Turkish invasion of North Cyprus and opened to the public as a museum in 1988. This century the museum has not made significant acquisitions. It consisted of antiquities, documents, maps paintings and artefacts and was endorsed and by the President of Cyprus and the ambassador, as saving the antiquities from the market and making them available to the public and for study. The sale of the entire museum collection represents a betrayal of the trust of Cyprus and almost all record of the provenance and history of the pieces seems to have been lost, including their dates of acquisition.)
(Aquired Leland Little Auctions, USA, 15th June 2018, lot 2206)
Red Incised Polished Ware. Most tulip bowls (named from their shape) are from Early Cypriot I and the area of Vounous in the North of Cyprus. The clay was covered with red slip which was then burnished to produce a high polish. The decorative incised lines were probably originally filled with (white) lime. This one has a bird’s head protruding on either side of the rim, facing outwards. Birds were probably considered to be spirit vehicles, especially later in the Early Bronze Age when they become the dominant animals on cult vessels, and perhaps even 1500 years later in the archaic period when birds dominate the imagery on the splendid "free field" jugs.
The bowl's narrow pointed base is pierced horizontally through the tip, perhaps to hang it up by a string when not in use. The hanging of pottery from pegs in the wall seems to have continued well into the Early Iron Age. Probably when used it would have sat on a ring made of straw or wood. This design seems to have died out well before the end of the Early Cypriot period.
Red polished ware was the dominant ware of the Early Bronze Age and continued into the Middle Bronze Age alongside new, painted wares, principally White Painted Ware.
Very elaborate cult vessels from this period have been found which had modelled birds, bulls, bucrania (bull's heads) stags and mini depictions of bowls and jugs, sitting on the rim. (See the Middle Cypriot period for my own late example from this tradition. But such cult vessels, along with others showing scenes with human figures, were impractical and probably made especially for ceremonies tombs. As such they were usually less well fired since they wouldn't have to withstand wear. Of course, other than fragments, most pots have been found in tombs in any case.
Repaired from fragments with some consolidation and repainting over the repair lines. The bird head lugs have been repaired. The interior repainted over repairs and worn patches. Perhaps over-restored for my taste, though you can see repairs and restorations if you look. The last owner broke 2 large pieces from the rim and glued them back extremely crudely, which I have had mended.
Size: 16.5cm H
(Ex collection of Desmond Morris (DM-IRP-97); Christie's London, 6 November 2001, lot 159; then collection of Dr Pietro Villari. Published: Desmond Morris, The Art of Ancient Cyprus (Oxford, Phaidon, 1985), p. 223, pl. 251. Also V Karageorghis "The Corplastic art of ancient Cyprus" (1991) Vol 1, XII:28, p.161-2. Exhibited: Ashmolean Museum Oxford, 1985.)
(Aquired Alexander Ancient Art, Amsterdam, Aug 2015)
Incised, Black topped Red Polished Ware. These round bottomed bottles (along with the flask above) demonstrate the wide variations of the shape and decoration of small vessels in this period. There is a huge range of incised motifs and combinations of motifs found on them, all as usual filled with white lime. These 3 all contain circular motifs which are particularly found in the North of the island and to a lesser extent in the centre, but almost not at all in the South. Most other motifs are found equally everywhere. The North is also where most Black topped Red Polished ware comes from. Later in the period, in the North West, the circle motif disappeared and the taller red/black bottles with finely-drawn chequerboards became dominant (see end of this period). The taller bottle has its neck pierced below the rim, presumably to hang it up.
Size: 9.5 H. 11.5 H
(Ex collection John A Badman, The Monarch, Glastonbury in the 70s)
(Aquired Chiswick Auctions 29.09.2015 lot 53.( with tall bottle & small jar))
This is the basic and most common artefact of the Cypriot Bronze Age. The basic shape, size and ware (covered in a red slip made from iron rich clay) is found through the Early and Middle Bronze Ages, either with the top edge (as here) turning slightly inward, or lower and more open. There is also a slightly smaller version which is less common. There are also variants which are decorated with incised lines which were then filled with clay, and/or with a black inside and top edge, or it could have patches of black, or be fired in a low oxygen, reducing atmosphere until it was entirely black. There is also a drabber version (where the slip can vary in tone considerably) known as Drab Polished Ware. These were individual eating and drinking bowls which would have been held in the hand. There is a single pierced lug for suspension. Although almost all Early Bronze Age tombs contained Red Polished bowls, in the Early Bronze Age they were more commonly decorated. In the Middle Bronze Age they became more numerous and were now mostly plain. These had almost certainly been used in the funeral feast and indicate a larger number of people taking part and giving this basic gift.
Almost perfect condition.
Size: 8.8. x 13.7cm
(Ex Museum of Cyprus, Jacksonville, New Carolina, USA. Assembled by Dr Takay Crist after the Turkish invasion of North Cyprus and opened to the public as a museum in 1988. This century the museum has not made significant acquisitions. It consisted of antiquities, documents, maps paintings and artefacts and was endorsed and by the President of Cyprus and the ambassador, as saving the antiquities from the market and making them available to the public and for study. The auctioning of the entire museum collection on June 5th 2018 was a betrayal of the trust of Cyprus and almost all record of the provenance and history of the pieces seems to have been lost, including their dates of acquisition.)
(Aquired Galerie Ostrakon, Switzerland, December14th 2018)
Incised black topped Red Polished Ware (see above). Rounded bottom with small pierced lug (possibly to hang it up by a string). This hand held, hemispherical bowl is a decorated version of the red-slip bowl, the commonest form of Bronze Age pottery, along with cooking and storage pots. The black inside and rim may have been achieved by inverting the bowl in sand in the kiln to reduce the oxygen supply to these parts, thus reducing the red iron oxide in the slip coating. Red/black ware was also produced in the Philia period and can be found from 4500-3500BC in Naqada culture of chalcolithic, pre-dynastic Egypt. Earlier archaeologists used to say that the transition away from round-bottomed pots in the later Bronze Age indicated a greater degree of civilisation - ie. domestic furniture instead of loose soil floors, but it is now argued that round-bottomed vessels may have been supported on organic rings (eg wood or straw) which haven’t survived and thus the transition from the traditional shape need not have coincided with other changes. The bowl was probably drunk from, or held in one hand while eating with the other, as is still done in many cultures. Plates did not exist in Cyprus till the Iron Age and no cutlery is known. (Restored from 2 pieces)
(Ex private collection. Oxford: bought Christies 1960s)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 2014)
The Red Polished ware individual bowl is the basic piece of Early and Middle bronze age pottery. This one is enlivened by incised decoration cut into the bowl when it has dried to the leather-hard stage. Normally the coating of red clay slip (clay and water) was added after this. The pot was burnished, perhaps with a pebble, and the incisions filled with white lime. All Early and Middle bronze age pottery and most Late Bronze Age was handmade (moulded or built up from coils).
Judging by the divided circles and comb-like motif of the decoration this particular example comes from the end of the Early or beginning of the Middle Bronze Age which was a single period only divided by the appearance of painted wares in the latter half. the comb motif relates to comb figures which Desmond Morris believed were a version of the plank figurines though most academics believe they refer to carding combs. As with much early and mid bronze age pottery, a pierced lug allowed it to be hung from a peg in the wall by a string. The inside of day to day food bowls were never incised.
The simple undecorated red polished bowl is most common object found in tombs from the Middle Bronze Age. Earlier the number of bowls was smaller and they were more likely to be decorated. Unlike the larger and more elaborate prestige items found in tombs these plain bowls were probably simply objects used in the funeral feasts and indicate that larger numbers of people from the kin group took part in these events. The model sanctuary depicted in the Vounous bowl from the early Bronze Age has a figure trying to look over the wall, so probably not everyone was allowed to take part.
(Collection General-Surgeon Dr. Josef Mayer-Riefenthaler, Vienna. Acquired in Cyprus in the 1950s & 1960s, during his deployment as UN soldier.)
(Aquired Christoph Bacher, Vienna March 2016)
Black Polished Ware. Sometimes as in my first bowl, the Red Polished Ware was turned partially black by restricting oxygen to those parts during firing. However reducing oxygen in the whole kiln produces Black polished ware. This is relatively rare. In the Early Bronze Age this type of ware is also found in Yortan Culture (Syria). Again the decoration suggests its EC III/MC I date. Circular motifs generally derive from the centre of the island rather than North or South. Most of these basic Bronze Age bowls, from the Philia period through to the start of the Late Cypriot, are about the same size. They were probably held in the hand while drinking, or eating from it with the other hand.
(Collection General-Surgeon Dr. Josef Mayer-Riefenthaler, Vienna. Acquired in Cyprus in the 1950s and 1960s, during his deployment as a UN soldier)
(Aquired Christoph Bacher, Vienna, March 2016. (reserved, still with dealer)
Tripod pot with one small and one dipper-type handle. Red Polished Ware such as this was dipped in a slip of iron-rich clay and polished. Tripod vessels are believed to have been shaped thus to stand in the fire to heat the contents. This is much more effective than standing a pot on the wood of the fire, instead raising the pot above it. The long handle obviously keeps it away from the heat. However the tripod also allows it to sit directly on a flat surface and cooking pots were not normally put into tombs.
A rounded bottom is, in general, better for a cooking pot, to spread the heat, and for larger pots, allow room for the fire not to be smothered. I am not clear, though, why all pots in the Early and Middle Cypriot periods were round bottomed, though it does suggests that at first people sat on the floor to eat (with pots set in dips in the floor) rather than around a table. However pots may have stood on an organic ring of some sort, as the marks on my Cult bowl suggest.
Cooking pots are generally made from coarser clay with more inclusions, which reduce the thermal shock on the fabric.
There are markings from roots from the long period when it was buried presumably in a tomb, though as in most cases this information is lost.
Size: 18cm high
(Collection General-Surgeon Dr. Josef Mayer-Riefenthaler, Vienna. Acquired in Cyprus in the 1950s & 1960s, during his deployment as UN soldier.)
(Aquired Christoph Bacher Archaologie, Vienna, February 2016)
This Red Polished Ware pot which at first I assumed was Red/black mottled ware. It is very heavy (2.55kg) with a thick base. Although apparently round bottomed, there is actually a small flattened area, slightly off-centre. The black area on one side (but not above the handle or on the base) which I originally took for black mottle of the fabric, I now think is soot marking from a fire. It extends around the back (as seen in photo) almost to the other handle, though fainter. This does not fit the pattern of red/black-mottling. It was sold to me (and named on its Cypriot export permit) as a dinos (drink mixing pot), but I believe it was more likely a cooking and mixing pot (possibly what is called a "stirring pot" which is placed up against but not on a fire). However usually cooking pots are coarser ware than this. Also this is slightly unusual as cooking and storage pots were not regularly placed in tombs, and do not survive in settlements as well preserved as this. It is complete but a chip on the burnt side seems to show a course fabric with possibly a small stone chip in it. This would be in line with the courser ware that cooking pots were made of, which often incorporating tiny fragments of stone, as this helps it withstand the changes of temperature better. As well as the unusually shaped robust handles here are 2 holes on each side just above them and below the rim, possibly for suspension to keep it away from rats and mice if it was a storage pot (or so it can be lifted without burning the hands if associated with cooking). Alternatively (or as well)they may have allowed cords to secure a lid . The nearest equivalent is identified by Stewart as a Pyxis (class IX) variant B, subgroup f, though the handles inn his example are simple projections and there are no holes. However he assumes it would have had a lid. Many early pots have means for suspension, probably to keep them out of the way, but this is more emphatic than usual and designed to hang in a level position. I am very unsure of the date. If it had been mottled it would have been Early Bronze Age, but Stewart assumes his pot is EC III or Middle Bronze Age. It is a bit like some very early shapes, but utilitarian pots like this didn't change so much as fancier items, and it could easily be Middle Bronze Age.
Size: 21cm high
(Mr A. N. Strouthos collection, exported from Cyprus to the UK under licence in 1978; and thence by descent to the present owner.)
(Aquired Bonhams auction 28th November 2018, lot 118)
A magnificent large piece of Early Cypriot pottery from around 2000 BC. The type ceased to be made in about 1950 BC and the size of this one suggests it is not from the start of the period. Middle Cypriot wares were seldom so large. It is also thick walled and heavy (4.5kg). Red Polished ware was made by covering the pot in iron-rich red slip which was afterwards polished. This applied relief decoration (here 3 snakes, plus 2 rings) was an alternative, on early pots, to the more frequent incised decoration. Snakes are believed to have been considered as chthonic creatures (ie relating to the underworld of the dead) since they often come out of holes in the ground. They are also associated with rebirth because they shed their skin. The 3 protruding decorative spikes are probably a stylized form derived from lugs on earlier pots. The jar would presumably have sat on a wooden or straw (or even pottery) ring as happens in some cultures still, or even in a hole in the ground, as happened with Roman storage amphorae which could reach enormous size. However this was clearly a prestige item, probably needing to be fired on its own.
Such vessels were presumably used to serve water, wine or beer during feasting. Like almost all of these large flagons, or intact vessels of any kind, it must have been found in a tomb and would have been used at the funeral feast. Priscilla Keswani has convincingly argued that by th e EC III the norm was an initial temporary grave and, months or even years later, after the flesh had been removed from the bones, the repackaging of the bones in a communal grave of the kin-group, which was sometimes used for hundreds of years. It is likely that this second funeral, often reburying several individuals at once and probably celebrating their rebirth as ancestors, would normally have been the main occasion for sacrifices, feasting and drinking, and the offering of grave goods such as this flagon - the interval between having allowed time for making such items and collecting resources for the feast. It is possible, though unproved, that such vessels were also used at other communal events.
Repaired and missing part of lip.
Size: 55cm high
(Ex. The Mr & Mrs S. Matantos Collection of Classical Antiquities (formed during the late 1950s and 1960s - see also Plank figure): subsequently Sotheby's London, 29 January 1968, lot 167. Sold Sotheby's London, 8 December 1994, lot 73. Rupert Wace Ancient Art, London, before 1997. Sold Bonhams 30.09.2015 Lot 30.)
(Aquired Art Ancient. Nov 2015/arrived Jan 2016)
Red polished ware large flagon with round bottom and relief decoration including 4 stags - (or possibly 3 stags and a goat, seen in this photo). The deer in ancient Cyprus were fallow deer, which were a popular motif in pottery along with male goats of the Bezoar type (a kind of ibex with long, swept-back horns) and (most commonly) bulls. The erect genitals are emphasised on all three of the readable animals on this piece, in keeping with the presumed male fertility symbolism of these animals, which is similar to that in a number of cultures at the time.
The flagon is in a bad state with many breaks and crude in-filling in 2 places. Large areas of the relief modelling of the stags have broken off, leaving clear traces of where they used to be. In one place a groove has been made in the pot fabric to key-in the stag body (it continues under the still existing part, and some original clay still fills the other end). The scar, where all but the head of the third figure was, has been painted over, presumably last century. This will have to be stripped off before a museum style restoration can begin. However I am unclear how much restoration I should do since I do not want to cover up archaeological information which the Cyprus Museum might wish to pursue.
The place where a 4th animal once was can be faintly made out, but it is painted over to imitate red slip, like the body of the third stag. Almost certainly this is modern overpainting to hide how much original figuration was missing, but acetone does not touch it so it was probably done pre- the use of acrylic paints. I don't know if there is any chance it is an ancient change, to cover up a fault in making.
[I am now informed the slightly different red colour on the site of the missing stag and part stag does not come off with white spirit or acetone so must be original. If this is so was it re-fired in antiquity after a first firing caused those parts to detach? Or were those stag parts put on over the slip and somehow the slip did not come off with them? Or is there an overpainting material which does not respond to these solvents?]
Size: 52cm high
(Ex collection of David Read, bought between 1966-1969 while working as a government official in Cyprus. He explored the ancient sites and museums and got to know local collectors and historians.I have photos of the piece in his house from 1971.)
(Aquired Bonhams 28th November 2017, lot 54)
Large Red Polished Ware spouted bowl: smaller than the other, similar one in the collection (DJ )and with only one spout, though with an interesting Early Cypriot dagger-hilt shaped handle. Probably from Vounous as this vessel is almost identical in shape to ones found there (though of those illustrated by Karageorghis, 2 have birds on the rim and one a horned quadruped). Probably used for serving of drink at feasts (water, beer or wine). This vessel will have been found in a tomb, having been used at the funeral feast for which it was almost certainly made.
On one side is the figure of a bull in relief (the main torso partly restored), plus there are 5 heads near the rim. two have no horns and are more ambiguous: the Christies Catalogue calls them feline, which is possible. 3, however are the more usual bulls heads. These reflect the bull cult known through the length of the Bronze Age in Cyprus and other cultures. Bull protomes are found in shrines and much pottery, and in Late Bronze Age temples as “horns of consecration, as well as being the main animal represented in figurines, outnumbering all other subjects put together. The bull, as well as, to a lesser extent, other male, horned animals (stags and Bezoar goats with long, back-curving, ribbed horns) are believed to have represented male fertility, and in the context of mortuary ritual, by extension also rebirth.
Central section of torso of main bull restored. Several areas of repair and restoration.
Size: 48cm x 28cm high
(Offered for sale early 1990 by Chris Martin. Bought by another dealer and offered for sale Christies (12.12 1990) lot 54 but not sold. Re bought by Chris Martin and sold to BL December 1990 (personal friend: full details in my records). The dealer is trying to find his records of earlier provenance for me.)
(Aquired From private collection of BL (formed late 80s, early 90s) Nov 20th 2017.)
In the Early and early-Middle Cypriot periods models of several everyday object were placed in tombs in North Cyprus. The earliest were ceramic models of knives with separate knife-sheaths. Possibly they had an apotropaic purpose or were substitutes, on occasion, for the real bronze items. Later these were joined by models of bull horns, spindles (for spinning thread) and carding combs (at least this is the most common interpretation of the latter), all of them in Red Polished ware. There was clearly some sort of fertility cult around horned animals, most usually bulls but also goats and stags. (Plank figures were at one time also interpreted as female fertility figures but this is now widely discounted). In this period these horned animals were often pictured on vessels, and bull (and perhaps goat) heads appear on poles in model shrines. In the late ate Bronze Age "horns of consecration" have been found in sanctuaries (as on Crete) and with them hollowed out bull skulls presumed to have been used as masks in ceremonies. Whether these ceramic horns were used to drink from or to pour libations is uncertain, but clearly had a symbolic or magic function in funerals when they were put into tombs. The horn is pierced near the rim, presumably for suspension. Perhaps this suggests they were hung on the walls of houses as a protection. About 20 are known, from North and central Cyprus, though no doubt there are other (originally looted) examples in small, private collections like mine.
Size: 13.3cm long
(Ex Museum of Cyprus, Jacksonville, New Carolina, USA. Assembled by Dr Takay Crist after the Turkish invasion of North Cyprus and opened to the public as a museum in 1988. This century the museum has not made significant acquisitions. It consisted of antiquities, documents, maps paintings and artefacts and was endorsed and by the President of Cyprus and the ambassador, as saving the antiquities from the market and making them available to the public and for study. The sale of the entire museum collection represents a betrayal of the trust of Cyprus and almost all record of the provenance and history of the pieces seems to have been lost, including their dates of all acquisition. However the dealers Charles Ede identified this piece (along with another) as having been bought by them from Hayler (a dealer) in 1990 and illustrated in their catalogue "Cypriot Pottery XII" (1991) Plate 4. Chinor might have been the auction mentioned in another provenance, or both might be the name of a collector. Further information is no longer available from Ede as purchase invoices from pre 1994 were long ago disposed of. A fellow collector tells me he has traced provenance for a number of other pieces from the auction.)
(Aquired Leland Little auctions, USA, 15th June 2018 lot 2056)
Mottled Red Polished Ware. Round bottomed so probably not a Philia pot which were usually flat bottomed, but other feature (especially the spout) are similar to Philia wares. Very large bowls of this type are considered to have had some ritual significance, perhaps like the communal kava bowls of Fiji. Or they may simply have originally had some domestic use. Red Polished Ware was the dominant pottery of the Early and Middle Bronze Age in Cyprus. The black patches were caused by a part of the clay having reduced oxygen in the kiln. 2 holes restored, spout repaired.
Size: 19.7 x 31 cm
(Ex. collection: Patrick Joseph Roche, Ireland (1929-2011). Purchased in Cyprus between 1969-1971)
(Aquired Helios Gallery Apr 2015)
A classic Early Cypriot, incised Red Polished Ware jar, with the incisions filled with white lime. The red is an iron rich slip. A quite common but very pleasing form. Complete.
Size: 15.7cm high
(collection of Professor Dr. Günther Marschall, Hamburg (1913 - 1997), bought between 1967 - 1975. German export certificate 6491, 27 July 2017)
(Aquired Auction Gorny & Mosch, Munich, Germany 30th June 2017, lot 79)
Round bottomed, incised Red Polished Ware jug with cut-away spout and front, phallic spout. More elaborate vessels such as this were fairly common in the Early and Middle Bronze Age.
I had the jug investigated and both "reattached" side pieces of the cut-away (top) spout turned out to be fanciful restorations, as I had suspected. I have had them remade in a more typical (and minimal) form. Apart from these, the neck and spout has been reassembled from 3 pieces and the handle probably re-attached, and body cracked. The lower spout, which I suspected might once have been longer turns out to be unaltered. Although the typical rounded bottom is beautifully formed, other aspects are slightly crude, making me wonder whether, as Laura Gagné deduced for white painted ware in her paper "Learning to make pottery", children being trained in pottery production were involved.
Size: 22.9cm high
(Ex collection of Professor Dr. Günther Marschall, Hamburg (1913 - 1997), bought between 1967 - 1975. German export certificate 6491, 27 July 2017)
(Aquired Aquired Auction Gorny & Mosch, Munich, Germany 30th June 2017, lot 79 (2))
Incised Black topped Red Polished Ware (RPW). A variant of handmade Red-Polished ware, which was the dominant form of pottery in early and mid bronze age. Sometimes it was incised or partly black (usually the top and inside), or both as here. One type is entirely black (BPW). Basically red from iron oxide in the clay-slip, black was obtained by cutting the oxygen supply, either to the kiln (as in later Etruscan Bucchero ware) or to part of the pot, as here, to reduce the oxide. The liquid slip coating was burnished when dry to give gloss. Usually, as here, the incisions were filled with white lime. The rounded bottom was standard for pots after the initial Philia culture. This shape is also often seen with a handle starting from the rim and joining the top of the bulbous part. The majority of red/black ware was from the North of the island.
Pottery was probably made locally by a few households in each village, working part-time.
Size: 13cm H
(Ex collection Leto Severis Cyprus: bought Christies)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 2014)
Small incised Black topped Red Polished Ware jar Incised. These round bottomed bottles demonstrate the wide variations of the shape and decoration of small vessels in this period. There is a huge range of incised motifs and combinations of motifs found on them, all usually filled with white lime. Those using circular motifs are particularly found in the North of the island and to a lesser extent in the centre, but almost not at all in the South. Most other motifs are found equally everywhere. The North is also where most Black topped Red Polished ware comes from. Later in the period, in the North West, the circle motif disappeared and the taller red/black bottles with finely-drawn chequerboards became dominant (see end of this period). The taller bottle has its neck pierced below the rim, presumably to hang it up.
(Ex collection John A Badman, The Monarch, Glastonbury in the 70s)
(Aquired Chiswick Auctions 29.09.2015 lot 53.( with tall bottle & small jar))
Large flagon, highly decorated with a dense pattern of hatched panels and concentric circles, similar to one from Morphou. The concentric circles seem to be a motif found mostly in central and North West Cyprus and from near the end of the Early Bronze Age and start of Middle Bronze Age, an important period in the history of Cyprus which also saw the production of the Plank Figures. Incised Red Polished ware was covered in an Iron-rich glaze and the incised lines filled with lime. New purchase.
The main handle is clearly reattached with restored areas around the lower attachment point which must originally have been decorated (as at the smaller handle) with concentric circles but is now plain. I cannot see much in the way of obvious mends but the surface seems to show extensive repainting, especially of the white lines which should be lime in the grooves but now looks like new paint. This might cover other expert restoration, particularly of the top of spout. However some exploratory sample dabs with acetone shows only a small amount of repainted red, in which case it may be the white which is giving it the feeling of repainting. However the white does not come off with acetone so perhaps it isn't acrylic paint. I shall have to get this assessed and probably make a difficult decision about uncovering more of the old surface.
Size: 40cm high
(Ex Museum of Cyprus, Jacksonville, New Carolina, USA. Assembled by Dr Takay Crist after the Turkish invasion of North Cyprus and opened to the public as a museum in 1988. This century the museum has not made significantly acquisitions. It consisted of antiquities, documents, maps paintings and artefacts and was endorsed by the President of Cyprus as saving the antiquities from the market. The sale of the entire museum collection represents a betrayal of the trust of Cyprus and almost all record of the provenance and history of the pieces seems to have been lost, including their dates of acquisition. However I have traced the source of 3 pieces I bought at that auction and will now research this piece.)
(Aquired Charles Ede, 26 November 2018)
These large Red Polished Ware flagons usually have decorations in relief, like those above. This, perhaps slightly later version, has elaborate and dramatic incised patterns. These were filled with white lime in the usual manner of the Early and Middle Bronze Age. They were presumably used to serve water, wine or beer during feasting. Like almost all of these large flagons, or intact vessels of any kind, it must have been found in a tomb and would have been used at the funeral feast. Priscilla Keswani has convincingly argued that by this period the norm after death was an initial temporary grave and, many months or a couple of years later, after the flesh had been removed from the bones, the bones were repackaged and put in a communal grave of the kin-group, which was sometimes used for hundreds of years. It is likely that this second funeral (often for several individuals) probably celebrated their rebirth as ancestors. It would have been the occasion for sacrifices, feasting and the offering of grave goods such as this flagon; the interval between having allowed time for making such items and collecting resources for the feast. Opening the family tomb less often, and pooling resources for one big event would have made sense and allowed more impressive grave gifts to enhance the prestige of the donors. It is possible, that such vessels of this kind were also used at other communal events. Rounded or slightly pointed bases were the norm for Early and Middle Cypriot vessels, and would have required dips in the floor to stand in, or in the case of smaller vessels, probably some sort of organic ring to stand on. The diagonal wavy line on the side of this flagon is very unusual.
Recomposed from several large fragments. Some of the joins are very messy and could do with re-conserving.
Size: 49.5cm high
(Ex private collection of BL (personal friend: full details in my records). Bought from Chris Martin (Ancient Art) 1990. Mr Martin claims it came from a private collection via another dealer and is searching his records to see if he can find a name.)
(Aquired the private collection of BL (formed late 80s- early 90s) Nov 2018)
Large Black-topped Red Polished Ware spouted bowl with complex incised patterns. The very extensive black areas have had the red iron oxide in the slip reduced by restricting air (possibly by partial immersion in sand in the kiln). The handle is clearly Early Cypriot and the decoration has elements seen on the tall-necked vases, which date from the same Prehistoric Bronze Age III period. There is no longer any sign of the usual white lime in the incisions. The main bowl shape is reminiscent of the Late Cypriot milk bowls, though even larger
Reassembled from many pieces and a piece detached from the side when bought, requiring restoration (probably through being picked up by the edge).
Size: 30cm x 22.5 x13.5cm
(Ex collection of David Read, bought between 1966-1969 while working as a government official in Cyprus. He explored the ancient sites and museums and got to know local collectors and historians.)
(Aquired Chiswick Auction 5th December 2017 lot 135 (part))
Red Polished ware jug with handle, and top half of small plank figure attached. There are only a small number of vessels existing with attached plank figures (perhaps 40 or so, of which about half are this type, and others on the top or lid of a Pyxis or incorporated into the handle of a multi bowl Kernos). I believe that plank figures represent the spirits of ancestors, and in the case of the larger, freestanding figures, were intended as containers for an ancestor's spirit. They started to be produced in the Early Cypriot III, along with the freestanding plank figures, but ended around the start of the Middle Cypriot. All with known provenance come from the North central area.
Reassembled from several pieces, and varnished by a previous owner which I will get at least partially removed. I intend to attempt to write to the last owner through the auction house to improve the provenance in relation to his grandfather.
Size: 17.6cm high x 13.4
(collection of MA, North Germany, inherited from his grandfather. With old, undated authentication letter from Galerie Gunter Puhze and photo. German export certificate 6491, 27 July 2017)
(Aquired Gorny & Mosch auction 30.06.2017 (lot 78))
This is a very small (18.3cm) plank figure, though smaller freestanding ones are known (and even smaller ones attached to pots). It is very unusual in not having a protuberant nose. See my second and third plank figures for a general discussion of them.
Like most plank figures, this is Red polished Ware (pottery covered in a red slip) decorated with incised lines filled with lime. It does not have pierced ears or protuberant breasts or nose: the latter most unusual . However it has features that are common in other types and were not represented on my larger one. Most especially it has the incised lines normally interpreted as necklaces (not continued at the back). It also has the two diagonal lines below these which were at one time interpreted as arms (they sometimes end in a group of small puncture marks) but are now most often interpreted as large bronze or copper toggle pins holding the garment at the shoulders, such as have often been found in graves. There are also eyebrows and circular eyes plus vertical grooves ending in something that looks like a mouth, but it is not certain that this is a nose: it has sometimes been interpreted as a filtrum (the groove below the nose). Horizontal lines on the cheeks (found frequently on plank figures) could be tattoos or scarification simply painted facial decoration, but they are repeated on the back of the head and lower on the sides of the back (and the back of my larger example). Vertical zig-zag lines down the upper back would normally represent hair but strangely do not also appear on the back of the head. A criss-cross pattern, between the lower horizontal lines, presumably decoration on clothing) appear at the front but are left out at the back which is fairly plain. The vertical zig-zags marks at the top of the back (normally depicting hair) which normally continue all the way up the back of the head stop below the head, which is strange.
There are breaks at neck and waist which have been consolidated, but the Christies catalogue of 1989 does not show the waist breakage as it is now - with a small piece missing - and it must have been broken again at a later stage, losing large fragments at the back which were not restored when it was mended, leaving the old consolidation on display there and the strange appearance of another surface, possibly caused by folding of the clay when originally made. Alternatively, as Colin Bowles' restorer suggested, the apparently very old glue inside may have failed and fragments become detached. Many (anything from 20 - 50%) of these figures have been conjectured to have been "deliberately" broken across the middle of the torso before being placed in the tomb (probably to kill them to enter the world of the dead). They are almost always restored now. Perhaps there might still be some way to tell if this was the case with this one but the double breakage might make this problematical. Alternatively, a curator has pointed out that they are mostly not well fired and break accidentally quite easily (he admitted ruefully that this had happened to him). An upper corner of the head may be restored and there is much erosion of the slip at the back (possibly it may have been moved around while lying on its back in the tomb?) he vertical zig-zags marks at the top of the back (normally depicting hair) which normally continue up the back of the head stop below the head, which is strange.
I am not certain that the head and body are from the same figure. If not, investigation of the edges might show filing to make them fit. The head seems a very slightly paler than the body.The short horizontal lines on the back of the head are frequently found on the back of these figures and the fact that they match those on the back of the body could be a coincidence. I know of only one canonical early plank figure which lacks a protuberant nose as this one does (a rather similar one in V Karageorhis' encyclopaedic "The Coroplastic Art of Ancient Cyprus" Vol I, p.58 No 15, which also has this unusual head shape and I have to assume is genuine). This is another factor which worried me, though there is a slight scar where the nose should be which might indicate a nose which was added but failed to adhere properly. The design is otherwise almost identical to the most reproduced plank in the Cyprus Museum. However I may be worrying unnecessarily as the conservator at a major museum and and "experts" working for Bonhams think it is OK (the former judging only from photos).
Size: 18.3cm high
(Ex the James Chesterman collection. Chesterman (1926-2014) was a publisher. His main collection was given to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge in 1979, but he continued to collect, buying this piece from a Christies auction 12th Dec. 1989, lot 191)
(Aquired Bonhams auction Nov. 30th 2016, lot 10)
The almost flat idols known as Plank Figures were first found in 1913, but now nearly 300 have been found representing a production of about 350 years. They date from the end of the Early Bronze Age (Early Cypriot III A) but continued into the start of the Middle Bronze Age (MC I & II). This one, a so called "shoulder type" figure, may be Early (2100-1900 BC). Most, like this, are incised Red Polished Ware and most came from the North and North-Central Cyprus, though a few stone ones exist from the south-west. In the MC II period some were also made in White Painted ware or Plain ware.
The basic, early Plank figures are almost completely flat with a protuberance for nose (the only part always depicted in relief), pierced ears (usually) and in about a 20% of the classic type (but 30% overall) breasts. Eyes are depicted (as concentric circles or holes) but mouths only sometimes and ambiguously (as here). Why noses were clearly more important symbolically than mouths (and pierced ears than mouths) is unclear. Often as in this one, zigzags indicating hanging hair behind. Sometimes they have vestigial arms, mostly found in central Cyprus (so mine is probably from there) but most of the modified types are from the Middle Bronze Age. Decorative incised patterns indicate necklaces, clothing, waistbands and sometimes headbands, or possibly tattoos or scarification. Usually, as here, there are strongly depicted shoulders, and head and neck are not differentiated in out-line. Legs are never indicated and either these were unimportant or the rectangular body may depict a figure in a long dress. The emphasis on the nose may relate to the idea of the breath of life. Interestingly the mouth, associated with eating, drinking and speaking is not seen as important in this kind of figure.
There are also versions with two narrow heads/necks, or even three and small versions mounted on pots. There are also "Cradle Figures", very similar depictions of one, or sometimes two, babies on a cradle board (i.e. strapped to a flat construction designed to be carried on the mother's back, as once used, for example, by Native Americans). Desmond Morris thought that comb figures, which seem to have earlier antecedents and which look a bit like a wide decorator’s paintbrush, were abstracted human figures. Current opinion relates them instead to carding combs but my figurine does suggest a link.
Since more life-like figures are known from the time, represented in scenic models of communal activities (ploughing, wine treading, a ritual in an enclosure) it is reasonable to think that these planks, which also appear on some vessels, are not representations of living people but spirits, represented in two dimensions, usually without limbs but defined by clothing - as in our popular representation of ghosts as draped in a sheet.
Priscilla Keswani has convincingly argued that, at least from ECIII (when plank figures began to be produced) most burials were double, starting with a simple interment, then after an interval in which had allowed the bones to have been cleansed of their rotting flesh, and materials to be collected for the funeral, a much larger funeral with feasting and lavish grave goods in which the bones would have been put into the family or "kin group" tomb. This would be in line with many known societies and according to the classic anthropological theories of Robert Hertz, would have celebrated the rebirth of the spirit as an ancestor.
My figure has a uniquely tall, narrow neck/head (as attested by Vassos Karageorghis), similar to the head/necks of double headed figures. Since those are thought to derive from the Middle Bronze Age, along with modelled vestigial arms, this figure may derive from the Middle Bronze Age. It has a left breast and I have had the right one restored.
Until fairly recently these figures were all considered to be female and identified as Earth Mother figures and fertility figures, even though only one third have breasts and only two have (ambiguous) genitals. Also unlike the Chalcolithic figurines, which similarly only sometimes show breasts, these austere angular depictions make unlikely fertility figures. Consequently this identification has been challenged by L Talalay & T Cullen who argued that an ambiguous sexuality might have been intended. Possibly this would have allowed them to have a more complex and varied social and ritual function. Certainly they must have been magical objects and may have ensured the continuity of human existence. In many cultures symbols can have different meanings in different circumstances, such as concentric-circles for the Australian Walbiri people, which can mean vagina, waterhole, campsite or entry into another world. Many double-headed plank figures, found in one area by the North coast, may represent a symbolic marriage or some spiritual double-ness, or may derive from a two headed Chalcolithic deity. However see my interpretation below.
These figures are not so much representations of a divinity, to be worshipped, as intermediaries between the material and spirit worlds: objects for spirits to inhabit.
Like most figures of this type and almost all the later Middle Cypriot and early late Cypriot figurines, however crude, the pierced ears are insisted on. This even where there are almost no other references to human features, such as limbs or mouth, though nose (and in these later figures, breasts) are usually present. Usually 2 or 3 piercings are depicted and this is also true in half the Late Cypriot figurines (the so called "Earring Figures") where actual pottery earrings were inserted through the holes in huge ears. Before plank figures in the Earl Cypriot period, the chief figure in the famous Vounous bowl has pierced ears, and earlier still, in the Chalcolithic period, earring holes are shown in some small pottery figurines (eg a fragmentary figure from Choirokoitia 7000-5800BC). Why was it so important? Is this a marker of status (obviously male figures in the scenic models, made at this time, also sometimes show pierced ears)?
However, the most obvious question is, why are plank figures so flat and abstract when animal figures and human figures in contemporary group scenes are more naturalistic? Some believe they derive from cradle boards: the infant may have been swaddled attached to a board to be carried, as is done in some societies still. There are, indeed, a whole genre of plank figures actually depicting this. If this is so the breasts depicted on some figures might not be breasts, or there might be a conflation of mother and baby in one fertility figure. It has been argued that the origin of the plank form must be in some pre-existing (wooden?) object which, as is common in Cypriot pottery, has been given a human (or animal) persona. However, since the human figures in the pottery "Scenic Models" of the same EC III - MC II period, are modelled in there round and have arms and legs it seems obvious that these are objects for spirits to inhabit. A spirit has no three-dimensional physical presence and no need to get about on legs so could sensibly be represented flat and limbless. If as now seems to be generally agreed they are not goddesses, the most likely identity of these figures is deceased family members who were especially loved or revered. Others have mentioned the possibility that they are generic ancestor figures but ancestor cults normally appeal to particular ancestors rather than a generic one. These ancestors are believed to still be able to affect the material world of the living so that they need to be propitiated and can be appealed to to work for the health, fertility and prosperity of their living relatives. They also constitute a focus for the identity of the family and often the authority of the (normally male) elders.
As mentioned above, there is plenty of evidence now for an ancestor cult. Shrines are found by the entrance of some tombs, often with a pot for offerings, and funerals had become extremely elaborate and costly, often involving two stage funerals, the second and more elaborate one following the de-fleshing of the body and reburying of the bones in a different tomb. In Cyprus, however, if I am right that these figurines are homes for the spirits of dead relatives, we have an early, developing form of the ancestor cult, less patriarchal and more attuned to individual sentiment. After all, one third of them seem to have breasts (20% of the canonical, early type) so are presumably female. About 8% are babies, individual large cradle figures, on top of the babies carried by some "adult" plank figures. The multiple headed figures may represent married couples. In that case the 3 cripple-headed examples might be a man with two wives. Since, in Lapithos, where all but one of those with known provenance have been found they constitute 40% of the plank figures they might seem too common to be twins, which would be the other possibility. However, if there had been a cult of twins (which anthropologically have often been seen as magical) the total number is not great and the interpretation is reasonable. It would also make sense of triple-headed examples.
Plank figures have been found equally in houses and tombs and many of those in tombs show signs of wear. Consequently their primary function was probably primarily in the settlement (almost certainly in the home since cult houses have not been found except in one possible case). We can imagine them set up in the corner of mud-brick houses to be looked at and touched. They have wear marks on nose and head and edges. The bottom end is often degraded or broken off, and where it exists rarely has decoration (though mine has). From this it has been suggested they may have originally been stood vertically, lodged into the earth floor of house or tomb, though in the case of this example this would conceal the decorative lines at the bottom edge (which were somehow left out of the Karageorghis drawing of the back). Sometimes small plank figures appear on pots, standing in pairs facing each other, which seems to reinforce this view. Sometimes only one of these figures is plank shaped so might represent a couple, one of whom has died.
Many of those in tombs are worn or have been broken and mended which suggest they had been the possessions of those in the graves (though some seem to have been made especially to accompany them into the after life). They are especially associated with the bones of females and sometimes set up by the head. Often, but not in this case, they seem to have been deliberately broken across the middle to symbolically put them into the world of the dead. Modern restorers have repaired them.
Plank figures appear at the point that Cypriot people moved away from conjoined houses to separate ones and at the point that graves seem to be used by succeeding generations rather than cleared for new use. They particularly correlate with tombs which contain bronze objects, spindle whorls and comb figures and terracotta animals, so they may be an elite item. D Morris thought that comb figures (shaped like a large, house-painters brush) might be a version of the plank figure but this has not been the general view. They may depict carding combs, rather as other models are accepted to depict knives. They are smaller than plank figures and usually pierced at the top as pendants (occasionally depicted as such on figures, though they seem rather heavy for this).
There were plank figures made in various cultures, some far away, but there is probably no connection except possibly with Anatolian examples (though those look rather different). They follow on from the Neolithic stump figures and Chalcolithic cruciform figures which had been made of stone or pottery. The Chalcolithic figures were especially made of Picrolite, a soft blueish-green stone, and were particularly found in the graves of women and children. Except for small ones pierced as pendants they are all in a crouched, birthing position. Only fragmentary possible human figurines remain from the Philia period. In the Early Cypriot period animals or animal heads, particularly birds, bulls and stags, are found modelled on jugs and bowls. Possibly the bird was considered a spirit vehicle, though one writer has speculated that perhaps exposure of bodies to scavenging birds may have been practised. Other pots famously depict group scenes from daily life, but all these complex creations were less well fired and seem only to be made for tombs. They would have been impractical for use. After plank figures, figurines gradually acquired limbs and more realistic characteristics until they reached the two Late Bronze Age types (the Earring and Flathead figures - I own one of the latter) which remained unchanged for about 300 years.
Late bronze Age figurines are much more naturalistic (and were probably intended to lie on their backs) and feel like they should have had a different spiritual function, though it is difficult to be certain if this was the case. Most likely they represent the influence of foreign deities, especially the very similar (but slightly earlier) figurines from the Astarte cult of the Hittites. Cypriot plank figures have a particular appeal to modern eyes, used to contemporary art.
The right shoulder area had been completely restored a long time ago, including the small right arm, but unfortunately without restoring the right breast, which looked very odd . I have since had the breast added on the restored part, without touching any of the original fabric (June 20180). Has part of the left arm broken off? It could originally have been more explicitly modelled. There are a few other minor restored patches and a mended break on the neck. The polished red-slip has been eroded over much of the front surface and the slip lost – a diagonal division between eroded and un-eroded on the front possibly indication of partial submersion under silt from flooding of the tomb.
[I am currently (02.2017-) writing a paper on Plank Figures. I have partially updated the above entry in line with this, though the now jumbled ordering of ideas needs revision.]
See later example of "slab" type under "Middle Bronze Age".
Size: 27.5cm High
((Ex collections of Mr. and Mrs. S. Matantos, and lent by them to exhibition 1968 (see below). Acquired by H. Wagner, Berlin, between 1992 and 2003. Published: F. Nicholson, Ancient Life in Miniature – An Exhibition of Classical Terracottas from Private Collections in England, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 1968, Plate 10 no. 224. Also published: V. Karageorghis, The Coroplastic Art of Ancient Cyprus, Vol.I (1991), fig. 83, Bi2. p.82,83,94.)
(Aquired Aaron Gallery October 2015)
Red Polished Ware miniature vessel for pouring small amounts of liquid, possibly oil. Perhaps to fill lamps? Cut away (or damaged?) spout and rounded base. The cut-away spout seems to make it unsuitable to feed a baby. Or could it be a toy? It cannot be filled more than half full without leaking from the spout, unless kept tipped backwards.
Extensive light encrustation.
Size: 6 x 11cm (inc spout)
(Ex collection of David Read, acquired between 1966-1969 while working as a government official in Cyprus. He explored the ancient sites and museums and got to know local collectors and historians.)
(Aquired 14th Decemberthrough Chiswick Auctions from failed lot 152 (part))
Cypriot very large bowl with double spout (Red Polished III Ware) Early Cypriot IIIB to Middle Cypriot I 2025-1850BC
An important, very large, Early- Mid Bronze Age, deep pottery bowl. Red Polished Ware decorated below the rim with horizontal and vertical groups of wavy lines in relief. These may be abstract, but are similar to lines usually identified as depicting snakes. As the snake was a chthonic symbol (since it supposedly came from underground) this might identify the bowl as specifically funereal: perhaps for serving alcoholic drink at a funeral feast. Thee three vertical snakes (or wavy lines) in particular seem to relate to the "snakes" on the 3 vertical elements on the shrine in the Vounous bowl, reinforcing the feeling that this is a sacred symbol.
The front of the rim is mounted with two spouts linked by an arch, the rear with a single handle. A number of large bowls of this type with twin spouts exist, several of them (among the most important productions of Early- mid Cyprus) with scenic representations of people and animals in relief just below the rim. Some are taller, with a less rounded lower part, but one of the hemispherical ones, with flattened bottom, is the famous “Oxford bowl” which belonged to Desmond Morris. Like many others it had a vertical handle rather than a horizontal one like mine, and it had lost the horizontal bar between the spouts which mine retains. These bowls seem to be restricted to Central Cyprus, particularly around Vounous. The scenic type is only known from the town of Margi, plus a few from Kalavassos, 18 miles further south. Pottery coated in Iron-oxide-rich red slip and burnished.
Repaired with minor infill, rear handle restored.
Size: 41 high x 51cm
(Ex. private collection, Yorkshire, UK; acquired from Helios Gallery in 2008. Formerly ex. collection: Jorgen Jacobsen, Bornholm, Denmark. Acquired while on UN duty with the Danish peace-keeping forces on Cyprus (Dancon X/XI) between October 1968 and October 1969.)
(Aquired Helios gallery November 2015)
A Black Polished ware spindle-whorl for spinning thread. The whorl was placed on the spindle to give its spinning motion more momentum. Such biconical whorls are known from the Philia period. Often, especially in the Late Bronze Age, these spindle whorls were made of stone or bone. (Recently I have wondered if I could be wrong and this example could be black stone (steatite?) except it would be unusually elaborate for a stone one.)
Spinning thread seems to have been a skill that was brought by the earliest settlers and the earliest spindle whorls known in Cyprus are from such places as Choirokitia in the Aceramic Neolithic when garments are thought to have been woven from wool.
The warp weighted loom was brought to Cyprus by the Anatolians who brought bronze making technology around 2500 BC. Goat hair, wool or flax, was carded witha kind of comb to line up the hairs and was then drawn continuously off a distaff and twisted into a thread by spinning a spindle on the lower end, which was given more momentum by having a heavier weight fitted on it called a spindle whorl.
This one appears t be Early Bronze Age, judging from the deeply incised decorative circles. It is nearly spherical with flattened ends, rather than the more common bi-conical shape of the mid bronze age. Most seem to be 3-4cm across though a few larger ones are known. For goat hair and finer thread a smaller weight was used and since mine is at the upper end of size it was probably used for flax (to make linen), or a thicker wool thread.
Spindle whorls are particularly found in groups in female graves suggesting spinning might have been a specialised occupation. It is striking that they were considered important enough to have been put into tombs. Normally loom-weights, and everyday cooking and storage pots did not get included.
Size: 4 x 3.5cm
(Collection General-Surgeon Dr. Josef Mayer-Riefenthaler, Vienna. Acquired in Cyprus in the 1950s and 1960s, during his deployment as UN soldier.)
(Aquired Christoph Bacher, Vienna, February 2016.)
4 more spindle whorls in Red Polished, Drab, and black-slip(?) wares. All similar weights. Variously globular or truncated biconical, the flat end actuallyconcave in 2 cases. I cannot identify what the slightly different one on the left of the photo is. I hope to research it soon.
Size: 3.3-4.2cm high
(Ex James Chesterman collection, bought September 1993 from the collection of Alex Cotton, Hampshire. James Chesterman was a publisher and gave his first antiquities collection to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge in 1979. This is from his subsequent collection)
(Aquired Chiswick Auctions 7th December 2016 lot 80.)
A crudely fashioned mottled red and black polished ware pottery ladle with a high arched handle. Ladles were used for scooping and measuring food. This is a smaller example but the bowl is often the size of an individual eating/drinking bowl, with several times the volume of this one.
Large conical bowls were used for presenting and serving foods and may have been laid out on the fixed benches at the sides of rooms, suggesting communal serving of meals. I have a smaller version of one of these bowls (see last item), but they can be considerably larger and those were presumably for large feasts such as the final funerals. (I could have acquired one of those a year ago but had nowhere left to display it).
Repaired from two pieces, rim chipped
Size: 10.8 x 15 cms includ
(Ex. private collection, Essex, UK; acquired mid to late 20th Century. Ex. Cyprus Museum (Nicosia, Cyprus), their original export tag retained on the handle. An ink collection number under the base, probably from the licensed dealer P. Kolokasides.)
(Aquired Helios Gallery February 9th 2018)
This is the kind of exuberant, playful vessel typical of the complex Red Polished ware of the early and middle Bronze Age that originally made me fall in love with Cypriot ancient pottery and subsequently to collect it. It was probably made as a prestige piece for a funeral, to signify the wealth and influence of the family. Priscilla Keswani has argued that these funerals with lavish gifts and feasting and drinking were secondary funerals after the body had been in a simple grave for some months or years. When the flesh had been stripped from the bones, they were bundled up and placed in a communal tomb of the ancestral kin group. Possibly the spirit, now no longer subject to corruption, only now became fit to be an ancestor. Often several new ancestors were buried at once and the tombs were sometimes used for hundreds of years. This idea of double funeral has been found across the world by anthropologists. The interval between them allowed the family time to collect materials for the major, second one.
3 spherical bodies are joined by short linking sections in a triangle and the necks of these vessels support a fourth one with a cut-away spout. In effect it is composed of 4 jugs with their interiors communicating. The whole thing is covered with red slip and decorative incisions filled with lime, each sphere decorated with a different patterns, which is the case with at least two of the other known examples (otherwise this much-mended piece might have had me wondering if it was a composite fake. It is reassembled from at least 13 pieces and all the lower bodies are reattached to the upper one and to each other. However at least one of the joins of necks entering the base of the upper jug is un-mended, which reassures me.
Modern potters such as Ramié have imitated this form, including Picasso who turned it (in several versions) into a figure supporting its head in its hands. Desmond Morris illustrated 9 other versions of this design in his book The Art of Ancient Cyprus (p 91-93 and Fig 159), one very large one with multiple extra spouts and 3 smaller bodies (in the Museum of Cyprus, which owns several of the others), plus there is one in the Louvre, and one in the St Barnabas monastery museum. However this is one of the best. (There are also other, simpler variants of the type, where the necks of the 3 lower vessels simply come together to make one spout, without an upper body). Most of these complex vessels come from Vounous in the North (and some other multi-bodied types from nearby Lapithos), but one version in White painted ware came from near Morphou a little to the west and one from as far away as Katholiki (near Limassol). Due to my example's similarity to some of those from Vounous, I assume mine is likely to be from there. It seems to have been the engine house of most Early Cypriot innovation, joined slightly later by nearby Lapithos.
Some surface chips, repairs to spout, handle and supports as mentioned; hairline cracks to base. The tip of the cut-away spout may be wrongly restored: it would be usual for it to be sliced across at right angles, leaving a semi-circular tip shape, rather than narrowing to an almost flat point. I may have this re-done.
Size: 35.3cm high
(Ex Museum of Cyprus, Jacksonville, New Carolina, USA. Assembled by Dr Takay Crist after the Turkish invasion of North Cyprus and opened to the public as a museum in 1988. This century the museum has not made significantly acquisitions. It consisted of antiquities, documents, maps paintings and artefacts and was endorsed by the President of Cyprus as saving the antiquities from the market. The sale of the entire museum collection represents a betrayal of the trust of Cyprus and almost all record of the provenance and history of the pieces seems to have been lost, including their dates of acquisition. However the dealers Charles Ede identified this piece as having been bought by them from "Chinor" in 1989 and illustrated in their catalogue "Cypriot Pottery XII" (1991) Plate 2. A Photo of the piece appeared in a Jacksonville Daily news piece about the museum in 1998. (Chinor might have been the auction mentioned in another provenance (it is the name of a village in the Chiltern hills), Or it could be the name of a collector. Further information is no longer available from Ede as purchase invoices from pre 1994 were long ago disposed of. A fellow collector tells me he has traced further back a number of others un-provenanced pieces from the museum auction.)
(Aquired Leland Little auctions USA, 15th June 2018, lot 2051)
In the Early Cypriot - Middle Cypriot I kernoi appeared in Cyprus, in particular around Vounous in the North, with several linked bowls, assumed to be for several different offerings, perhaps of fruit and grains. These had a central vertical handle which in many cases were very tall and flat, as here, with apertures cut to give a sort of ladder effect. Most are Red Polished Ware and some, like this one, have incised decorations, usually filled with lime. In four cases from Vounous a human plank-like figure was incorporated near the top. This example, with four, linked bowls, is very unusual in having 2 small model jugs at the top (I know of no other example though they may well exist). Model bowls and jugs are frequently added, standing on rims or shoulders of actual larger vessels in this same period, along with plank figures, horned animals and (more common later in the period) birds. All these elaborate ceramic items were rather impractical for use (and often less well fired, presumably because they did not have to stand up to frequent use) and were probably more for prestige display, and mostly made specifically for the funerals in which they were deposited or possibly other cult ceremonies. As with almost all well preserved objects this kernos will have been found in a rock-cut tomb. Elaborate kernoi of other kinds continued to be produced in Early Iron Age Cyprus, particularly the so called ring-kernoi.
Some chips, deposits, and encrustations; repaired break at second handle aperture.
Size: 32.5cm high
(Ex Museum of Cyprus, Jacksonville, New Carolina, USA. Assembled by Dr Takay Crist after the Turkish invasion of North Cyprus and opened to the public as a museum in 1988. This century the museum has not made significant acquisitions. It consisted of antiquities, documents, maps paintings and artefacts and was endorsed and by the President of Cyprus and the ambassador, as saving the antiquities from the market and making them available to the public and for study. The sale of the entire museum collection represents a betrayal of the trust of Cyprus and almost all record of the provenance and history of the pieces seems to have been lost, including their dates of all acquisition. However I have managed to trace 2 of the pieces I bought to Charles Ede, 1989 - name (only) for previous owners. Another collector has discovered collection histories of many more pieces than the catalogue mentions, going back to the di Cesnola brothers, Desmond Morris and the Erlenmeyer collection.)
(Aquired Leland Little Auctions USA, 15th June 2018, lot 2218)
This Red Polished Ware juglet is a quite well known shape from the transitional Early Cypriot III to Middle Cypriot I period (sometimes a bit larger and possibly for oil), particularly found in Dhenia, but also Alambra-Mouttes and Marki Alone etc, rather than the tall cut-away spouts the period is better known for. The long, thin spout is a nice feature of many smaller jugs at the time. The zig-jag lines with dots at the joints are the usual decoration of these and interestingly very similar to the diagonal lines with dots at their ends found on many plank figures - initially taken to represent arms, and now generally agreed to refer to the long, bronze pins used to secure clothing. This seems to show that the surface markings derive from pot decoration, which is then used to refer to clothing and jewellery. In this case, as with all versions of this pot design I have seen, there is no lime in the decorative incisions, though this may simply have been lost.
Handle reattached from 3 pieces, otherwise well preserved.
Size: H 12.1cm (handle)
(Ex. Massachusetts USA private collection, J.B., acquired in the early 1960's)
(Aquired Aphrodite Gallery, New York. Live Auction 24th Sept 2018 lot 7)
(Recently changed from 1900-1650BC). I have not yet redated all my pieces.
During this period the Red Polished Wares of the Early Bronze Age continued but with variants, and were joined by various painted wares, the most common being Handmade White painted Ware. The potters wheel was still not used and pots continued to have rounded bottoms. This was a period of great diversity and inventiveness with pottery making still local and household based with local styles cultivated. Large pithoi (storage jars) 1.2 metres or more high were sometimes sunk into the floors of buildings. Pithoi were sometimes used to store olive oil and were to become truly enormous in the Late Bronze Age.
The whole island was now already occupied. More and more of the natural forest which originally covered the island was cut down to make farms and fuel the copper smelting. Enkomi was founded to trade with nearby countries and in the Late Bronze Age other large coastal towns would develop which became the focus of international trade based on the export of copper. Local chiefs were probably still dominant though control of much of the copper production was starting to be asserted from Enkomi late in this period. Although Cyprus remained independent and largely peaceful some forts were built towards the end of the period, though what danger they guarded against is unclear. It has been suggested that some of them may have guarded the Enkomi control of copper from the Troodos mountains, Some luxury imports from Minoan Crete and Egypt were starting to arrive in Cyprus but in nothing like the quantities of the Late Bronze Age. Over 200 square or pyramidal gaming stones have been found which have (respectively) been identified with the Egyptian board games of Senet and Mehen. Some personal ornaments still continued to be made from picrolite.
There continues to be evidence of feasting and consumption of alchoholic drinks at funerals. Through the Bronze Age from Early Cypriot (from 2300/2400BC) through Late Cypriot IIC (to 1200BC) most burials (at least the known, higher status ones where most of the objects in my collection were found) were in rock cut tombs, often in limestone and often prone to flooding. Consequently many objects have calcium salt deposits on them and may have floated around. The bodies were laid on rock cut benches, or in niches for children and infants, and the vessels and other objects and offerings were laid on the floor.
The date designation of the main Early/Middle/Late Cypriot divisions are now not considered to be the most useful but despite others being suggested the old ones persist. In particular the start of the Middle Cypriot was only chosen because of the start of painted wares and it otherwise cuts across a period better considered together. I have placed several items from this period at the end of the Early Cypriot section, which might as likely have come from the Middle Cypriot I.
Note: The Middle Cypriot (Middle Bronze Age) is dated from the advent of White Painted II - VI (Handmade) Ware (White Painted I Ware is a very rare Philia ware). It has a white slip painted with black, dark brown or red lines. It overlaps the start of the Late Cypriot I. White Slip I-II Ware of Late Cypriot I-II has a thicker slip and less friable painted lines, which transitions into Late Cypriot III Proto White Painted (Wheelmade) Ware (and Proto Bichrome Ware - with both red and black paint used). Finally in the Early Iron Age these lose the word Proto.
Incised Red Polished Ware. A very unusual jug or possibly a rhyton (drinking vessel) in the form of a goat (Bezoar Ibex) with back-swept ribbed horns which form a handle. The mouth forms a spout for drinking or pouring but the nostril holes are shallow. There is an upstanding filling-hole in the middle of back and another hole with un-slipped edges in the upper buttocks which probably indicates a missing upturned tail-spout (found in many animal jugs of the Early and Middle BA) which has been smoothed and coloured to hide the break. Goats do, in any case have an upturned tail. It is one of the differences from sheep. There is also an anal hole which does not communicate with the interior (or is this a messy, shallow TL test hole).
This Jug has been TL tested at the Oxford Authentication Laboratories (samples taken from undersides of belly and foot), and confirmed as ancient. Stylistically the form of this goat has no precedent that I know of. However, taking the possible date as the normal 20% on each side of the calculated date gives an earliest date of 1900 BC, which used to be considered the start of the Middle Bronze Age (however, as I understand it this 20% is a convention in the face of numerous factors and a slightly earlier or later date is not impossible). Representations in the Early and Mid Bronze Age include the highly stylised human “plank” figures. These were once all considered to be female, but this is widely questioned now. I believe they are ancestor figures. The animal representations were mostly horned (male) animals: principally bulls, but also fallow deer and goats. These all probably relate to a fertility cult. The same is found in traditional animist African religions. There were also some images of birds and a few elaborate “scenes” (and later a very few sheep and pigs).
Neolithic settlers had introduced goats to Cyprus, plus dogs, sheep, fallow deer and probably pigs and a few cattle, which were probably left wild. The cattle died out in the 8th millennium BC but were reintroduced in large numbers in the Early Bronze Age.
Size: 21.5cm L
(Ex private collection Mrs Berki, acq in the ME in the 1980s)
(Aquired Artemission Apr 2015)
Multi headed plank figures are rare, and come almost exclusively from Lapithos in North Cyprus (plus one from Dhenia, nearby, and some with no known provenance). Vassos Karageorghis illustrated the 24 examples known to him and I know 7 more, 5 from the Pierides Museum in Larnaka, one in a private collection in Cyprus, plus this one). Most are 2 headed and in the Red polished Ware, dominant in the Cypriot Early and Middle Bronze Age. One is White Painted Ware and 4 have three heads. A few others are, no doubt, in private collections unknown to him and most probably looted from tombs, and possibly others in museums and represented by small fragments. They had always been classified (eg by V Karageorghis) as Early Cypriot III. However they seem now to be classified as early Middle Bronze Age, along with the other later modifications to the classic plank figure. Daisy Knox, in her 2012 PhD thesis says that “none is attested before MC II”, which would make it a very late arrival. I do not know what reassessment has caused this and what is now generally believed. She was certainly wrong in stating that no plank figure is decorated near its bottom edge, though this is a general rule.
Like the other plank figures they were probably intended for use in the settlements, since they have been found in both tombs and settlements and many of those in tombs show wear from having been handled. Possibly they constituted family shrines. Interpretation of the double headed examples have been various, including Campo who thought they depicted the divine marriage between a god and goddess, with an implied link to human marriage. However this does not account for the 3 headed ones and there is no sign that they represent different sexes. Either the single body has breasts (60%) or it doesn’t. This was at a time when the majority of scholars interpreted all planks as female fertility goddesses, despite only 30% of all plank figures having breasts (less than 10% of the classic, early type with one head and without arms). Now many explanations are offered. They might represent a god such as the Babylonian Marduk, (or perhaps the Syrian double eye-idols) who incorporate male and female. Other interpretations see them as twins, since twins are considered to be magical in many cultures, especially identical twins, and even more so the one survivor of a deceased twin. But why should this only be represented in one settlement? It has been suggested that plank figures began in Lapithos, since many planks were found in the tombs (though the settlement has yet to be located). It is the only place with all the plank types, but perhaps other areas did not take up the double variant. Certainly this doubling is in accord with a general love of doubling and multiplication in Cypriot pottery, which includes a profusion of vessels with double spouts.
Other anthropomorphic figurines of the period are represented quite differently and more realistically and with almost no clothing represented. If plank figures represent spirits this might explain their two dimensional form. Priscilla Keswani has convincingly argued that, at least from ECIII (when plank figures began to be produced) it became the norm for those accorded proper burial to be buried twice, starting with a simple interment, then after an interval in which had allowed the bones to have been cleansed of their rotting flesh, and materials to be collected for the funeral, a much larger funeral with feasting and lavish grave goods in which the bones would have been put into the family or "kin group" tomb. This would be in line with many known societies and, according to the classic anthropological theories of Robert Hertz, the second burial would have celebrated the rebirth of the spirit as an ancestor. In line with this I believe that plank figures represent ancestors (probably specific, recently deceased ancestors – to judge from ancestor cults investigated by anthropologists) and would have been intended to contain their spirits. The figure would have constituted a family shrine in the home. In that case then they might represent a married couple, or deceased twins. Alternatively they might have represented generic, rather than specific ancestors, but in almost all examples known to anthropology the primary emphasis is on specific, individual, recently deceased ancestors. Two of the known cradle-figures (plank figures depicting babies tied to a cradle-board) depict the heads of two babies on one board.
The three headed version is a problem for some interpretations, such as the idea of the union of sexes in a divinity. If plank figures are ancestor figures, could there have been this many twins and triplets in one village? Well, not in proportion, but perhaps if there was a special cult of twins the numbers are not high. Similarly for the married couple theory, a man with more than one wife seems possible.
Almost all multi-heads have long heads/necks, joined at the top, perhaps to make them less vulnerable, though one is known with independent heads/necks. The faces can be at the top or anywhere down to the middle of the head/neck, which seems to have been the case here.
As with almost all plank figures there are many details of clothing patterns and jewellery. In this example, the "necklaces" at the front are particularly fine and unusual and the object apparently hanging at the back below the central aperture should be noted. There are some single plank figures with a feature like this, which is sometimes seen decorating other objects. It is a bit like the "comb figures" which have been seen as precursors of plank figures by Desmond Morris but are more widely seen as models of combs, perhaps carding combs. This feature hanging at the back has been interpreted by some as a counterweight to necklaces, though not many think this. In any case it is an iconographic decorative element found on other pottery (such as my RPW bowl).
In my example the main body is complete, though broken across the middle and across one shoulder. This may have been deliberate (perhaps killing the figure to go into the afterlife with the deceased) and may have applied to as many as half of them. However it has been pointed out to me that most of these figures are not well fired and easily break accidentally.
Of the head/neck areas only one face and the start of the other neck are original. The remainder of this region is a conjectural reconstruction. On purchase, the appearance of the necks as reconstructed appeared to me to be too squat and slot too short at the top, and the second face not quite satisfactory. Consequently I have had the top slightly extended and the slot cut higher, and the currently concealed distinction between original and reconstructed portions (shown a little darker) made clearer. The restored face is a cast from the existing one. This will be its third version since the first was, I gather from a detail photo, wildly wrong.
The face has been placed at the lowest feasible level (and lowest known level for a face), with only a small insert of new material to allow the area below the "face" to echo the details on the other neck, as is always the case. However even this small insertion seems too much at the back, where the zig zags presumed to represent hair should start from roughly the same level. These hair zig-zags always go all the way up the head/neck so have been reconstructed. I am considering reconstructing some similar horizontal parallel lines above the "faces" as there are below, on the basis that all of the extant 2 head planks which have room for a design above the "faces" repeat it at the bottom of the neck, with only one exception(Cat Bd20 in Karageorghis's book) which has a vertical feature below the nose often seen in single-head planks and sometimes interpreted as a philtrum, but this is the only multi-head I know of (out of 31) which has it.In one case there are a bunch of horizontal lines top and bottom of the head/neck and a different feature added below the "face"(but the low position of the face on my figure makes that irrelevant as a possibility). The top edge usually has small parallel lines all along, either vertical, diagonal or chevrons, but the choice would be speculative so this area will be left blank. The length of "neck" restoration above the heads I made about as long as it can be for the heads not to be below the mid point of the necks. However the necks are still a bit shorter than usual and the heads very unusually low. The only way to get over this would have been for the hair zig-zags to start at even more unequal heights. The shape of the top, joining the heads, is typical, and specifically based on the nearest known example (from Lapithos, tomb 18 – now in the Cyprus Museum). The holes near the top corners, assumed to represent ear-piercings, are found on all multiple-headed plank figures (and most single-head ones) and can appear on both male and female figures in the scenic models.
Size: 22cm high
(Ex. Collection of J Patrick Lannan (1905-1983). Subsequently with Royal Athena Galleries. Subsequently US private collection. J. Patrick Lannan was a business executive, financial consultant and patron of the arts. He was a director of the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation for 36 years. He was also a director and member of the executive commmittee of the Macmillan Publishing Company, and a past chairman of the board of trustees of the magazine Poetry. established the Lannan Foundation to give financial help to needy artists and writers. His Park Avenue apartment became a showplace of paintings, sculpture and artifacts from ancient China to contemporary America. In 1981 he founded the Museum of the Lannan Foundation in Lake Worth, Fla. Although this piece could have been collected by Mr Lannan as late as the 1970s (he died 1983), his collecting was mostly prior to that.)
(Aquired ArtAncient January 17th 2018)
Later type of the flat Plank Figures, called by Desmond Morris "slab figures" since the head and neck are subsumed within the body shape with no shoulders. Unfortunately it was a designation in which he included the stone planks which may have a separate origin, or even a different use, from from the classic earlier type, which is characterised as a rectangular body with a smaller rectangle representing the head, and with a protuberant nose (the latter in all but 2 cases I am aware of) and often pierced ears protruding to each side. These date from a little into the Middle Bronze Age and though overlapping the classic types, have some other more realistic features applied in relief (in this case eyebrows) along with small, high, widely applied applied breasts. These had been unusual (about 10%) in the classic figures but found in the majority of these later types. Also here, ears with 3 piercings for earrings and puncture marks for nostrils and eyes, and tiny punctures possibly representing hair. Ear piercings are so much insisted on in Cypriot anthropomorphic figures from the Bronze Age, even when almost no other features are indicated, that they must be a marker of status. Figures with arms and relief details (other than breasts and nose) almost all come from central Cyprus. The horizontal facial marks are often found on the classic plank figures but rarely on slab figures and is thought to represent tattoos, scarification or face painting . Like many of these later figures, the piece has none of the body markings (probably represent patterns on clothing and jewellery) which are always present on the classic type. If the figure had not had breasts, the facial markings could also have been interpreted as a beard and moustache. The straight arms by the sides (with fingers indicated by incisions, as in the later Astarte figures) are also unusual. Although representing the beginning of new approaches to a static form, these figures also feel like a degeneration of the hieratic plank figure. This figure, which is very crude, has a blank back. This is extremely unusual and certainly none of the classic figures are like this. Normally plank figures are worked on all sides and have a flat bottom edge. However a few, such as MS77 at the Pennsylvania Museum are similar to this one.
I believe that all plank figures represented ancestor figures. These were probably individual, named ancestors, but were possibly generic. The figures may have functioned as shrines within the home, intended to actually contain ancestral spirits. In this context the round base is strange as it would be hard to keep the figure standing up, unless there were a slot in the floor. However unlike the classic figures this is of a size which could comfortably be held in the hand. Although most of the classic figures are a little under 30cm they can be as little as 10cm high. There is a tendency for these slightly later, variant figures to be of this smaller size.
See the other 2 plank figures (under "Early Bronze Age" even though they probably date from EC III - MC I). The second with narrow head and neck has more details on plank figures' possible uses and relation to other artefacts and beliefs.
Unrestored with only minor chips. Remains of old collection labels front and (chiefly) back.
Size: 18.3 cm high
(From the collection of Georges Halphen (1913-2003), acquired 18.12.1970. An old label on the back of the figure reading “Idole Chypre, Terre Cuite 3 mill [?]CP 18.12.70. 94 no 13 930”. Georges Halphen was the son of the composer Fernand Halphen and his wife, Alice de Koenigswarter. He was a life-long collector and donated works to the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée du quai Branly. Subsequently sold at Christies, Paris 20th November 2003, lot no. 510. Exported from France under export license no. 061589. Subsequently UK private collection. Acquired from the above by ArtAncient, 2017.)
(Aquired Art Ancient August 2017)
A very large, relatively shallow, Red Polished Mottled Ware conical bowl. It has a spout and double-pierced lug handle This conical shape is sometimes found in even slightly larger and deeper versions in the Early Bronze Age and was probably made especially for feasts. Indeed this could be Early BA though the walls would be quite thin for that period. The slight asymmetry of height, and mottled red-black appearance, suggests Southern or central Cyprus. The funeral assemblages in those areas tend to consist of undecorated vessels with more large food bowls than in the North, but fewer jugs. Overall the small personal eating/drinking bowl dominated both Early and Middle Bronze Age tomb assemblages, with the early period having more decorated versions, and the Middle BA more and plainer bowls, suggesting more people were involved in the funeral feasts.
A minor repair on one side of the pierced lug, otherwise intact.
Size: 15 x 34.5 x 40 cm
(Ex private collection, Herefordshire, UK: acquired 1980s-90s.)
(Aquired from Helios Gallery December 2017)
This typical Middle Bronze Ace storage pithos is in Red Polished Ware, the main type of pottery in the Early and Middle Cypriot Bronze Age. Often, though, they had a wider base. It has a handle on either side of the neck and would have been used for storage of dry foodstuffs such as grain or dried pulses, or possibly olive oil or wine, though it would have needed a large stopper. Possibly, given the narrow base, it might have stood partially buried in the floor or placed in an enclosure or "bin", probably lined with lime plaster. It is very similar shape to the "Sévres Jar" (D Morris P280) but without the scenic compositions.
Some chips and a surface crack on the lower body
Size: 46.5 x 33cm
(Ex. private collection, Yorkshire, UK; acquired from Helios Gallery in 2008. Formerly ex. collection: Jorgen Jacobsen, Bornholm, Denmark.; acquired 1968-1969 while serving in UN forces in Cyprus.)
(Aquired from Helios Gallery, May 2016)
Small, elaborate Early Cypriot or Middle Cypriot jug with applied decoration in relief, including wavy-line "snake" motifs on the body and top of spout. Only one larger and one small patch of black but this surely counts as Red-Black Mottled Ware, which should make it early Bronze Age (Early Cypriot). It was assigned as 2000-1500BC (Middle Bronze Age I or Early Bronze Age III - Late Bronze Age I !) in the controversial sale of items from the Toledo Museum. (2000BC was previously the dating for Early BA III but is now Middle BA I. I am unsure which dating Christie's used but dealers seem not to have noticed the change of dating). It seems to me slightly more likely Early Bronze Age III based especially on the decoration, though it has some features of the Middle Bronze Age III in size and shape. However it is very unusual, whichever of these two periods it was made. Such decoration in the EBA is normally only found on very large vessels and the actual form of the decoration is unusual for MBA III. An eminent curator has given his opinion as Middle Cypriot II-III as small items densely covered in applied decoration were prevalent then. I have deferred to him.
In good condition except broken tip of spout, plus the lip of the top opening and one "tip" on the handle appear to be repainted. A better photo will follow.
Size: 12cm high x 9.4cm
(Ex. Gen. Luigi Palma di Cesnola 1868-1873; Greek and Roman Department, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1873-1916. Purchased by Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio in 1916, Accession no. 1916.126. Sold in Christie's NY Auction 25th Oct 2016 lot 59.)
(Aquired Art Ancient April 5th 2019)
This zoomorphic "hole-mouth" askos has a bulls head at one end and indeterminate animal head at the other (both with pierced mouth and eyes), and a round hole in the chest beneath each. There is a similar vessel in the Ashmolian Museum - with a bull’s head and a stag head (and the tiny 2 headed bulls on my MBA cult vessel are close relatives), but usually these bull figures have just one head and chest hole. Even in those cases the function is unclear. They are often called askoi (perhaps for pouring libations?) though the low position of the hole would make it rather unsuitable for containing liquids. Here, though there is a handle, it is hard to see how it could be easily filled and used unless one put a thumb over one of the holes or dipped the whole vessel. It is Red Polished Ware, like most pottery of the period.
Size: 9.5 cm long
(Phillips auction,18th June 1987 lot 45. Later Ex collection of Tony Eastgate, London, UK: acquired 28th March 1989 from Charles Ede, hence by descent. Published: Phillips 18thJune 1987; Charles Ede Ltd, Cypriot pottery XI (London 1989) No5.)
(Aquired Charles Ede July 2016)
This bowl was most likely made in the Karpass peninsular (North West Cyprus), perhaps at Ayios Iakovos, judging from the painted decoration. "Decorated vessels" - a term used for bowls or jugs with projecting rim or shoulder mini vessels and/or animal figures or protomes - are normally Red Polished Ware and from the Early Cypriot period. Painted ones are very rare. As far as I can determine this one is unique in several ways and thus archaeologically important.
Handmade White Painted Ware such as this was dipped in a cream coloured slip and then painted with black, grading to dark brown or red lines, partly depending on the temperature of firing. The introduction of painted wares around 1900 BC defines the start of the Middle Cypriot period, though White painted Ware II was used as the marker and there was actually a rare White Painted (Philia) ware earlier.
Large and elaborate cult vessels such as this, which would be impractical for everyday use, are believed to have been made especially for funereal use and to go into tombs. However, although nothing of this sort has been found in settlements, the idea has been raised that they might sometimes have been kept (perhaps concealed), for use in more than one ceremony before finally being put into a grave. This might explain the (very unusual) substantial handle sticking out from the body of this bowl, clearly for hanging it securely from a peg, as was probably common with domestic items, though in this case it would have been hung face out from the wall, protecting the vulnerable rim. More normally a handle would be by the rim and the decoration concentrated on the outside, suggesting it would be kept with the underside visible. It is perhaps possible that a handle simply reflects a detail being imitated from domestic items, but the unusual size and placing make this seem unlikely.
These elaborate pieces are usually less well fired, presumably since they would not have to stand up to regular wear. Clearly ostentation was part of their intention, asserting the social position of the kin group, but their iconography presumably refers to the practice and symbolism of funeral ceremonies. It is thought that these ceremonies included feasting and drinking, as well as dancing and animal sacrifice, plus possibly the use of animal horns and hides for costumes. Clearly many small bowls were required for these ceremonies, since many are found in tombs, along with jugs and animal shaped askoi: the latter possibly for pouring libations. Perhaps the tiny bowls around the rim represent this set of bowls, necessary for the ceremony. It is suggested that alcoholic beverages were involved (the representation of the brewing and wine pressing process is suggested as explaining some of the “scenes” modeled in Early Cypriot Bronze Age pottery and both a probable brewery and stone wine-pressing vats have been found). However the depiction of a small vessel on a full size one became a continuing theme in Cypriot pottery, for example even in Archaic and classical times the spout of a jug was often made in the form of a mini jug. The mini vessels depicted on many early Iron Age Geometric ring kornoi, which are still remarkably like the few Early Bronze Age examples, even though the presence of horned animal heads must no longer have held more than a shadow of its original significance. (Kernoi are conjoined small jugs or bowls for different offerings). Certainly when the interiors of the mini vessels are conjoined, such as in ring-kernoi, the original purpose of separate offerings has become a reference which is then explicitly subverted by the idea of unity.
Of course whatever social function the increasing ostentation of grave goods served, there must be an assumption of original beliefs that these gifts objects left in tombs were of some use to the spirits of dead, at least symbolically, which suggests the ancestors had some presence and power in the everyday material world. Christians believe in an afterlife but do not bury objects with the dead. (Indeed the absence of grave goods is one indication of an early Christian grave).
There seems to have been an increasing elaboration of multi-stage mortuary ritual, involving the later manipulation of the bones. This all seems to suggest an ancestor cult, as has been suggested in Crete, probably relating to rights of lineage, including perhaps to land. Cemeteries were normally several hundred yards from the settlement and consisted of rock-cut tombs consisting of a dromos (outdoor entrance ramp) leading to one or more chambers. There was a gradual increase in the number of bodies in tombs deposited over a long period, probably by a family. The bodies were laid on rock cut benches, or in niches for children and infants (though both these groups are under-represented in tombs of that time), and others with the vessels and other objects and offerings were laid on the floor, often along with the bones of animals sacrificed and presumably eaten at the funeral feast. These cemeteries might also have been the site of other communal ceremonies since shrines or temples in settlements are only known from the Late Bronze Age. Our knowledge of such early Bronze age cemeteries derives particularly from Vounous and Lapithos on the North coast, excavated before the Turkish invasion, while our knowledge of settlements comes mostly from excavations since then in Central and Southern Cyprus.
Elaborate bowls (and jugs) such as this, with horned animals and mini-bowls around the rim are particularly associated with the Early Cypriot periods I and II around Vounous. They are normally Red Polished Ware with bulls, deer, goats, rams and birds (or simply their heads) depicted standing on the rim. Also projecting from the rim, usually on stalks, are small bowls - miniature versions of itself (or in the case of jugs there may be mini jugs, depicted with the other items on the shoulders of the jug). During the important period at the end of the Early Bronze Age and start of the Middle Bronze Age (EC III & MC I) when this bowl was probably made, such cult vessels spread across Cyprus, and the majority (70%) of the animals depicted become birds. Previous to that, in the Early Cypriot I & II period the animals depicted on this type of vessel were all horned animals, roughly in proportion to the amount of meat represented by the animal bones found in tombs, presumably from sacrifice and consumption at funeral feasts. Since this was a period when tombs were no longer cleared for re-use but there was considerable secondary funeral activity involving the handling of bones, it is suggested that the EC III and Middle Cypriot dominance by bird imagery might be a reference might be to de-fleshing of the bodies by scavenging birds (as in Tibetan "sky-burial" now) or they could just be a symbol of the spirit. This delayed final ceremony allowed time for the collection of funeral materials and according to theories originally put forward by the anthropologist Robert Hertz allowed a liminal period in which the soul was separated from its social role and finally freed from the process of death and corruption could finally join the unchanging company of the ancestors. A good transitional example of such bowls is on the cover of the Desmond Morris book (now in the Metropolitan Museum NY). Plank figures from the same period might be a domestic component of this ancestor "cult", constituting family shrines to contain the spirits of named recent ancestors (or, just possibly, generic, or perhaps heroic early ancestors.
The finish of these vessels is still normally the red slip of Red Polished Ware and until recently I had not come across any examples in White Painted Ware in museums and dealers' catalogues, or the online or printed literature. However there is a White Painted Ware bowl with 4 mini bowls around the rim, plus a WPW double-spouted jug with goat and bird heads and mini bowls (from as late as the start of the Late Bronze Age) in the Pierides Museum in Larnaka, and 2 other simpler version of the latter in the Athens Museum of Cycladic Art and (I have read) the Louvre, so I am sure there must be others. The latter 2 are in Proto White Slip ware and I am unsure if the Larnaka version might also be.
White painted wares are associated with high status tombs, rich in bronze items, and came from the North, starting near the North coast and spreading into the foothills of the Troodos mountains and then the North West and East to the coast, including the Karpass peninsular. In other words the source is not far from the source of the earlier cult vessels. The patterns on this one, made almost exclusively from multiple parallel rows of wavy lines, most parallel with the rim, and all unbounded by straight lines, is very unusual. Also the fact that the decoration is inside the bowl is unusual, but explained by its ceremonial function: not being stored with the bottom visible, and not expecting the abrasion of much use and cleaning. It has been suggested to me that if genuine (see end of this article) the painted designs suggest it is probably from the Karpass area, possibly Ayios Iakovos in the Kyrenia range. I imagine this could be verified by a petrography test if anyone thought it worth it. I gather a slip like this, more buff than creamy white, tends to be characteristic of early White Painted ware. However the varnish the last owner put on it will have darkened the appearance.
My example has a row of 4 abstracted bulls with a head at each end, alternating with 4 miniature bowls. The bulls (or at least one of them, it is hard to make out much with the others) have dots painted along the middle of their backs. An incised form of this can be found on Early Bronze Age, red polished ware animals attached to vessels. Often there are also sets of dots on the body of those vessels and several interpretations have been put forward for the latter, the main ones, when they are within a broken circle, being that they represent the houses in a village or loaves in an oven. What they mean on an animal is unclear.
The most interesting feature of this bowl is the other (ninth) element on the rim. This is an upwardly projecting part of the rim with a hole through it. It must have a conventional meaning but what that is is unclear. I have not seen anything quite like it, but I was recently reading Louise Steels very interesting "The Social World of Early Bronze Age Cyprus: Rethinking the Vounous Bowl". The Vounous bowl is probably the most celebrated and interesting piece of Cypriot pottery. It contains within it a crude choroplastic (modeled pottery) representation of a communal, probably ceremonial space with penned bulls, standing and seated figures, and what appears to be a shrine with bucrania on top. Opposite the shrine is a hole in the side of the bowl that clearly represents a door, with lintel raised above the level of the rest of the rim. Another similar bowl with a door with lintel cut into it contains a scene with figures around a hob. Itl was found at Nicosia Ayia Paraskevy, tomb 50, along with another similar bowl without a door, showing a large plank figure on a throne in front of a shrine, surrounded by smaller, more naturalistic figures. Neither of these has yet been fully published. The idea is also found much earlier in a large Chalcolithic bowl from Kissonerga, which is turned into a house by the depiction of a hearth and the cutting of a “doorway” in the side (with hinged pottery door). However if this is a tradition there must be a whole series of intermediate steps which have never been found.
Could the hole in my bowl be a later, conventionalised and reduced representation of an entrance into a ceremonial space, and/or into the tomb and the world of the dead? This would suggest that the whole bowl should be thought of, like the Vounous Bowl, as a representation of a sacred, social space: an area where the human world can interact with and influence the spirit world. The bowl is not just an object to be used in a magical rite, but itself magical. Could it be that many or all of these bowls were seen as depicting a sacred space? A space in a cemetery, delimited by rings of wooden posts has, indeed, been found and guessed to be such a sacred space, but also a few dromoi (entrance ramps outside tombs) have been found which have linked pilasters carved on their walls with, in at least one case, bucrania (bull heads) on top and a large jar in front, just like the models of shrines sometimes found in tombs, and like the shrines depicted in the bowls.
Representations of horned male animals (almost always bulls) or bucrania were very common in Bronze Age Cyprus and believed to be associated with a fertility cult, as in Crete. Symbols of fertility are often also symbols of rebirth after death, an example being the planting of corn in the ground. Large abstracted bucrania known as “horns of consecration” are found in Late Bronze Age temples. Even now, in modern Cyprus, bulls heads are set up on top of barns etc. as noted by Desmond Morris
I am making the assumption that the creatures on my bowl with head at each end are specifically bulls, but some of the creatures represented on such cult vessels are deer with antlers and one assemblage on a jug could be interpreted as deer being milked into bowls. Certainly there is much evidence of deer being eaten in the ceremonies associated with these funeral sites, along with cattle, sheep and goats. Perhaps only the idea of a horned male animal was needed. Processing round a rim in either direction they emphasise that it is a circle, an ancient and continuing symbol of eternity. Does this in any way relate to why the bulls have heads facing both ways? To the modern eye the mini bowls seem like offspring, suggesting an infinite regression or infinite continuation, perhaps another symbolic suggestion of rebirth.
It has been suggested to me that the long, abstracted, two headed bulls are quite like Mycenaean examples (which I have not seen). I have also seen a Mycenaean figurine in the Allard Pierson Museum depicting a table with 2 conical bowls and a cat(?) on it. The bowls are very similar to the 4 on mine and are painted with radial lines in the same way. In that case the bowl would be from the Cypriot Late Bronze Age, relating to the Mycenaean influence from the 12th and 13th century BC. However there are many precedents for earlier Cypriot two headed horned animals, such as my own EBA III "pushmi-pullyu" and the similar one in the Ashmolian Museum, plus a small figurine in the Metropolitan museum. So although I know of no other example of two headed bulls on a Cypriot vessel I will be very surprised if this proves correct. Even though the bowl shape is unlike the tall cult bowls of the EC I, the piece fits more credible as an extension of that tradition into the Middle Cypriot, than as part of the Late Cypriot, contemporary with the Mycenaean influence on Cyprus.
The rounded underside of the bowl shows the marks of an organic ring of some kind, possibly twisted or plaited straw, which must have supported the bowl while it was wet. 4 strands of this have clearly impressed their shape on the bowl. This suggests to me that such rings might also have had day to day use to stand round-bottomed pots in. Without it the bowl is tipped a little to one side by the weight of the handle.
The bowl is fairly crudely repaired from about 30 pieces, without significant in-filling. Breaklines are visible but smear-filled on the handle and interior and the design painted-over darker than the partially masked or eroded original lines. Also a pale coating has been added to much of the underside to conceal the breaks. Some of the figures on the rim are reattached using blobs of some red substance I cannot identify, but is similar to the restored sections on my Philia jug. Along with other pieces in the last owner’s collection, the bowl has unfortunately been varnished. I am told collectors commonly used to wax or varnish antiquities to “protect” the surface. The slightly brown varnish has dribbled and pooled. It might be possible to remove this (with acetone?). Colin Bowles are investigating the similar varnish on another piece from this source for me, to identify it and see if it can be removed without damaging the underlying paint lines. However they are worried it may have bonded too well with the paint for this to be done safely. The paint on Middle Bronze Age handmade White Painted ware tends to flake off rather easily in any case. This is the start of investigation to see if more of these crude restorations can be redone less crudely or removed, especially the over-painting which might just be removed or could be re-done in a more sympathetic way. In any case, a piece of this importance deserves expert and conservative care.
There is, though, one other possibility to be considered. Rather than being a unique and very important bowl, this might be a fake. It was collected in Cyprus in the 1960s and experts have said that this and its current state makes it unlikely to be a fake. However, it may be necessary to do a TL (Thermo-Luminescence) test just to make sure (as had been done to my RPW Goat jug). This method gives the date to within approximately 20% on each side, which makes it unsuitable to establish date but useful to detect fakes. This does involve drilling small holes in the fabric, so I might begin with confirming the main bowl is Bronze Age, by drilling the base of the handle now (the one place the bowl is thick enough to do easily), and investigate the rim figures later if it seems necessary. One mini bowl seems not to have needed to be been reattached.
Size: 15 x 37 x 34cm
(Collection General-Surgeon Dr. Josef Mayer-Riefenthaler, Vienna. Acquired in Cyprus in the late 1950s, but mostly in 1965-7, during his deployment as UN soldier. Many of his pieces were bought from Cypriot Galleries, which was still legal then, and still bear their accession numbers, but probably not this one.)
(Aquired Christoph Bacher Archaeologie, Vienna, February 2016)
Extremely unusual plank-like female seated figure on stool, White Painted Ware from around MC II (or possibly early III?). Ears pierced twice, the top piercing vertical. Legs unfortunately broken off and missing. Red/brown painted lines on a cream slip, at the back and forehead representing hair, and on face horizontal lines reminiscent of incised decoration on Red Polished Ware plank figures. It is not clear if this is just decoration or represents face painting, tattoos or scarification. The dashed lines on the back could be scarification or represent a detail of clothing, like the box-like shape on the chest and horizontal lines on shoulders and buttocks as well as on the stool. (Compare the back with my plank figure with narrow neck/head). The division of the buttocks is a nice touch. The flipper-like stub arms are found on a number of the late "shoulder" plank figures and "slab" plank figures. Only a small minority of classic double-rectangle, legless and armless Plank Figures have breasts (about 10%) and those that do are tiny and located far from a naturalistic position (near each shoulder), however this figure has notably larger breasts in a realistic position. Indeed at least half of the late, somewhat more realistic Plank Figures (often with arms) have breasts - still small but somewhat more realistically positioned.
Compare with (smaller) seated figure with child - V Karageorghis "Coroplastic Art of Ancient Cyprus Vol I, Plate CXXVI. However it is not clear if that figure, which is broken off some sort of base, should be considered a plank figure. (See also the model stool, Plate LIX.) However, other than this possible example, none of the few, very late plank figures with indication of legs are depicted seated. Plank figures normally cannot stand unaided. Compare those with the more naturalistic, earlier seated figures of the scenic compositions such as the "Vounous Bowl" which clearly depict live humans and are not plank-like. Compare also with the seated variant of the unvarying Late Bronze Age "Flathead" Base-ring figurines generally considered to represent divinities. Coincidentally those seated variants are usually also rather plank-like in shape and seated on (less explicit) stools, and also leaning back (in the photo above the figure has been propped to reduce this, otherwise it is rather unstable).
I am currently of the opinion this is a late, variant of the Classic plank figures, despite being seated and with more realistic breasts and the body being smaller and a little thicker than classic plank figures. By this I mean that I believe it was made as a conscious variant of a tradition and was probably made for the same purpose. When sold in 1976 it stood on a stand which said "Statuette of Aphrodite Cyprus". This reflected the belief from the late 19th century until quite recently, reinforced by the theory of Universal Archetypes put forward by Jung, that all early societies had a Great Mother fertility goddess. Since the Cypriot Chalcolithic had figurines which clearly related to childbirth and the Late Bronze Age had 2 types of figurines which also clearly related to fertility and one of which looked very like earlier Hittite figures of Astarte, the intermediate Plank Figures were co-opted to be fertility goddesses, even though they mostly had no indication of sex and were angular and singularly inappropriately shaped for a fertility goddess. Indeed many archaeologists and academics are now questioning the identity of most of these figures as female and looking for other roles for them than goddesses. My preferred solution among these is that they are ancestor figures (probably relating to specific ancestors). Priscilla Keswani wrote a persuasive book (Mortuary Ritual and Society in Bronze Age Cyprus) arguing that in Early/Middle Bronze Age Cyprus, most funerals were double: the first at most a simple shallow burial with no grave goods and the second some time later, after the flesh had rotted off the bones, being a lavish feast with elaborate, often specially made grave offerings. At this point the bones were put into the family tomb cut in the soft limestone, which was sometimes used for hundreds of years. This was the moment ( in line with the classic writing of anthropologist Robert Hertz) when, freed from the feared corrupting power of death the person could became an ancestor. This suggests some version of ancestor veneration. It is now accepted that Plank figures were used in settlements and in most cases only afterwards placed in tombs. It follows that, in line with many traditional cultures studied by anthropologists, these figures might be intended not merely to represent ancestors but to contain the spirit of an ancestor. If they are spirits this would explain their flat shape and (in the classic period) lack of limbs - in contrast to the more rounded depictions of people in the scenic compositions of daily life, both freestanding and on vessels. Cemeteries were always quite far away from the settlements, often up to a mile away, though usually within sight of the settlements. This was a marked change from the Chalcolithic when the dead were sometimes buried under houses. It suggests some nervousness about the power of the dead.
Most plank figures, even in the very late transitional variants, continued to be made as Red Polished Ware, despite White Painted Ware having risen to dominance by the end of the period. Karageorghis pointed out that this conservatism is characteristic of depictions of divinities (and if I am right that plank figures represent ancestor spirits the same would presumably apply). What the function was of the tiny number of eccentric figures made in the late Middle Bronze Age and Early Late Bronze Age I (between Plank figures and Base Ring Ware figures) is unclear. This may well have been a period of transition to new beliefs as the old practices disappeared and new urban cultures started to appear. In this context these transitional figures are seen as ancestors of the Late Bronze Age so called "Astarte" figures in that they often have legs and tend to have clear sexual features, and are not dominated by details of clothing and jewellery.
Size: Approx 18cm high
(Lawrence - Cesnola collection 19th C: On back marked Lawrence P818. A few pieces excavated by General Luigi Palma di Cesnola, but most by Major Alessandro Palma di Cesnola (1839-1914) and given to his future English father-in-Law, Edwin Henry Lawrence (1819-91), who had financed his late digs. He sold much of his collection at Sotheby's: 1-4 June 1883, 15-17 May 1884, 12-14 March 1888. After his death this piece was in a final auction 25-27. Sold 27th April 1892 as part of lot 525 (a set of 8 "figures of Aphrodite, bought by General Pitt Rivers for £1, 8 shillings). Subsequently in the second Pitt Rivers collection and possibly exhibited at his Museum at Farnham. (see 'Rethinking Pitt-Rivers' project at http://web.prm.ox.ac.uk/rpr/, page 818. [Add.9455vol3_p818].) The collection subsequently sold by his daughter 1960s-70s. Sold Sotheby's 7th December 1976 and probably bought by Desmond Morris who photographed it but did not illustrate it in his book. Sold Bonhams 1999.)
(Aquired Art Ancient February 2019)
White Painted Ware Askos in the form of a stag with 8 point antlers, but unusually no face, and the enlarged tail functioning as a spout in the usual way of the period. Handle pierced twice, possibly for suspension in line with axis of figure. Body covered in chequerboard patterns in dark paint on a creamy white slip, some of it a little worn. Otherwise intact.
Askoi were used to pour libations of oil, wine or beer. They appear in this period usually in the form of horned animals, especially bulls or, especially later, in the Late Bronze Age, as a wine-skin with bull's head. Usually, but not in this case, the mouth of the animal forms a spout. Rhytons, another form of (usually) animal shaped vessel prevalent in the Late Bronze Age in the form of bulls (of which there are hundreds extant) had, in addition, a filling hole.
Still in USA or in transit.
(Ex Museum of Cyprus, Jacksonville, New Carolina, USA. Assembled by Dr Takay Crist after the Turkish invasion of North Cyprus and opened to the public as a museum in 1988. This century the museum has not made significant acquisitions. It consisted of antiquities, documents, maps paintings and artefacts and was endorsed and by the President of Cyprus and the ambassador, as saving the antiquities from the market and making them available to the public and for study. The sale of the entire museum collection represents a betrayal of the trust of Cyprus and almost all record of the provenance and history of the pieces seems to have been lost, including their dates of acquisition. However I traced it to Christie’s auction South Kensington 8/5/1989, Ex European collection, thence by descent. Bought by Charles Ede.)
(Aquired Leland Little Auctions, USA, 15th June 2018 lot 2069)
This small kernos is in White Painted Ware: pottery covered in a creamy slip decorated with red (or often black) painted patterns. Kernoi are groups of offering bowls with several small bowls for different offerings fused together into one piece, usually with a carrying handle.
In the case of the later Ring Kernoi, a hollow ring links the interiors of the vessels, usually models of larger vessels, often accompanied by animal models or animal heads (protomi). In this case the vessels have become more symbolic and could be linked, perhaps, with the Early/Middle Cypriot cult vessels.
Although Red Polished ware and its variants (black polished, drab, etc) make up most of the pottery of the Middle Cypriot period, there are a few, minor, painted wares, white-painted being the most important. It seems to be associated with high status tombs and is the only ceramic ware known to have been exported. It continued to be made until about 1400BC (well into the Late Bronze age), after which the rather similar White Slip ware took over.
Extensive encrustation possibly from repeated flooding of a tomb and some erosion of the surface at one end.
Size: 14 x 15.5cm
(Ex UK private collection Acq Bonhams 22April 1999 lot 375 (part). Previously from UK deceased estate, collected in 1970s. Bonhams dealt with the solicitor from the estate and could not find record of the collector's name.)
(Aquired Chiswick Auctions 7th December 2016 lot 34.)
This jug is unusually large for Handmade White Painted Ware, which was typically used to make small items. White painted ware is covered with a white clay slip and painted in red/brown or black lines. The latter typically do not adhere very well due to rather low temperature firing. The twisted handles are unusual but can be found now and then through Cypriot ancient history (see for example my much earlier Philia period jug), but paired untwisted handles are very common in the Iron Age (see my Geometric period jug). The multiple pierced lugs are slightly reminiscent of String-Hole Ware, and the cut-away spout looks earlier than MCIII, so I am guessing Middle Cypriot II (ie Middle Bronze Age II) (1850-1750 BC).
The body of the jug and handles, and the junction with the neck have been much and slightly messily mended, and an odd mend of a piece of the spout lip needs investigating. A huge crack in the body needs consolidating. New purchase.
Cf. White Painted II Ware - Inv. No. 19530 (h.: 36.5cm) Middle Cypriot I, Vassos Karageorghis, Ancient Cypriote Art in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, Nikosia, 2003, p. 32, cat no. 41
Size: 34cm high
(Mr A. N. Strouthos collection, exported from Cyprus to the UK under licence in 1978; and thence by descent to the present owner. (photocopy of export certificate retained))
(Aquired Bonhams auction 28th November 2018, lot 120. (one of 35 pieces from ANS))
Incised Red Polished Ware pot, with 2 handles and two faces or bucrania. Where not making askoi, rhytons or figurines in explicit animal shapes, Cypriot potters liked to make their pots into personages - animal or, less often, human. Two pierced lugs easily become noses with nostrils (the only part of plank figures always depicted in relief) and two applied curved lines become eyebrows, making the whole upper part of the jug into a head with a face on each side, and the lower part then becomes the body. Although eyes are not clearly depicted the three vertical, dashed lines under the nose and eye positions might refer to them, and to the vertical line frequently found under the nose of plank figures. The horizontal patterned bands below (and in this case above) this, are identical to those on a slab figure that belonged to Desmond Morris. The handles could even be seen as pierced ears. On the other hand they are just as likely to be intended as horned bull heads, in which case the piercing through the lugs becomes two eyes. The ambiguity may have been deliberate.
This overall jug shape was made over a long period from Early Cypriot III to Late Cypriot III (2100-1450 BC). Intact except for small chips
Size: 22 cm high
(Ex Collection General-Surgeon Dr. Josef Mayer-Riefenthaler, Vienna. Acquired in Cyprus in the 1950s and 1960s, during his deployment as UN soldier.)
(Aquired Christoph Bacher Archaeologie, Vienna, February 2016)
Another very similar Red Polished Ware pot, continuing the dominant ware of the Early Bronze Age. Here however there are no small handles, lugs or applied eyebrows, but instead a single handle as for a jug or tankard (not visible in this photo), and a very elaborate incised pattern over the whole surface, including profuse vertical zig-zags. As in almost all Middle Bronze Age wares, the base continues to be rounded. After the Philia period, flat bases were almost never made in Cyprus till Late Bronze Age, Base Ring Wares and a few wheel-made wares, including imitations of Mycenaean pottery. This pot was intact, except for an obvious small plugged hole in the side, until the upper part was broken into several pieces in transit to me with a courier. It was expertly restored by Colin Bowles of London to the state it had been in prior to this disaster, with reference to earlier photos (not restoring the older chip on the lip). Normally with ancient breaks I prefer to leave the breaks apparent.
Size: 23.2 cm
(Ex Collection General-Surgeon Dr. Josef Mayer-Riefenthaler, Vienna. Acquired in Cyprus in the 1950s and 1960s, during his deployment as a UN soldier)
(Aquired Acquired Christoph Bacher, Vienna March 2016)
A rare Black Slip Ware pottery jug with an orange/grey surface decorated with pierced relief lines. This ware is sometimes hard to tell from Drab Polished Ware. (For another example, though less ornate, compare Desmond Morris: Art of Ancient Cyprus Plate 20a. The top of the handle and front of the shoulder are decorated with abstract zoomorphic or anthropomorphic shapes. The figure on the shoulder is reminiscent of a crouching profile female form.
Chipping and light surface abrasion.
Size: 20.7 x 15 cms
(Ex. private collection, Cambridgeshire, UK; acquired mid-late 20th Century. Thence with Sworders Auctioneers, Stanstead Mountfitchet, UK.)
(Aquired Helios Gallery Feb 12th 2018)
Red-and-Black Incised Burnished Ware with extremely refined incised decorations filled with lime (about 10 lines per cm). This technique of making part of the red slip turn black by contact with carbon monoxide in the kiln reducing the iron oxide in the clay, goes back to the Philia period at least.
This ware, characterised by long necked, round bottomed bottles, replaced ordinary Incised Red Polished ware in the Karpas area (North East extension of Cyprus). The complex checkerboard, diamond and vertical zig-zag motifs are characteristic. Circular motifs and horizontal zig-zags disappear. Constant variation and recombination of a few motifs is found, and it is believed that the work of individual makers can be differentiated (see Desmond Morris, p341-352 - he owned over 100 of these bottles). I cannot find a definite match but the "Fine Line Mimic Artist" comes very close. Many of these bottles are pierced both sides of the rim, for suspension, or attachment of a stopper (but not this one).
Size: 21cm H
(Ex collection of John A Badman, The Monarch, Glastonbury in the 70s)
(Aquired Chiswick Auctions 29.09.2015 lot 53.)
This imposing amphora with spurred handles is Incised Black Polished Ware, similar to the normal Red Polished ware but fired umber to black by reducing air to the pot in the kiln, producing a reducing atmosphere. This is an unusually large example. The elaborate incised decoration consists of bands of parallel lines and bands of circles connected by dots. White lime was put into the incisions. It is round-bottomed like almost all Early and Middle Cypriot pots. This shape may have been achieved by using a gourd as a mould. It probably required a ring of some organic material, such as plaited straw to sit in, though it may have been stored upside down or in a lime-plaster “bin”. These are known to have existed in some houses, along with narrow, plaster-covered benches along the walls. The walls and sometimes the floor in those houses were also covered in lime plaster.
Intact with a few minor chips and surface wear.
Size: height 24cm
(Ex. Private collection, Germany (name of collector known to me but withheld here); acquired Nicosia 1972-1974)
(Aquired Charles Ede, 27th July 2016)
Drab Polished Ware comes mostly from the South coast. Compare with my Early Bronze Age “large spouted pot” which was larger and less decorated but essentially the same, except the handle is vertical. Indeed this spout shape goes back to the Philia period and there is even here a small flattened patch on the basically rounded base. Applied decoration is also a feature of earlier pots, but is here more delicate chain design made by interweaving two lines. Presumably it would have been used in company to pour drinks. As with many pots there is a pierced lug which could have been used to hang it from a peg in the wall when not in use or may by now have simply become a decorative element. A very pretty pot.
Size: height 15cm x 23.5cm
((Ex. William R Crawford collection acquired in Cyprus prior to 1972. Like the other piece I own it is accompanied by a copy of the 1972 export license issued to him by the Republic of Cyprus Department of Antiquities. William Crawford was an American career diplomat and expert on the Middle East and Cyprus. He was director of Arab-Israeli Affairs at the State Department 1959-64 and Deputy Chif of Mission in Cyprus thereafter. In 1970s he was ambassador to Yemen and then to Cyprus and later became principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near East and South Asian affairs. He donated part of his collection to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art prior to his death in 2002. See http://www.adst.org/OH%20TOCs/Crawford,%20William.R.toc.pdf)
(Aquired Sands of Time Ancient Art, Washington USA, Sept 2016))
Incised Drab Polished Ware, small jug with beaked, cutaway spout and 4 very unusual multiply-pierced "ribs" splaying out from the neck. The ribs make it feel plant-like, or perhaps like a young bird. The cut-away spout is a later, delicate reduction of Philia spouts (see my Philia jug). The vessel is round bottomed, as was normal in the Early and Middle Bronze Age, and the incised lines were filled with lime. Part of one rib and spout re-attached and the latter with chip missing.
Size: 16cm high
(private collection, East Yorkshire. Acquired in Cyprus in the 1960s and thence by descent.)
(Aquired ArtAncient 9th July 2017)
Red (or Drab) incised polished ware with rounded base. (Sold to me as Early Bronze Age). A typically fanciful piece. Red polished ware was the main pottery of the Early (Philia & Early Cypriot I - III) and Middle Bronze Ages. Only the simplest Bronze Age Cypriot pottery is functional in shape, but was instead moulded like a piece of hollow sculpture. Until the advent of the potters wheel in the late Bronze Age, Cypriot pottery is believed to have usually been made by women. The globular body is like a fruit or gourd; the applied lugs, including one on the neck, are here more like nipples (compare my Neolithic bowl). These projections, sometimes pierced (see my MBA small askos), continue through the Bronze Age, occasionally becoming stylised heads. Though sometimes functional, most are ornamental. The neck and typical beaked spout (a clear descendant on the Philia jugs) suggest a dancing grebe rising from the water, and incised zig-zags radiate from the base, usually originally filled with white lime. (Reassembled from fragments)
Size: 21cm H
(Ex Ian Auld UK private.collection acq 1970s-90s. Sold Bonhams 29.04.2009, lot 316. (Ian Auld (1926-2000) was a famous potter who lived and travelled in the Middle East in the mid 50s and collected antiquities and African tribal artefacts.))
(Aquired ArtAncient 2014)
Drab incised polished ware, with rounded base. (Sold to me as Early Bronze Age.) Drab ware was a variant clay slip of Red polished ware. The exuberant incised patterns would have been filled with white lime. Early and mid Bronze Age pottery is all hand-made by pinching and coiling techniques. Lugs, as here on the neck, were common, either pierced or plain: now usually purely decorative. Drab-ware and black-ware variants of Red Polished ware come from South and West of the Troodos mountains and are usually less burnished. Cyprus was the crossroads of the Mediterranean world and with its abundance of copper it was an important center for seafaring trade and commerce in antiquity. Early and Mid Bronze Age Cyprus was an indepen- dent country, with its own unique styles of pottery. The warp-weighted loom and bronze tools and weapons had been introduced with this period and cattle were reintroduced to the island in large numbers, having died out in the 8th millennium BC. Dogs, sheep, goats and pigs were kept and fallow deer and boars hunted. Cereals and pulses were grown.
Size: 12.5cm H
(Ex Ian Auld, UK private collection collected 70s-90s, sold Bonhams 29.04.2009, lot 316. (Ian Auld (1926-2000) was a famous potter who lived and travelled in the Middle East in the mid 50s and collected antiquities and African tribal artefacts.))
(Aquired ArtAncient 2014)
A small White Painted III - IV Ware handmade bowl from the Middle Bronze age, perhaps a small eating and drinking bowl like the Early and Middle Bronze Age, Red Polished examples, except here slightly flattened, with an in-turning upper half and out-turned lip. There is a hole in each side so it can be hung up. The introduction of White Painted Ware II has been taken to define the start of the Middle Bronze Age. However the parallel groups of lines in the lower part of the bowl, converging towards the middle, suggest a late date slightly suggestive of the converging bands of LBA White Slip Ware.
Only a small proportion of the goods in Middle Cypriot I-II graves were painted. White Painted Ware tends to be associated with high status tombs which also contain bronze items. However by the end of the Middle Bronze Age white painted ware had become dominant. In general wavy lines suggest an origin in the Karpass peninsular, while decoration in the East is generally linear and the West geometrical and the central area geometrical rows . The decoration of the bottom of the bowl suggests the converging bands of White Slip Ware milk bowls of the LBA.
However there is something about its completely unstained appearance which worries me, even though there is a little wear of the paint in places. The lip shape is unusual, though I have seen one a bit similar and it would more normally have had a handle. Could this be a fake made in Cyprus in the early 1960s?.
Size: 12 cm
(Collection General-Surgeon Dr. Josef Mayer-Riefenthaler, Vienna. Acquired in Cyprus in the late 1950s or 1965-66, during his deployment as UN soldier)
(Aquired Acquired Christoph Bacher, Vienna March 2016)
This is a tiny example of White Painted ware III-V (String-hole style ware). Usually versions of this askos design are twice this scale. White painted ware is chiefly found in North East Cyprus, but String Hole Style was made in the Mesaoria plain. It was the precursor of Late Bronze Age White-Slip ware, but the pottery and slip is thicker and the painted decoration tends to cover everything, in contrast to the empty spaces and decorative bands of White Slip ware (see the Milk bowl below). Ascoi are vessels for oil or wine; here perhaps a small amount of oil, eg to fill lamps or pour a libation or anoint the dead. Many are in the form of animals, such as bulls (see LBA and EIA askoi), rams, goats or sitting birds. Though abstract, this one is suggestive of a bird or turtle. It is unusually small with 6 pierced lugs, a feature of earlier Bronze Age pottery, either pierced or un-pierced. Originally functional, they seem to have quickly become a decorative feature - only one would be needed to hang it by, by a string. (3 lugs broken and small hole in front) (Wrongly sold to me as Late Bronze Age.)
Size: 7.2 x 4.9cm
(Ex. private collection, Bedfordshire, UK; acquired 1950's-70s)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 2014)
A Handmade White Painted Ware pottery amphora, decorated with a chequer board pattern on one side and lattices below a lozenge frieze on the other. Possibly from Western Cyprus.
WPW is painted with black or red lines on a cream slip and was the first of a few painted wares which supplemented Red Polished Wares in this period. Others are Red on black ware and Red on Red ware. Though small volume luxury products in Cyprus, White Painted ware and Red on Black Ware were actually the chief (and first notable) pottery exports from Cyprus of that period and between the world wars the latter became frequently used as a date marker for the Middle Bronze Age in the Eastern Mediterranean. White painted ware, however, was made chiefly North and East of the Troodos mountains, while R on B ware came from the Carpas Peninsular and eastern Mesoria. These are mostly now in Northern (Turkish) Cyprus, so not much investigated.
This shape, usually more elongated, is often found in other wares and can be very large. A fascinating study of WPW wares by Laura Gagné has demonstrated that children probably learned to make and paint pottery on the job with adult supervision. Pottery was made locally in a few households in each village.
The start of the Middle Cypriot period has been defined by the arrival of White Painted Wares. Otherwise this point of division is not very useful historically and other divisions of the Bronze Age period have been proposed. WP ware continued to be made in the Late Cypriot I period till 1400 BC.
Intact with surface wear.
Size: 11.7 x 11.7cm
(Ex. collection: Lord Dayton of Curran (Irish scholar); acquired from Charles Ede Ltd in October 1982 (catalogue no. 8) who had bought it from a (house-sale?), Chinnor 16th June 1982)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 30th November 2015)
White Painted III-V Ware, String-hole type flask. String hole ware continued the Early Bronze Age habit of giving pottery a pierced lug to hang it up for storage, but turns multiple lugs into a decorative feature. The vessel has what is usually called a "dropper" spout which would create a smoother flow of liquid by introducing air into the narrow spout. It cannot stand upright on its own so its use is unclear, but a number of these vessels exist.
Most of my knowledge of this piece was discovered after the auction. I had not realised it was the same piece I had seen on the Barakat website. Assuming provenance given was correct, it is unclear if Moshe Dayan bought this piece or excavated it in Israel or the occupied territories (in which case it must have been an export from Cyprus).
"Dayan was an author and described himself as an amateur archaeologist, the latter hobby leading to significant controversy, as his amassing of historical artifacts, often with the help of his soldiers, seemed to be in breach of a number of laws. Some of his activities in this regard, whether illegal digging, looting of sites or commerce of antiquities, have been detailed by R. Kletter from the Israel Antiquities Authority." (Wikipedia)
Auction 27thMay 2007 (Haaretz): "A total of 165 archaeological artifacts collected by Moshe Dayan will be auctioned off Sunday morning at a small auction house in the U.S., but prices are being kept down in part because the former general and chief of staff may not have excavated them legally. The items are part of 200 glass and pottery vessels from the collection of Irving Bernstein, a United Jewish Appeal leader who was close to Dayan before he died in 1981. According to Bernstein's heirs, who initiated the auction, Dayan sold or gave Bernstein the items. As far as was known, Dayan left his private collection to his second wife Rachel, who sold it in 1986 to the Israel Museum for $1 million. Rachel Dayan said at the time she kept 15 items. The sale was widely criticized because many of the items were obtained illegally. The late archaeologist Yigal Shiloh said that selling the items to the museum was tantamount to approving the robbery of antiquities." However Mrs. Dayan has maintained that her husband bought the bulk of the collection legally.
In recent years (2015-18) this piece was advertised by Barakat Gallery (held in their Beverly Hills premises). They told me in a 2nd June 2015 email "In regards to Provenance, the entire selection of Cypriot art we have available was acquired as a whole from the collection of Desmond Morris in the late 70's." Morris actually sold his collection in 2001 and a few remaining pieces recently. However I hadn't asked specifically about this piece. I bought the piece from NY Elizabeth Auctions (Beverly Hills). The consignor was said to be a "Collector in Los Angeles" who used the same very low resolution photograph used by Barakat. I was an absentee bidder (since I was travelling at the time) and paid too much, not having taken-in that the bidding would start so high (my fault, I was a mug) though the estimated prices were obviously ridiculous $7,000-14,000 for this piece (https://www.live auctioneers.com/en-gb/catalog/136779_egyptian-and-middle-eastern-fine-art/?page=3 ), compared to $3200 on the Barakat website (http://www.barakatgallery.com/Store/Index.cfmFuseAction=subcatItemsDetails&UserID=0&CategoryID=37&SubCategoryID=1011). All other lots in the auction passed (ie were not sold) and all had similarly ridiculous estimates: I was the only buyer! What could have been the purpose of this sale?
13th March 2019. Unfortunately the piece arrived with spout broken off (ie in 2 pieces). Insurance claim requested and restorer informed. Stand required.
Size: 23.5 x 7.6 x 2.75cm
(Ex collection Moshe Dayan. After his passing in 1981 his collection was purchased in Israel by a gentlemen. This is one of the lots from that collection. (information from consignor to NY Elizabeth auctions - however see below))
(Aquired NY Elizabeth Auction (Beverly Hills USA) 24th February 2019 lot 0069.Dayan)
A Handmade White Painted Ware jug with a flat base, possibly from the very end of the Middle Bronze Age but more likely from Late Cypriot I, (1650-1775) (as it was listed by Charles Ede and the Cyprus Museum of Jacksonville). Probably from Morphou, Toumba tou Skourou where most of the WPW jugs with animals standing on the shoulder were made. This kiln seems to have started to be active in the MC III and continued till the Archaic. The neck is long with trefoil spout and a stylised dog or bull is applied to the front shoulder. The flat base would have been rounded earlier in the Middle Bronze Age. Linear, zig-zag, cross hatch and circle-with-central-dot decoration. The main corpus of White Painted Ware is a characteristic high status ware of the Middle Bronze Age (extending into the start of the Late Bronze Ager) and is divided into types I - VII which are roughly chronological. This is possibly White Painted VI Ware, though the "eyes" are extremely rare and even without the dot would be more like Proto White Slip Ware which had a thicker slip and was fired at a higher temperature, and which followed these last examples of WPW.
WPW consists of a thin off-white or cream slip, with decoration painted in a colour which can range between black and red. It is very common for this delicate decoration to have worn off, unlike the more robust White Slip Ware which followed it. The animal standing on the shoulder of the jug was tentatively identified as a dog by V Karageorghis but since then as a bull. Karageorghis classified it along with 2 other vessels with functionless dogs, plus the many amphorae with dog-shaped handles. This jug is quite large for its ware: most WPW vessels are small.
Reconstructed from several pieces and with wear to the painted decoration.
Size: 24cm high
(Ex Museum of Cyprus, Jacksonville, New Carolina, USA. Assembled by Dr Takay Crist after the Turkish invasion of North Cyprus and opened to the public as a museum in 1988. It consisted of antiquities, documents, maps paintings and artefacts and was endorsed by the President of Cyprus as saving the antiquities from the market. The sale of the entire museum collection represents a betrayal of the trust of Cyprus and almost all record of the provenance and history of the pieces seems to have been lost, including their dates of acquisition. However I recognised this piece from an illustration elsewhere as having been sold by Charles Ede in 1989, who had bought it Ex the "Parker" collection on 4/7/1988 as part of a group of ten Cypriot pieces. Further information no longer available as purchase invoices from pre 1994 were long ago disposed of (information from Charles Ede). Published: Cypriot Pottery XI Cat. No 16 (illustrated)(1989). The Coroplastic Art of Ancient Cyprus, Volume I, 1991 Vassos Karageorghis p 191, Cat WHP.X3, illustrated Plate CXLVI 4/7/1988 .)
(Aquired Leland Little, auctioneers, Hillsborough NC, USA June 15th 2018, lot 2209)
This zoomorphic jug or askos is normally assumed to represent a stylised bull, the head replaced by a spout. This is a rare type which varies so little that they are probably all produced in the same workshop at the end of the Middle Bronze Age. However they were produced at a time of greatly expanded trade within the island and mass production, so they are found all around the island (except the SW) and were even exported to the Levant. Daisy Knox called them square bull askoi so I have followed her. The left and right legs of this type are only divided at the bottom and the Handmade White Painted Ware fabric is always painted with a similar simple dark design (here flaked off in some places, which is frequently the case with handmade White Painted Ware). However I notice a similar piece in the British Museum is marked as Late Bronze Age (1600-1200 BCE) despite being White Painted V - VI. Is this a mistake?
Size: 9.1 x 13.9cm
(Ex. private collection, New York, USA; acquired in the 1970's-1980's.)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 7th October 2018)
This thin-walled, round-bottomed bowl with spout and handle in Red on Black painted ware. Here, as with Black slip ware, the black slip often failed to darken over much of the surface, leaving the red lines the darker element. Presumably this related to the temperature of firing. The bowl may have been hung from a peg in the wall when not in use. Both the outside and inside surfaces of the vessel (the latter only slightly visible on one side) are covered with 2 wide bands of 16 red-painted parallel lines at right angles to each other and between them similar short lines, also at right angles to the rim, though it is unclear how far in they go. They were painted in a matt, dark red-brown with a multi-brush, onto a background slip which varies from a pinkish read to buff to almost black. They are widely obscured by what I and the dealer thought was surface accretions (which could be professionally removed but at great cost). However I soon realise the paler areas are where the slip has flaked off. There are some adhesions, especially on the inside which is more worn, but any attempt to remove them tends to take off the darker lines (and often the slip). The firing must have been very uneven. Unfortunately, although there are successful and well preserved examples, such flaking and variability are frequent in this ware.
Repaired from 15 pieces, but two holes have been drilled in antiquity after firing, indicating an ancient mend or crack, which must have been acceptable in a piece for a tomb. (Almost all of these pieces were found in tombs. Generally only shards from rubbish dumps remain from pieces in domestic use, since they were used till they broke and the sherds did not tend to remain together. Beliefs which caused possessions to be left in tombs have advantages now!).
Although the Middle Bronze Age continued the Red Polished ware of the Early BA, it also produced some high status painted wares, White Painted ware being the most dominant. Red on Black painted ware was produced for a quite brief period in the Middle Bronze Age III, and only in the Karpas Peninsula and Eastern Mesaoria. The source sites are now in Turkish North Cyprus and have hardly been investigated. It was exported to the Levant and is there used to date other wares found with it. The dense pattern of lines and use of multi-brush, as well as the flaking, matt surface are typical. It has been suggested that Red on Red Ware was a more fully oxidised variant of this, or was simply a mistake in firing.
Early and Middle Cypriot pottery is thought to have been locally produced by households, in contrast to the mass produced and traded wares of the Late Bronze Age. In general Middle Bronze Age pottery tended to smaller forms than the Early BA. Cyprus now had established trading contacts with Palestine, Syria (Ugarit), Babylon, Southern Anatolia and especially Egypt, and Minoan Crete which supplied luxuries and had merchants in Cyprus. As well as Copper, Cyprus exported some White painted ware pottery. Imported gold and silver trinkets are found and faience beads and alabaster bowls from Old Kingdom Egypt plus cylinder seals from Syria and Babylon. Several port cities, eventually with ashlar public buildings, grew up on the south and East Coasts in the Middle and late Bronze Age, chiefly to trade copper. Some fortresses were built later in the Middle Bronze Age but it is unclear what danger they guarded against. Possibly they simply guarded the passage of copper from the Troodos mountains to Enkomi on the East coast which became dominant at this time.
Click on image to enlarge, as with all these images.
Size: 26 x 30 x10cm
(Ex. Collection of Jorgen Jacobsen, Bornholm, Denmark; bought while on UN duty with the Danish peace-keeping forces on Cyprus (Dancon X/XI) between October 1968 and October 1969. Part of a large collection he made from antique shops in Cyprus during his posting.)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 2014)
Sold to me as Late Bronze Age, Proto White Slip Ware, but probably actually later Middle Bronze Age White painted ware, which might have inspired Proto White Slip bowls. Though Red Polished Ware bowls were more common in the Middle Bronze Age, white Painted Ware was a rarer and more high status alternative, made almost entirely in the North and East. This is a small, eating and drinking bowl with an upturned handle, sometimes found in an RPW version, which could be used to dip into a liquid. Often it would be plain but here has a painted decoration in various shades of brown on a pale slip, tending to red where well fired.
Analyses of slips on White Slip Ware have confirmed that it was a by-product of copper mining activities (Gomez et al 1998:). A production site of White Slip ceramics was found and excavated at Sanidha Moutti tou Ayiou Serkiou near the copper mines of Kalavasos.
Size: 13.5 cm (11.2 diam)
(Collection General-Surgeon Dr. Josef Mayer-Riefenthaler, Vienna. Acquired in Cyprus in the late 1950s or 1965/6, during his deployment as UN soldier)
(Aquired Christoph Bacher, Vienna March 2016)
Late Cypriot I & II
In Cyprus Late Bronze Age I (1650-1450BC) should more properly be seen as a continuation of the transitional period of Middle Bronze Age III. It had been a period of disruption and unrest when many settlements ceased to exist and many of the iconic products of the EC III - MC II, such as plank figures and bowls decorated with figures were no longer produced and some of those of the late Bronze Age (such as the "Astarte" figures and White Slip ware) had not yet appeared.
However, in general The Late Bronze Age was a high point in world civilization. In Egypt it was the period of Ramases II and Tutmosis III, the warrior Pharaoh. The latter laid claim to Cyprus around 1450 BC and imposed a tax but his claim to have Conquered Cyprus was probably untrue. Then from the 1430/ 1420 BC, Cyprus paid tribute to the Hitites, but Cyprus was not (except later very briefly) invaded. This latter was at the very end of the 13th century when the Hittites claimed to have defeated their navy and subsequently won a land battle. However despite these episodes Cyprus remained largely prosperous and peaceful until the middle of the 12th century BC and achieved a level of civilisation not equalled till the Archaic.
The production of copper enormously increased and this required much greater specialization, organization and control of production and distribution, which created new elites and Cyprus moved from local control by chieftains to overall control by a King based in Enkomi. This Kingdom became known as Alasiya (or Alashiya). It was at one time thought Alashiya might be a name for Enkomi but chemical analysis of tablets in Egypt from the High King of Alashiya suggest the clay came from central South Cyprus.
The population increased and coastal towns grew up which exported huge amounts of Cypriot copper, in the form of large, flat ingots the shape of ox hides, as well as pottery, perfumes, opium etc with, among others, the Hittites (Turkey), Ugarit (Syria), Mycenaeans (Greece), Crete and Egypt. A Late Cypriot shipwreck found off Anatolia contained 10 tons of copper as well as pottery. Swedish axes from 1600 BC have been found to be made of Cypriot copper and in the Trojan war (about 1200BC) Homer says that his Greek heroes had armour made of Cypriot bronze.
The small scale luxury trade with Minoan Crete was enlarged by a flood of imports from Mycenae, whose pottery is found in many high status tombs. Other luxuries such as carved ivory, faience and cylinder seals were imported from Egypt, and Syria. Writing was introduced early in this period, based on Minoan Linnear A (though there are a limited number of texts and the old Eteocypriot language, which was pre-Indo-European, is largely undeciphered.)
Large, walled, grid-plan towns, such as Enkomi, grew up with some dressed stone houses, public buildings and sanctuaries containing walled courtyards (temenoi) and temples, containing stone horns of consecration (abstracted bull horns) as well as masks using real animal horns plus large numbers of bowls and other containers used in ceremonies (but almost no votive offerings in this period). Some have metal workshops with smelting furnaces, either opening off them or closely associated, indicating the divine protection of this important resource. There were also large centralized storage facilities (such as the hall containing 50 of giant pithoi, 1.5 to 2 metres high at Kalavassos (Aiyos Dimitrios).
Houses of a variety of construction techniques and qualities indicate an economic hierarchy. Typically an LC II house featured a few rooms built around 3 sides of a courtyard. Bathrooms are well supplied with cement floors, clay bathtubs and drains. At the start of the period they already had cisterns, benches, pits, bins and grinding installations.
Corbelled rectangular tombs were created and collective burial and secondary treatment of remains diminished. New burials were no longer in cemeteries remote from settlements but close to houses.
Pottery from this period became much more diverse in type but the forms became generally more standardised and mass produced and were traded across the country. The principal types were Ring Base Ware and White slip Ware. Although a few wheel made pots were produced locally, especially in LCIII, the majority were still handmade. Elaborate bronze objects such as wheeled stands were made.
Late Cypriot III : 1200 -1050 BC.
To my mind this should be a new period of its own, not just a subheading. It was a period of major historic disaster, immigration and consequent change, culturally, socially, politically and artistically.
Attacks came from "sea peoples", who may have been the same Achaeans who created new settlements along the coast in this period. Many of the major civilizations collapsed or were severely damaged. Mycenaean Greece, the Ugarit and Hittite empires disappeared (the latter already weakened by war with the Assyrians). Cypriot coastal cities, including Enkomi, Sinda and Kition, were destroyed and subsequently rebuilt. Though these never quite reaching their old level this was still a prosperous period and the 13th and 12th centuries BC were the high-point of copper production, which cleared much of the remaining forests. Waves of refugees, including craftsmen and potters came from Greece, and aspects of Mycenaean civilisation, which had disappeared in Greece, were developed in Cyprus. (Indeed, after this, in the Geometric period, influence reversed and flowed from the still literate Cyprus back to the Aegean.) It was a period of transition. Greeks gained more influence and Mycenaean artistic and political styles were copied and blended with local traditions, including possibly, towards the end of this period the start of division of the country into kingdoms. Base Ring and White Slip wares, which had dominated for so long, were replaced by Proto White Painted wares showing Mycenaean influence. Most pottery was now wheelmade. Burial methods changed from rock-cut tombs with a dromos to shaft graves and iron started to be made in this period. Halls with a hearth appeared, imitating the Mycenaean Megaron. Indeed the Late Cypriot IIIB (1125 - 1050 BC) is called the Sub-Mycenaean period, and sometimes now considered part of the Iron Age. LC IIIA had been the peak of copper production but In the next, Geometric, period Cyprus was one of the first properly Iron-based civilisations. This division marks the point where iron becomes the chief metal, not because it was superior (indeed at first it was inferior) but because the original forests had largely disappeared and there was not sufficient wood to fuel the furnaces, whereas the previously ignored Iron could be extracted mechanically from the old slag. The iron could not be heated hot enough to make it molten so it had to be forged to beat out impurities. With the closure of copper mines there is much evidence of a slump in population at the end of the Bronze Age which may relate not only to conflict but to the scarcity of metal for making ploughs and tools. The bronze mines were reopened for a few hundred years in the Roman period when some of the forests had regrown. In addition the deforested landscape had much of its thin topsoil washed away and the silt made several of the old harbours unusable. Foreign trade, which had already ceased with the Aegean, almost ceased, but was started up again in the Geometric period largely through the contacts of the new Phoenician settlements.
The last 50 years of this period is really the transition from Bronze Age to Iron Age.
Mortars and querns go back to the dawn of human settled culture. Mortars would have been accompanied by pestles, usually made of the same stone. Such small mortars are modelled on larger 3 legged mortars which go back to late in the Middle Bronze Age. This one is probably from the Late Bronze Age. (see examples in the British Museum and Zintilis collections - Also the Metropolitan Museum which suggest the design continued into the Geometric period)
This mortar would seem too small (and fine) for grinding grains or copper ores, but might have been used for cosmetics and medicines. Normally a harder, volcanic rock (such as basalt) would have been preferred, though it is relatively uncommon in Cyprus which is entirely limestone, except in the Troodos mountains. This stone may be steatite or possibly green chlorite. Picrolite (a type of Serpentine) which was suggested by the seller is relatively soft, which this seems to be, and a piece this large though unusual earlier (in the chalcolithic it was found as pebbles in stream beds), could perhaps have been mined by this period.
The mortar has a re-attached leg and fragment of lip. Two other larger sections of the lip are missing, the larger one, including the top of the leg already mentioned, has been restored. As I received it the restoration had been very crudely done, covering parts of the existing original surface and all coloured over with brown (and some black) paint. Part of the original surface on one side, outside and in, seems to be stained black, but I don't know how. It seems to rub off and some of it has been eroded during restoration. The new restoration should be finished soon.
Size: 5.2 x 10.2 cm
(Ex. private collection, Surrey, UK; acquired from an older UK collection. A black ink inscription under the base S.R. 254/36 is indicative of a Cypriot export permit having been issued through a licensed dealer)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 23rd July 2018)
Large Handmade Black Slip ware jug with a flat base, from the very end of the Middle Bronze Age or, more likely, the first part of the Late Bronze Age. This marks the return to flat bases, towards the end of the Middle Bronze Age, after the round based wares of the Early and Middle Cypriot periods. The shape is impressively regular, despite being handmade. The fabric, shape and decoration are very reminiscent of jugs from the end of the Middle Bronze Age, except it has a flat base, but also very like Base Ring I ware of the Late Cypriot, except without a base ring. The form and applied rope-like decoration is like that on Base Ring one ware. It has been argued that this decoration is intended to refer to snakes, and is directly descended from snake decoration on Early Bronze Age ceramics.
cracked or mended at base of neck and handle, otherwise completely intact.
Size: 26.5 cm high
(Ex collection of David Read, bought between 1966-1969 while working as a government official in Cyprus. He explored the ancient sites and museums and got to know local collectors and historians.)
(Aquired Chiswick Auctions December 5th 2017 lot 135 (part))
At one time this was called Cypro Palestinian Ware, because it was almost identical to wares made at the time in what is now Palestine and Syria. At one time thought to be an import from that area, this ware, including a large proportion of the examples found on the mainland, was proved by petrographic analysis of the fabric to be made of Cypriot clay. The first pottery made on the potter’s wheel in Cyprus, along with Red Lustrous Wheelmade ware from the North, it did not lead to the general use of the wheel for other Cypriot wares in Cyprus, such as the ubiquitous Base Ring and White Slip wares, though probably Black Slip and Plain wares may now be considered native and contemporary. Once considered to have been made only briefly on the East coast, perhaps by by immigrant potters, it is now clear it was also made on the south coast and exported to the Levant and Egypt, where it was copied and where, along with exported Cypriot Base Ring Ware, it has become an important date marker. It was not until Cypro Mycenaean wares from the 12th and 11th centuries that the wheel was dominantly used in Cyprus and not till the Iron age that it became almost universally used.
This relatively rare ware comes in a restricted range of shapes, chiefly tankards, jugs, kraters and shallow bowls with a handle. The colour is generally strong with, typically made up of red stripes between two black ones. My piece has clearly shed much of its colour but the scheme is still clear. To my eye, though, some of the soul of the earlier handmade wares seem to have gone from it, elegant though the shape is.
A piece of the upper body was broken off in being couriered to me (along with worse breakage to the other piece it was packed with). It has been invisibly mended back to the state in which it was dug up (a practice I do not favour with ancient breaks where I prefer the mend to be visible, but here restored with reference to pre-breakage photographs). Along with several other pieces, it had been varnished by the last owner, so at the same time I had most of the varnish taken off by Colin Bowles, the restorers. As with the others, they did not risk removing all the varnish since they thought it had probably bound in with the paint it had been applied to protect.
Size: 24.8cm high
(Collection General Surgeon Dr. Josef Mayer-Riefenthaler, Vienna. Acquired in Cyprus in the late 1950s or 1965-7, during his deployment as UN soldier. Many of his pieces were bought from Cypriot museums and retain their acquisition numbers.)
(Aquired Christoph Bacher, Vienna March 2016 (reserved, still with dealer))
A Red Lustrous Wheelmade Ware pottery lentoid flask with a disc shaped body, long neck and strap handle. At the base of the handle is an incised sign which was added prior to firing. Such signs are common on this ware, usually at the base of the handle or sometimes on the base. This sign, possibly a batch mark, is thought to derive from the ancient Cypro-Minoan syllabic script, derived from Cretan Linnear A (though there is sometimes a circle which is not part of that script). It was used in Cyprus before the Greek alphabet and language gradually supplanted native Cretan in the Early Iron Age. Cypro-Minoan script is also found in Ugarit (Syria) and sometimes on Mycenaean wares.
This ware was originally thought to originate in Anatolia at the start of the Late Bronze Age but after petrographic analysis of the clay is now generally agreed to come from North Cyprus in the region of Kyrenia. It was most common in the Late Cypriot IIA (1450-1375 BC)) and was exported very widely, especially to Anatolia and Egypt, but also to Syria, Palestine, Amuq, Crete and Rhodes, but not Mycenaean Greece, which exported their wares to Cyprus as luxury goods. Like Base Ring ware I it is unusually hard for the time, because fired at a higher temperature. It was made in a limited number of shapes, the main one being the tall, thin “spindle bottle”, plus variants on the pilgrim-flask shape. This lentoid version is unusual. Along with the much rarer Wheelmade Bichrome ware (see my tankard above) this was the first wheelmade ware in Cyprus until the influx of Mycenaean potters and imitation of their wares. The influence of these came to dominate Cypriot styles at the start of the Iron Age.
Body repaired, some minor restoration on the lip.
DJ 68 Cl
Size: 24 x 14.7cm
(Ex. private collection, Paris, France; acquired 1980's.)
(Aquired Helios Gallery, April 2016)
The form derives from Mid Bronze Age black slip ware, but Base Ring Ware was characterized by the ring of pottery on the base which allowed it to sit directly on flat surfaces. Except for a few Mid Bronze Age items and very rare early Cypriot, this was the first Cypriot flat-bottomed ware since Philia culture pottery at the start of the Early Bronze Age. Base Ring I ware in particular was a new, very thin-walled, refined pottery made from highly levigated (fine ground) clay and fired at a higher temperature than before. This tankard is astonishingly light, so is probably from earlier in this period. Figurines made with the same refined clay are often called Base Ring despite not having the ring. Base Ring I Ware, such as this piece, had rope-like relief decoration and colour in shades of brown, while Base Ring II, which probably overlapped it and is somewhat heavier and less refined, was painted on a coating of grey clay slip. Why they chose such drab colours is unknown, though possibly it was in imitation of bronze or leather vessels.
The other main Cypriot Late Bronze Age pottery was White Slip ware with strips of black painted decoration against a creamy ground. Mycenaean Greek merchants had taken over from Minoan merchants in the later 1400s BC to supply luxury pottery. A flood of Mycenaean pottery was imported and later produced by Greek settlers (who brought the potters wheel) and local imitators, especially in the final ECIII period (1200-1050BC). However, before that, the potters wheel was not generally used in Cyprus, though a few rarer types, such as Wheelman Bichrome Ware and Red Burnished ware did exist. For a long time those wares were thought to be imports partly because it was assumed the use of the wheel would have become general earlier if it were Cypriot made.
Size: 18.5 cm H (224gm)
(Ex Nigel Park collection (b Glasgow 1938 - d Brussels 2013) formed 1970s to 2000s in Brussels while working for NATO. Purchased from Charles Ede Ltd 1989, Published Cypriot Pottery XI, no.19)
(Aquired Bonhams Auction, 30thSept. 2014, lot 356.)
A thin walled bowl with decorative lines in relief and a wishbone shaped handle. The wishbone handle is characteristic of Cypriot wares but this is the most elegant version. (For historical background and details of Base Ring I Ware see previous entry) This design was a popular one, and like much Late Bronze Age Cypriot pottery was exported to many countries in the region. (They were nearly as popular as the White slip ware Milk Bowl, though not as common as the mass of Bilbils in their small and large versions: see below). This one was found in Israel, north of Jerusalem. The shape continued in Late Bronze Age II and IIIa (1450-1100 BC) as Base Ring II, which is very similar but more monochrome buff and without the ribs, and less crisply moulded rim/body junction.
Throughout the Bronze Age in Cyprus, from Early Cypriot (2300/2400BC) through Late Cypriot IIC (1200BC) most burials (at least most high status ones where objects such as this are usually found) were in rock cut tombs in (usually) limestone, often prone to flooding. Consequently many objects have calcium carbonate deposits on them and may have floated around. The body was laid on a rock cut bench, or in niches for children and infants and the vessels and other objects and offerings were laid on the floor. Late Bronze Age tombs in particular had very rich contents with large numbers of pots, bronze objects and gold, silver and stone jewellery plus faience, glass and ivory etc. In the last, Late Cypriot III period of the Late Bronze Age, Shaft or pit graves were used.
Size: 19cm long
((Excavated Samaria, north of Jerusalem, now Israeli occupied West Bank, 1960s: then private collection Mr KM Baidun Jerusalem, from 1960s))
(Aquired Baidun Antiquities June 2015)
Cypriot Bull Rhyton or askos
Late Bronze Age II - IIIa. 1450-1200 BC
A base ring ware II pottery jug (sometimes classed as a rhyton or askos) in the form of a bull with applied and modelled details. The body is covered in a grey slip and retains much of its original white linear decoration. The jug is filled through the aperture between the head and handle, and there is a small spout through the mouth.These pieces may have been used in a Fertility cult similar to those in Crete, Greece and other countries in the region which feature bulls and sometimes (especially in the Early and Middle Bronze Age) other horned animals. They are slightly more numerous than the two Late Bronze Age types of anthropomorphic figurine put together (see my flat-head figure). In tombs one or other type of anthropomorphic figure may appear, but not both. A bull askos may be found alongside either type. A Rhyton is a drinking vessel, whereas an askos might be used to pour libations. There are also askoi with a bull head spout on a body shaped like a wine sack. Later hollow bull figurines with no filling hole, which cannot be used as a vessel, started to be made in smaller numbers and the two types continued simultaneously. “Flat Head” anthropomorphic figurines from the time are given the same bovine type ear (possibly linking it to the Egyptian goddess Hathor) and all animal and anthropomorphic figurines have the same eyes made from an applied disc of clay inscribed with a circle. A loop above the snout may allude to a nose ring - a feature only found in 12% of the well over 200 known. The type was made for about 350 years with almost no variation i and are found in both settlements and tombs. In the latter they are often found with flat-head or earring anthropomorphic figures (which were made over the same time-span) though the two types are almost never found in the same tomb, suggesting they were specific to different allegiances or beliefs.
Ends of horns missing and ears badly chipped. Bottom half of front right leg previously (and recently again) restored, otherwise no repairs or restoration.
Size: 13.3 x 17 cms
(Ex. estate of an archaeology professor resident in Canada and Western New York State, USA; acquired by him 1960's-1970's. Possibly the identity of this person could be established but the dealer who first bought this piece from his estate about 7 years ago has no record of the name and claims it is now too late to try to contact the family.)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 9th February 2018)
Base Ring ware bull figurine with incised and applied detail and some patches of black paint. It is unfortunately missing one horn and the opposite ear and has 3 legs restored. As is usual with these figures, final shaping seems to have been done by shaving clay from the body and legs with a knife as in White Shaved Ware of the period. It has a mouth hole and holes under the chest, but all are tiny, perhaps to let out air during firing. (Another right of the anus is modern: possibly a TL test sample.) It was sold to me as a Rhyton which is a vessel for drinking and pouring libations (originally in the form of an animal horn but later often in the shape of an animal). However this one has no filling hole so cannot belong to this common type of rhyton or askos. There are over 200 of this latter type, almost identical to this but with a strap handle and filling hole in the back. Over 400 bull figures are known, nearly 500 including bull protomes, found both in settlements and graves. However this type of hollow bull figurine with no filling hole is less common and started being made later than bull-jugs (generally being Late Cypriot IIC - very early IIIA). It is probably some sort of cult image and has been found in graves, but more often in settlements. Later at the end of the Late Bronze Age there was a smaller type of buff bull image. (There is an invisible loose particle inside this bull, but hardly adequate for it to be an intended rattle.)
Bull jugs are common in wealthy Cypriot tombs of the LCII (1450-1200) and may have had a ritual use. The large numbers of bull jugs suggest there was ritual (possibly communal) drinking involved in funeral rites, but these show signs of wear so must also have been used in life.
Neolithic settlers had introduced dogs to Cyprus, plus sheep, goats, fallow deer and probably pigs and a few cattle, which were probably left wild. The cattle died out in the 8th millenium BC but were reintroduced in large numbers in the Bronze Age. There seems to have been a cult of the bull, with bull-horn forms (“horns of consecration”) presiding in late Bronze Age temples, as in earlier Crete, Anatolia (Katal Huyuk) and Malta. A new (post Base Ring) type of painted pottery bull is found in sanctuaries in the 12th century. By now the early dominance of the mother goddess has been replaced by male gods. In modern Cyprus and several other cultures bull horns or heads are set up high on posts or buildings. Images of bull heads on the rims of some early and mid Bronze Age Cypriot pottery, some seemingly on posts, suggest they did the same. These complicated, impractical pots may have been made especially for tombs. Often such tomb pots were fired at lower temperatures, presumably because they didn’t have to withstand real use. Red Polished ware bull figures exist from early and mid Bronze Age, as well as White Painted ware versions from the mid Bronze Age. However in the late Bronze Age they are common especially as Base Ring ware I and II (and bull-head gold jewelry). Other human and animal figures are represented in pottery from tombs of the period but almost all are either human females or male animals with horns, which suggests a fertility symbolism. In a funeral context birth is linked to rebirth (as with the rebirth of corn from its burial in the ground). Perhaps from fertile creation to the original creation is not such a big step. In Egypt the Apis bull was also an earthly representative of the original creation god, Atum.
In the Early Iron Age and even the classical, some bull figures, and bull images on pots continued to be made.
(3 legs restored and one ear and horn missing)
Size: 15cm L
(Ex. private collection, Paris, France; acquired 1950's-1980's)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 2014)
Base Ring Ware, Late Bronze Age female figurine. Like the earlier plank figures they are found equally both in tombs and the rubbish and floor-fill of settlements. These "Pubic Triangle" figures or "Astarte" figures are almost exclusively female and are of two standard types. This type are called “Flathead” figures (or “Headgear” figures by D Morris), and the others with enormous ears and earrings and bird like faces are “earring” figures. Both types (but the Earring figures especially) seem to be derived from North Syrian Syro-Hittite figures which themselves derive from Babylonian figures of Ishtar, and are related to the Phoenician Astarte, the fertility goddess whose Greek equivalent was Aphrodite who, like Astarte was supposedly born on Cyprus. However the North Syrian examples are much earlier, so the source can only have been heirlooms or a folk memory. V Karageorghis has suggested the flathead type have also been influenced by Mycenaean images, and it has also been suggested that flathead figures relate to the iconography of the Egyptian god Hathor who was associated with metal-working. These figures are indeed usually found at sites of small scale copper production. Bull shaped jugs, and hollow bull figurines have also been found in association with these areas.
The two types remained discrete and unchanged for 300 years and about 110 examples are known of each, along with over 400 bull vessels and figurines, the other main types of figurine. Although there are often more than one human figurine in a tomb (possibly because of multiple burials) there are almost never both types found together. There seems to be an allegiance to one or the other. The bulls, however are found equally in both.
In contrast to plank figures the femaleness is very explicit, especially in the very wide hips of the earring type, and the pubic triangle is always emphasised with an incised double outline and hatched (or sometimes zig-zag) in-fill. They are sometimes seen as Fertility figures and sometimes as a female companion for the deceased, standing in for his wife. The pose is thought to be one of worship, but many of the Earring figures and a few of this type are depicted with babies in their arms. It is suggested that these figures lay on their backs by the body of the deceased (the pointed feet would not be conducive to it standing up, and the most protruding points of the back - back of the head, buttocks, heels etc - are in a straight line as though intended for a flat surface). The back is fairly plain and was roughly shaped by shaving the clay (like the bull above). A few of the figures of this type are depicted as leaning back, sitting on stools. The male figure is normally only present in these tombs as male animals with horns, principally bulls. The designation as Base Ring ware refers to the use of the same very fine grained clay used in Base Ring ware pots. The figure is hollow and the emphasized navel presumably functioned as a vent hole during firing. However it is hard to resist the feeling that the navel's original link to the mother is relevant and that this dark hole into an unseen interior is somehow symbolic. The figures are not coloured all over with paint or slip like other base ring wares, but left pale buff, more akin to flesh colour. There are one black and 2 red painted choker-like ring of paint around the neck as well as a painted pubic triangle. The top of the head above the ears is, as usual, painted black. Most likely this is hair as a curl also continues down in front of the left ear, reminiscent of depictions of Hathor in Egyptian art. However the flat top has also been seen (for example by Desmond Morris) as a cap pushing down the ears. In trying to explain the ears another way it has been pointed out that they are identical to the depiction of ears on bulls, the animal chiefly depicted in tombs and temples. Could this have been deliberate? The eyes of both are also depicted identically.
There is some surface wear and chipping, especially on thighs and head and some minimal encrustation. The figure has been broken, and expertly repaired, across the neck, hips, and above the ankles. There may be some restoration around the feet.
Size: 20cm H
(Ex American Private collection Tennessee USA 1970s 80s (with letter from deceased collector's daughter). He particularly collected such "idols" or fertility figures.)
(Aquired Bonhams Auction 30.09.2015 lot 29)
Much rarer small seated/reclining version of the Flathead base-ring figures, generally agreed to represent divine fertility figures. D Knox states there are 12 extant. (see my hollow, standing version above for more discussion.) For some reason these small reclining figures are generally more plank-like than the others and nearer in height to the solid figures (11-15cm) than the hollow ones (19-22cm). It should be remembered, however, that , like the prehistoric Cycladic figures, the not-seated Base Ring Ware "Earring" and "Flathead" figurines are generally agreed to have been intended to lie down. The pointed feet would not allow them to stand. The seated figures are thus being raised up, not brought down.
These figures should probably not be called "Astarte" figures, as they once were. The similarity of form to earlier Hittite figures of Astarte was only clearly apparent in the other "earring" type of LBA Base Ring Ware figurines, and the link to earlier Cypriot forms (and probably beliefs) are now more emphasised. It is interesting to compare this figure with my Middle Bronze Age White Painted, seated figure. Were the intentions behind both the same, or had there been a change in beliefs in the approximately 300 year gap between the two types.
Size: 10 x 12cm
(Pre- 1970 Paris collection)
(Aquired Art Ancient 18th Feb 2019)
This is a typical Base Ring 1 Ware juglet called a bilbil, with dark grey-brown slip possibly imitating bronze. Analysis of residues in a small juglet of this type has found that it contained opium (though recently this widely known analysis has been questioned). If the pot is inverted it looks startling like a poppy seed-head, which cannot be a coincidence. Large numbers of these were made and many exported to the Levant, and also to Egypt, Anatolia and Greece. They are the most common type of Bronze Age pot found on the antiquities market and I have seen at least 20, many found in Israel. The large version (see next item) are also quite common and much exported and believed to have contained perfumed oil.
Size: 15cm high
(collection of Professor Geoffrey Wilson (1930-2015), founding father of Warwick University Law School. The family home in Leamington was an untidy museum of mementoes from Cambridge, paintings, prints, vinyl records, other bric a brac and, of course, piles of books. Acquired 1990, probably from a Bonhams auction.)
(Aquired Art Ancient, June 2017)
A Base Ring I Ware grey slip pottery double-bodied bilbil or poppy flask with a single conjoined handle. This is a continuation of the early/Middle Bronze Age tradition of complex vessels formed by merging multiple simpler forms.
Two 19th Century ink inscribed labels on both bases: "Egypte" and "107" so probably found in Egypt, as many Cypriot bulbils have been. Both the smaller and larger types were much exported, particularly to Egypt and the Levant.One of the single smaller type such as this has been shown to contain opium (though the test has since been questioned) and the shape when inverted suggests a poppy seed-head. However the chief export to Egypt was copper.
Surface chips as seen in the photographs
Size: 9.6 x 7.9cm
(Ex. private collection, London, UK; acquired in the UK between the 1970's-1990's. Labels indicative of a mid 19th Century collection.)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 29th August 2018)
This large vessel is a very fine, and quite rare example of Base Ring Ware - along with White Slip Ware the pottery which dominated the Cypriot Late Bronze Age. Base Ring ware I is generally finer and has applied decoration, as here. Its colour and thinness is thought to imitate Bronze vessels. The later BRW II is generally thicker and has (usually paler) painted decoration on a grey slip. Duringthe Late Bronze Age, in contrast to the local production of earlier periods, pottery was made in a few centres and traded across the island, as well as abroad to Anatolia, the Levant and Egypt.
Base ring ware, named after the distinctive base rings applied to the bottom of the vessel, was made of a fine, highly levigated clay, and marks a significant development in Cypriot pottery. It was among the first wares intended for use on flat surfaces, since the flat bottomed Philia Red polished ware at the start of the Early Bronze Age. Almost all Early and Middle Cypriot pottery was round-bottomed and would have needed to stand on a (probably organic) ring or a dip in the floor.
Although rope-like, the applied decoration on this vase may refer to snakes. Other examples actually include a depiction of the snake’s head. Snakes are thought to have fulfilled an important function within Early Cypriot religion as chthonic symbols (due to living in holes in the ground) and possibly as protective spirits.
Published: Pitt Rivers Museum catalogue p.817
Literature: A similar jug was sold at Christie’s in London as part of the Desmond Morris Collection on 6 November 2001 as lot 93. Cf. D. Morris, The Art of Ancient Cyprus, 1985, p.34, pl. 25h. Similar examples are on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (acc No.74.51.1084) and the Cyprus Museum Nicosia.
Authenticated by TL (Thermoluminescence) test 6th Feb 2018 (OxfordAuthentication Ltd) as being between 3000-4500 years old.
Size: 43 cm high
(Provenance: Formerly in the Lawrence collection, red ink inscribed on the base: Lawrence Coll: Sotheby. Lot 620. Apr. 1892. p.820. £1.6, the original auction label attached. Lt. Gen. A.H.L.F. Pitt-Rivers Collection, purchased from the above sale, 1892; Sold Bonhams, 22 April, 1999, Lot 25; Private collection of John Kasmin, London, acquired 1999. Edwin Henry Lawrence (1819-91) financed the excavations in Cyprus of his future son in law, Major Alessandro Palma di Cesnola. In return he received about 14,000 Cypriot antiquities. Alessandro was USA Vice Consul in Paphos, Cyprus. Laurence had previously also bought a few Cypriot antiquities from his brother, the Consul, who was the better known General Luigi Palma di Cesnola who longed to rival Schliemann’s digs at Troy and Mycenae. On the strength of the thousands of Cypriot antiquities he brought back to the Metropolitan Museum New York (despite a whole ship-load going to the bottom of the Mediterranean, and first trying to sell the rest to the Louvre and the British Museum,) Luigi was made its director. Between them, between 1865-79, the brothers excavated (in effect plundered) about 10,000 Cypriot tombs, Alessandro continuing for a few years after Luigi left.. The Laurence-Cesnola collection was sold at Sotheby’s over 4 three-day sales, the first in 1883, the last, which only contained a few Cypriot items, including this jug, in 1892. General Pitt-Rivers (1827-1900) was an English officer in the British Army, ethnologist, and archaeologist. He was noted for innovations in archaeological methodology, and in the museum display of archaeological and ethnological collections. He had already bought from Luigi Palma di Cesnola, and given his large anthropological and archaeological collection to Oxford, creating the Pitt-Rivers Museum. During the period that he bought 593 items from the Laurence collection, he had started a new collection which in 1880 became the second Pitt-Rivers Museum, in Farnham. Finally in the 1960s the museum closed and and in the 1970s-80s his family sold this second collection. Published: Pitt Rivers Museum Catalogue p.817)
(Aquired from Rupert Wace Ancient Art, London 12th July 2018)
This type of vessel is known as a poppy flask (or bilbil) due to its (inverted) resemblance to the seed head from the poppy plant from which opium is extracted. Chemical analysis of the residues in the smaller, slimmer juglets with this shape has suggested that they were used for storing opiates: an early example of brand-recognition packaging. Nothing similar has been found so far in these much larger flasks (Base Ring I or II). Perhaps they were re-used or, though clearly linked as a shape, may not have stored opium (scented oil is suggested), or may have served wine with which the opium was mixed. The drug seems to have been an extremely important trading commodity for ancient Cyprus and was exported throughout the Mediterranean. Large numbers of bilbils were found at the important 18th Dynastysite of Amarna in Egypt. The shape was copied by Egyptians and Phillistines. (Recently the analysis of residues as opium has been questioned, but the widespread use of bulbils for scented oils confirmed.)
In the late Bronze Age the decoration on pottery was usually (as here) painted on, as it had been in the pre-bronze Chalcolithic Age. (The exception was Base Ring I ware, with relief decoration: see tankard above). In contrast decoration on early Bronze Age pottery had been incised. Base Ring II, though quite refined is less thin walled and made with somewhat coarser clay than Bass Ring I. Pottery production in Early and Middle Bronze ages had been mostly household based but now in the Late BA was more professionalized and some standardization of products resulted. This piece has been mended (rim and handle) and most of the decoration (groups of pale horizontal bands on the neck and vertical ones on the body) are obscured by surface encrustation which could possibly be expertly removed by soaking and then progressive local dissolving with mild acid, but at great financial cost. Many Cypriot tombs are prone to periodic flooding which leaves limestone residues. Similar encrustation can be seen on others of my pieces (eg the small Etruscan dish and large mid bronze age Cypriot pouring-bowl) and many prefer them left this way.
Size: 30cm H
(Ex private collection Austria acq c1976-81)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 2014)
Base Ring ware and White Slip ware are the two main types of Late Bronze Age pottery, along with a monochrome ware, all hand made. White Slip Ware comes in only a few forms, the most common one being the hemispherical milk bowl, usually as here with a wishbone shaped handle. This handle shape is typical of Cypriot Bronze Age bowls from the early bronze age on, and even sometimes appears echoed in the iron age (see my large dish). Frequently the hemi-spherical shape is almost perfect and may have been moulded around a gourd. (Gourds are known to have been used as containers for liquids.) Unlike Base ring ware very few White Slip shapes have flat bottoms. Often, as here, the white slip isn’t very white. White Slip Ware must have been popular at the time (as it is now with modern collectors).
Chronologically, there was a minimal Proto White Slip (LCIA 1650-1550BC), then very thin-walled White Slip I (LCIA2) which many consider the most pleasing and inventive, and finally White slip II, such as this, 1550-1200BC where the decoration became more mechanical and the pottery thicker.
A coating of pale liquid clay (slip) forms the base on which dark lines are painted. In the White Slip ware most of the surface is left blank with bands of cross hatching, or other patterning (especially diamond or lozenge shapes), passing horizontally and vertically (ie radially from the bottom). Handmade White Slip is a refinement of Middle Bronze Age White Painted ware, but fired at a higher temperature. This itself becomes the source of the transitional 12th century Proto White painted ware and then the dominant (wheel-made) Early Iron Age wares. Repaired from 4 pieces – small rim restoration.
Size: 20.2 x 25.2cm W
(Ex private collection, Bath Somerset acq mid 20thC)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 2014)
White Slip II Ware tankard or jug. These are not anything like as common as the milk bowls but were one of the small number of standard forms in this ware. Though large it is similar in shape to tankards in other wares of the Late Bronze Age (the common Base Ring I, or relatively rarer Wheelmade Bichrome - see my examples). It is sometimes suggested that these forms (especially in Base Ring I) were inspired by bronze originals. This example is more carefully painted than most and has retained a whiter finish. White Slip Ware (especially the Milk Bowls) was very popular, along with Base Ring Ware, and both were widely exported.
Size: 27cm high
(collection of Jean Audy (1906-62), French politician who collected Roman marble busts and various ancient vessels. His descendants auctioned his collection in 2008.)
(Aquired e-Tiquities by Phoenix Ancient Art, 13 April 2018)
A fine Base Ring II grey-slip ware pottery askos in the form of a stylised wine-skin with a bull's head spout and arched handle, with opening for filling at the rear. An askos is a type of vessel used to pour oil or, in larger versions, wine. Animal shaped askoi are common, especially rams, goats or sitting birds, but also deer with antlers, and most especially the bull. Usually they have legs but this one is a compromise with a wine skin (animal skin container for wine) with a base-ring. While many pottery shapes were produced in bulk in this period, these animal forms are often one-off creations. However this askos shape was also used for large jugs and very similar askoi exist as late as the Archaic (600-700 BC). There seems to have been a cult of the bull, with bull-horn forms presiding in late Bronze Age temples. In modern Cyprus and several other cultures bull horns or heads are set up high on posts or buildings. Images of bull heads on the rims of some early and mid Bronze Age Cypriot pottery, some seemingly on posts, suggest they did the same.. Throughout the Bronze Age images of bulls are common, especially as Base Ring ware I and II. (One horn restored and handle repaired.)
Size: 13.4cm H
(Ex private collection France)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 2014)
A carved stone (chlorite) cylinder seal decorated with a human figure, a palm tree and an unidentified mythical or zoomorphic figure below three discs. The design is extremely close to the decoration on a cylinder seal from Enkomi, the most important town and port of Late Bronze Age Cyprus (British Museum item 1897,0401.690) and may have been made by the same engraver. There are a lot of fake cylinder seals around but this appears to be genuine.
A few earlier, imported stamp seals are have been found in Cyprus but the dominant Late Bronze Age cylinder seals were introduced from Mesopotamia (where they existed long before) in the 15th century BC. To start with they were imported and then for a while imitated styles from the mainland, but a distinct Cypriot tradition developed late in the century. Most show deities or demons dominating fantastic or real animals in a near-eastern style frieze composition. Many, such as this one, are pierced longitudinally so that they could be worn and some have gold caps on their ends.
Cylinder seals were rolled on wet clay to make a stamp . They were used sometimes by administrators to secure or identify containers, such as pithoi, or sealed doors but also like a signature by participants or witnesses to transactions (on clay tablets). They were also prestige objects worn as jewellery.
Late in the Late Bronze Age and early Geometric the making of seals almost died out and later in the Early Iron Age, Phoenician and Aegean stamp seals predominated.
Size: 2 x 0.9cm
(Ex. private collection, Nottingham, UK; acquired mid 20th Century)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 7th June 2018)
The stirrup jar is the most ubiquitous Mycenaean form. The civilisation, named from the ancient city of Mycenae but actually a civilisation made up of allied city states, dominated Greece 1600 – 1100 BC and was the source of most classical Greek legends and stories, including the Trojan war which is thought to have been based on events around 1200 BC. Mycenaean III is Late Bronze age. This was the period after their conquest of the Minoans in Crete (who had strongly influenced their culture). Following this they took Minoan Linear B to write down their own language. (The later, Classical Greek alphabet was formed by adding vowels to Phoenician writing.) In the later 12th century Mycenaean civilisation was destroyed by raids from “sea people” and Dorian invasions. The stirrup jar with false neck originated in Middle Minoan Crete (1700-1500BC) and is a typical form in Minoan and Mycenaean cultures, used for oil (or, in larger versions, wine). Like the later "pilgrim" jar it is a convenient shape for travelling with narrow neck which could be stoppered and handles for attaching it. Much pottery of this kind was exported, especially to Cyprus and is found in high status tombs. Since the find-site of this jar is now unknown and many Cypriot sites have been plundered, it may have been found there. In response to the attacks on Greece and the Collapse of the Mycenaean civilisation there, many Greeks escaped to Cyprus in the 12th and 11th centuries BC and were probably among those who created Cypriot made Mycenaean ware in the 12th century BC. This was not the first wheel-made made style of Cypriot pottery: both Red Lustrous pottery and Wheelmade Bichrome ware date from early in the Late Bronze Age, but these tended to die out, making way for handmade White-slip and Base Ring wares. In the subsequent early Iron Age the Mycenaean and native styles blended. (Spout restored.)
Size: 10.5cm H
(Ex private collection New York USA. acq Joseph Linzalone 1985)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 2014)
In the the Late Cypriot period, in the 14th and 13 centuries BC, which coincided with the height of the Mycenaean civilisation in Southern Greece, large amounts of Mycenaean pottery were imported into Cyprus and was put into high status tombs. Unlike most Cypriot pottery it was all made on the potters wheel. Presumably this and my next piece were among those. Later native potters imitated the style and forms and later adding features from their own tradition, now all made on the wheel. They were joined by large numbers of Greeks fleeing the collapse of the Mycenaean civilisation around 1200BC. The most commonly copied form was the stirrup jar (seen my Mycenaean piece above). This bottle with a ring base is a another typical item of Mycenaean work. The decoration with concentric circles (presumably painted with the pot on its side on a potters wheel) is the norm and I particularly like this all red version. Normally the paint is various shades of brown, but it can turn red when well fired. Concentric circles painted in this way became a dominant motif in Cypriot Early Iron Age pottery. This is probably from the earlier period (14thC BC) as later there tended to be contrasts of tone and colour which approximate to the later bichrome wares.
The first Cypriot pottery made on a potters wheel were 2 types known as Wheelmade White Painted ware and Red Lustrous Wheelmade ware from the start of the late Bronze Age, both possibly inspired by Syro-Palestinian designs. Later the Mycenaean influence became absorbed into a Cypriot tradition which extended into the Early Iron Age until the Classical period. In that period the immigrant Greeks gradually took over control of the culture and the rule of the emerging Mycenaean style Kingdoms, and the Greek language and writing gradually supplanted the native Cypriot.
An almost identical bottle form, or a flattened, lentoid-shaped variant, often called a Pilgrim Flask, was common in the Early Iron Age. It gets its name from the similarity to flasks carried by pilgrims in the mediaeval period.
Unfortunately varnished by the last owner. This has (mostly) been removed since the photo.
Size: 13cm high
(Collection General-Surgeon Dr. Josef Mayer-Riefenthaler, Vienna. Acquired in Cyprus in the 1950s & 1960s, during his deployment as UN soldier))
(Aquired Aquired Christoph Bacher, Vienna March 2016)
A Mycenaean form which was imported into Cyprus in the 13th and 14th centuries BC and is found in many high status tombs of the time. Later Mycenaean inspired pottery made by locals and immigrant potters who came with the influx of large numbers of Greeks to Cyprus, especially during the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization around 1200 under the impact of invasions which destroyed several major civilizations around that time. They brought with them the potters wheel and Cypro Mycenaean wares were the first widely produced wares made with the potters wheel in Cyprus. The two exceptions were the earlier Wheelmade bichrome ware and Red Lustrous Wheelmade Ware.
Unfortunately varnished by the previous owner, along with several others, but partially removed by Colin Bowles for me.
Size: 15.8cm high
((Collection General Surgeon Dr. Josef Mayer-Riefenthaler, Vienna. Acquired in Cyprus in the late 1950s or 1965-67, during his deployment as UN soldier))
(Aquired Acquired Christoph Bacher, Vienna March 2016)
A small, very late Bronze Age "Milk Bowl" from Late Cypriot IIc. By this time the painted design on White Slip Ware (now typically red instead of black) had become much simplified. This piece is typical, though small: more often the size remained similar to the earlier Milk Bowls (around 20cm diameter)- see my example.
Size: 13.5cm diam. x 17cm
(Ex collection of gentleman in Cambridge, collected 1970s)
(Aquired Chris Martin (Ancient & Oriental) 14th February 2019)
Many spears were still made with tang rather than socket, right up to the Iron Age (usually a hooked rat-tail tang, like my Early Bronze Age spear but without the unusual knob on the tang-tip of that one). The socketed spear is clearly superior since the shaft of a tanged spear can split (or a straight tang can pull out), however it is much harder to cast and hammer such a complicated shape. In Byblos (near Cyprus on the coast of modern Lebanon) many socketed spearheads have been found dating from the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age, but they seem to have been less common in Cyprus. Andrea Salimbeti, an authority on ancient weapons, dates it anywhere from 1500-1100 BC. At around 40cm long (originally) it is at the upper end of size of this type, which can be anywhere from 40-15cm.
There is a piece of the original wooden shaft inside the socket which is very unusual for a weapon this early. When it was put in a tomb it was still clearly attached to its shaft, which may have been broken when it was deposited as a grave gift. The tip of the blade would originally have been more pointed and sharp: it might have been damaged and reground. Around the socket where it meets the blade, there are several decorative, regularly spaced incised lines with repeated diagonals filling the spaces between them. The spearhead was cast and then hammered to harden it and wrap the socket around the handle, leaving a seam down its length. Sometimes sockets were cast flat and hammered to bend them around, and others (possibly like this one) were cast with a V shaped gap in a tapering cast socket, which was hammered closed around the shaft. Skill would have been required for this since bronze, unlike iron, easily cracks and cannot then be mended. The lower end is raggedly broken off and at one point of the break is what appears to be a rivet-hole. There could have been another where the socket is broken horizontally in the middle.
The size and quality of this spearhead might indicate that it comes from the Late Cypriot (ie Late Bronze Age) II period, a high point in Cypriot (and world) civilisation, with grid-plan walled towns and widespread export of its copper and pottery and other goods around the Eastern Mediterranean. However, the next period, Early Cypriot III (1200-1050 BC), is perhaps more likely. This was a turbulent period. 1200 BC is the date normally given for the Trojan war and Homer tells us his heroes wore Cypriot armour. However, soon after this high point of Bronze Age culture, raids by “Sea peoples” (possibly from Northern Greece) began which were to end with the collapse of the Mycenaean, Hittite and Ugarit civilisations and destructive assaults on Egypt and Cyprus which caused the destruction of most of the major Cypriot coastal cities. Cyprus had traded heavily with these peoples, exporting copper and pottery, and importing Mycenaean luxuries and pottery which is found in many high status Cypriot tombs (see below). In Cyprus, however, the cities were rebuilt and culture was revitalised by the arrival of waves of Greek Mycenaean refugees. They brought their culture and style with them and this eventually fused with the local traditions, resulting in a Greek dominated culture by the start of the Iron Age, with the island divided into 7 kingdoms (later 10).
Already a few iron weapons were also being made in Cyprus in the Late Bronze III period (1200-1050 BC) when this spear was most likely made. Iron ore is more widely available and does not need imported tin to make it, but needs a hotter furnace. Initially, though, it is thought the Cypriots used iron-rich slag from copper extraction, which required less fuel. However until the addition of carbon to make steel was understood, iron was often no harder than bronze. Around 1050 BC, despite being the main producer of copper in the Mediterranean, Cyprus became the first iron based economy in that area, partly because of a shortage of tin. However copper mining continued and Bronze objects continued to be made.
Blade in good condition with fragments of the socket missing and tip probably damaged and re-ground in antiquity.
(Ex the collection of Hans Henningsen (died 2002) in Denmark. Collected with pottery in 1964 during a visit to Cyprus.)
(Aquired Senatus Consulto, Copenhagen, July 2015)
A pottery stirrup vessel, the most common and characteristic Mycenaean form, with painted cross-hatched triangle decoration around the shoulder. They exist in smaller and much bigger sizes. However this is much cruder and less well fired than canonic examples, with the true and false spouts touching awkwardly. I believe it was made in Cyprus in imitation of Mycenaean imports, which makes it relatively rare. Similar pieces were made in Greece in the Sub-Mycenaean period (after the collapse of the Mycenaean civilisation) but it seems less likely it would have been imported to Cyprus so late.
Intact with surface wear.
Size: 14.5 x 12 cms
(Ex. private collection, Yorkshire, UK; acquired from Helios Gallery in 2009. Formerly in the collection of Ian Auld, London, UK who was a well known potter and teacher of pottery. Acquired 1970's-1990's.)
(Aquired Acquired Helios Gallery 9th February 2018)
Elaborate and massive bronze pin (24gm), probably for securing clothing, as in the Early and Middle Bronze Ages, though Middle Bronze Age examples of toggle pins are often pierced at the centre of the shaft, here it is the head which is pierced. Presumably this was to do with tying it to the clothing (cloak?), though since many of the pots are pierced to hang them on the wall with a thong/string, this is also possible, along perhaps with, perhaps, their clothes. Late Bronze Age versions can have an elaborate knob, sometimes made of bone or ivory or gold, or even be made entirely of gold, or gilded as here. The dealer advertised it as showing some original golden bronze on the shaft, but I am confident this is gilding. Presumably a thin gold leaf hammered on as it still is today. The ribs of the elaborate knob on this one are reminiscent of contemporary mace heads. I am unsure if the knob was gilded (some gentle rubbing of one side of a flange revealed a thin glint but it might be a shallow modern scratch into the bronze). Compare to my Roman fibula. cf a similar pin in Antiken aus Berliner Pribvatbesitz. Exhibition catalogue. Berlin 1975 (No.345), presumably the source of the dating of this one. Point damaged- it would have been sharp. (Supplied with with ‘right-to-dispose’ form signed by Hirsch. Also scans of the export permit issued by Bavarian authorities).
(Ex (German) Bavarian collection R. S., since the 1960s. Hirsch Auktionen, Munich, February 2016 sale, lot no. 210 (part))
(Aquired Galerie Ostrakon (Switzerland) 9th March 2019)
Waves of Greek settlers had come to Cyprus in the 12th and 11th century BC and brought Greek culture and widespread use of the Greek language following the collapse of Mycenaean, Hittite and Yortan Bronze Age civilisations. This had largely been due to the people mentioned in records of the time as the “Sea Peoples”. Their identity is disputed but many may have also been Greek. They had also attacked Cyprus destroying many coastal cities around 1200 BC. However Cyprus was soon a centre for trade with the West and near East again, and most of the 12th century was prosperous in Cyprus, in contrast to impoverished Greece.
Around 1050 BC (the date normally used for the start of the Cypriot Iron Age) huge earth-quakes destroyed most of the recently rebuilt cities and new ones were founded (Salamis took over from ruined Enkomi since the harbour at Enkomi had silted up). This was a dark period for Cyprus and the population decreased. This is often referred to as the Greek dark age. However near the end of this period, in the first half of the 8th century BC, there was a sharp increase in numbers of settlements, ranging from large fortified urban settlements down to numerous small rural ones. In the Archaic period which followed Cyprus achieved another great period of prosperity. In the 9th century BC, Phoenicians had settled the previously Mycenaean site at Kition (modern Larnaka) and they became an important cultural force in the revival of Cyprus.
By the end of the period the island is recorded as being divided into 10 kingdoms (perhaps in imitation of the Mycenaean culture) and was now dominated by ethnic Greeks and their language. However at what stage these kingdoms were formed before that is disputed. Pottery shape were inherited from the late Bronze Age and the memories of Mycenaean wares. There was also influence from the Levantine flask and globular jug shapes. Plates and dishes were introduced. The shapes and decorations were fairly standard and mass produced but there were a number of different wares: White painted, bichrome, plain white, black slip. In the Geometric III period Red Slip, Black on Red and Grey and Black polished wares were added. Early iron technology was taken from Cyprus to Greece. Cyprus was a pioneer of Iron extraction, possibly using iron rich waste from their huge copper production. They were the first area in the Mediterranean where iron superseded bronze in general use and most of the earliest iron weapons found in Greece came from Cyprus. However as major exporters of copper the change probably left them poorer. It has been suggested that it resulted from the deforestation of Cyprus which did not leave enough wood to continue bulk copper smelting. Early Cypriot Iron, though needing a higher temperature to smelt from ore, may have utilised the huge amount of old copper slag, already rich in iron, and needing less fuel to extract.
Arcadian Greek gradually took over from the old Cypriot language during this period, though old Cypro-Minoan script remained in parallel to Greek script (itself a modification of Phoenician). Since, from this period on, we have direct, translated written records, dates can be much more precise. Earlier dates were inferred from linked finds in other countries and stratification of archaeology.
A two handled dish, intended to be hung up, face to the wall, when not in use: which is why the back (an unusual sunburst pattern) is more decorated than the front. Notice a partial paint-fingerprint of the maker on the front surface. The dish was a new form in Cyprus, deriving from resurgent Greece. Ethnic Greeks now dominated Cypriot society and preserved aspects of the vanished Mycenaean civilisation. This is the common Bichrome-ware, which was coated in white slip and painted in 2 colours (see back). It grew out of the Proto White Painted ware of the 12th century. Cypriot Iron age pottery was made on the potters wheel, like the Mycenaean ware that had been imported and then made on the island, and unlike most native styles from the bronze age. However very large objects such as large Kraters were built up from coils first. Shapes became more standardised and mass produced and it is thought men took-over pottery production from the women.
Hinged display to show both sides
(Ex Private Collection London acq before 1980)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 2014)
A White Painted Ware ring vessel of a type sometimes called a ring Askos. The more usual type with small offering bowls and sometimes animals standing on the ring is usually called a ring kenos, though Desmond Morris thought the name unsuitable and clearly it cannot be applied to this type with no offering bowls. An askos was used to pour libations. This vessel has a ram's head for its spout and nubbin feet on the underside and basket handle made from two strands of clay. It seems to be intended to contain liquid (oil or wine?). The ring form must have been complex to make which would have made it a prestigious gift for a funeral. As far as I know all examples of the ring vessel form have been found in graves and they extend from one possible example in the Chalcolithic to the end of the Archaic Period, after which it does not reappear. The shape has no practical reason but is very likely to have been symbolic, as in many cultures an endless ring symbolises eternity or the cycles of nature (as in our wedding rings) making it suitable also for a funeral.
The handle has been reattached at juncture with the ring with restoration, and with repainting to the apex of the basket handle. Minute losses to tip of one of the ram's horns. TL test hole on underside of ringed body. Old collection labels on the underside of the body. The TL (thermoluminescence) Test proved the vessel is ancient.
Size: 11.7 x 19cm
(Ex private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Dr. Sid Port collection, California, USA, acquired in the 1980s)
(Aquired Artemis Gallery USA)
This is known as Bichrome ware. It was wheel made, covered with white slip and then painted with red and black. Influenced by Greek Archaic period Geometric ware, which marked the resurgence of Greek civilisation after the collapse of Mycenaean Greece. Cyprus consisted of 7 (later 10) city kingdoms. Early in this period Phoenician settlers formed a kingdom around Kition, helping to re-establish Cypriot trade routes, and bringing their religion, writing and language which existed parallel to the now-native Greek. Aphrodite (Phoenician Astarte) was believed to have been born in Cyprus.
Homer lived around 750BC and Homeric myths spread to Cyprus during the following Archaic I period, during which Phoenicia and Cyprus were vassal states of Assyria (709-663BC). Some of the later Archaic period pottery shapes and their decoration (particularly black on red ware) are also found in contemporary Phoenicia and their versions are called Cypro-Phoenician.
Size: 13.5cm W
(Ex private collection London acq before 1980)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 2014)
White slip coated pottery with painted decoration. The painted eyes below the rim are common on Cypriot Early Iron age jugs and give it a persona. It is probably from later in this period - late Geometric or Archaic I (800-650 BC). Cypriot Early Iron Age jugs were normally tubbier than this. The unusually slim neck and somewhat tri-lobed rim suggest the influence of Greek oinochoe. Repaired from 2 pieces with some surface accretions. The Cyprus Museum official lead export tag is still attached.
During the Geometric period Cyprus became culturally and linguistically dominated by its Greek immigrants. It was divided it into 10 kingdoms, in the manner of the allied Mycenaean city states. In the 9th century the Phoenician Kingdom of Kition became the most dominant of them though outnumbered by the "Greek" states.
Early in the Archaic period which followed, Phoenicia called on Assyria (to whom they paid tribute) for help against the Greek Cypriots and shipped Assyrian troops to Cyprus. The whole island ended up paying tribute to Assyria. However, under the Assyrians (709-663 BC) Cyprus remained largely independent. Then, after a short period of actual independence they had to submit in 570BC to the Egyptian Ahmose II and pay tribute, but still remained relatively independent. In 526 the Persians, having conquered Egypt, conquered Cyprus and by the start of the 5th Century Cyprus was fully absorbed into the Persian empire.
(Ex private German collection)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 2014)
A simple White Painted Ware bowls, its rounded sides rarer than there usual near vertical. The white slip body is simply decorated, with base and tondo painted with small grey concentric circles and the rim and handles with a single grey band.
Repaired on one side of the rim, one side of the body was slightly compressed during ancient manufacture.
Size: 5.4 x 15.7cm
(Ex. collection: Peter Newall (1946-2018), Dorset, UK; imported into the UK in 1973. Inherited c. 1970 from a South African collection formed between the 1930’s -1960’s.)
(Aquired Helios Gallery (14th February 2019))
Wheelmade White Painted Ware small stamnos on tripod foot composed of triple reeded legs and double reeded reinforcing loops. This is very unusual since the tripod is normally formed of loops. The the bulbous shape with identical horned heads, but no tripod base and the addition of a vertical section above, constitutes a well known amphora form. An amphora of this type with similar decoration, in the Metropolitan Museum is dated Geometric I (1050-950 BC), but I was sold this piece as Geometric III (850-750BC). The two horned animal heads form the handles. The example in the Metropolitan Museum describes the heads as goat protomes (This is the Cypriot goat with swept-back, ribbed horns: see my goat-jug from the early Middle Cypriot). I have seen similar heads from the Geometric III or early Archaic, described as bull or mouflon protomes. The black/brown painted decoration on the creamy slip covers the outside and just inside the lip and is generally well preserved. One consolidated crack, two repairs to rim, one handle and one leg reattached. A small amount of surface encrustation.
Size: 19.6cm high
(Ex Private collection, Bonn, Switzerland (name documented and known to me but withheld here on request). Acquired Nicosia, Cyprus 1974)
(Aquired Charles Ede, London September 2017)
A rare pottery flask or askos vessel in the form of a fish with painted, applied and incised details.
The Early Bronze Age link of animal modeling with cult fertility and funerary use seems to have largely died out as Greek culture, religion and language became dominant in the early Iron Age, following large scale immigration triggered by the collapse of Mycenaean civilisation. Already, the range of animals represented had spread beyond the horned animals found in Cyprus of the EBA I & II and the addition of birds in EBA III and thereafter. Imported Mycenaean pots frequently depicted fish and octopuses and this askos derives from Mycenaean originals of the late Bronze Age. Fish, however, are still a relatively rare subject in the Geometric period, though often depicted on jugs in the Archaic period, especially as the prey of water birds.
Lower tail fin restored, some chipping and light wear as seen in the photographs.
Size: 7.6 x 10.6 cm
(Ex. collection: Johnny Noble, Laird of Ardkinglass, Argyllshire, Scotland (1936-2002). Acquired 1980's on the London art market, with Faustus Fine Art (now no longer in existence, making persuit of earlier history problematic).)
(Aquired Helios Gallery July 2016)
Compare with the extremely similar Cypro-Mycenaean flask. Clearly there is a strong influence, including in the concentric circles, painted with the pot on its side on the potters wheel, though the Phoenician influence is more often cited. Black on Red Wares used to be called Cypro-Phoenician and were considered to originate in the Phoenician mainland. However atomic analysis (atomic absorption spectroscopy) has proved that they come from Cyprus, possibly especially the area of Kition (and Amathus) which was a Phoenician colony and probably was exported from there to the mainland.
One of the most common Black on Red forms is similar but smaller and with only one handle, and is normally considered to have been a receptacle for perfume.
The term “Pilgrim Flask", often applied to more lentoid (flattened) versions of this shape refers forward to similarly shaped mediaeval pilgrim flasks.
This is the end of Cypriot pre-history. From now on we have direct, translated written records ,and dates can be much more precise. Earlier dates were inferred from linked finds in other countries and stratification of archaeology. Now from the 7th century BC we have Assyrian and then Greek and Roman written sources.
Size: 12.2cm high
(Collection General Surgeon Dr. Josef Mayer-Riefenthaler, Vienna. Acquired in Cyprus in the 1950s & 1960s, during his deployment as UN soldier)
(Aquired Acquired Christoph Bacher, Vienna March 2016))
This was a prosperous and productive period in Cyprus, despite being conquered by other empires. Populations and literacy increased, along with monumental architecture and a ruling class who indulged in luxury and ostentation.
Early in the Archaic period Phoenicia called on Assyria (to whom they paid tribute) to help their Cypriot colony of Kition against the Greek Cypriots. As a maritime power they shipped an Assyrian army to Cyprus. The whole island ended up paying tribute to Assyria. However, under the Assyrians (709-663 BC) Cyprus remained largely independent. Then, after a short period of actual independence they had to submit in 570BC to the Egyptian Ahmose II and pay tribute, but still remained relatively independent. In 526 the Persians, having conquered Egypt, took over Cyprus and by the start of the 5th Century Cyprus was fully absorbed into the Persian empire. The 10 kingdoms continued, however, until the late 4th century BC.
During this period Cyprus flourished and and traded widely. Their wares still show Greek influence, but now also influence from the Phoenicians and, to some extent, the Egyptians, while Cypriot influence was also felt abroad.Goods, including pottery was exported to the Aegean and Levant.
The chief pottery styles continued from the Geometric period. The West coast particularly favoured the Geometric decoration, featuring concentric circles, while the East favoured figurative, floral or animal designs (occasionally introducing the human figure). Plain white or Red slip vessels show Phoenician influence from Kition. Many, usually quite crude, pottery figurines exist from this period, many depicting everyday life. Though some come from tombs, most were votive offerings from shrines which became common in this period though also existing in the Geometric period. The figures were offerings, often depicting the donor or priest figures, some referring back to the Mycenaean style Psi figures found in the Geometric period, in the position of worship with arms raised. There is also much finer sculpture which relates to archaic Greek style but often with protruding almond shaped eyes. However Cyprus had no marble and these are normally carved from limestone which cannot accept the level of finish and detail which marble allows.
The spherical body with long neck is decorated with typical concentric circles plus a single motif of intersecting strokes. The long neck with a spout in the shape of a cow, sheep or camel head with open mouth as spout and nostrils pierced through. There is a filling hole at the back of the head, and a double strap handle joining the head body. There is a very similar jug in the Metropolitan museum New York except there the head has horns and is clearly a bull.
Black on red ware is typical of late Geometric and Archaic pottery in Cyprus, and also in Phoenicia. The idea of the mouth of an animal functioning as a spout goes back to the Early Cypriot period, 1500 years earlier, though then the animal probably had cultic significance, with horned animals and, later, birds being almost exclusively depicted, especially in Ascoi. By this period almost any animal might be depicted.
The neck and mouth repaired ears chipped, the body intact.
Size: height 23.5cm
(Ex collection of Dr Josef Mayer-Riefenthaler, Austria; acquired in 1965/6 during his service with the UN forces in Cyprus)
(Aquired Charles Ede Ltd, 27th July 2016)
Donkeys were introduced to Cyprus near the start of the Bronze Age (probably around 2300 BC) and quickly became important beasts of burden and mounts. Models of Donkeys with panniers are known from that period (one that had been attached to a pot is illustrated by Desmond Morris). This rather charming donkey with panniers is Plain White Ware pottery. The crude modelling clearly shows the finger marks of the potter. I do not know why the panniers have a hole at the bottom. It was sold to me as from the sub Mycenaean period at the end of the Bronze Age (LC IIIb), but is more likely from the early Iron Age, probably Archaic. It may be a cheap offering for a local shrine, or a toy or ornament put into a grave. In either case it would presumably have related in some way to the life of the donor or the person buried.
Size: Height 9.5 x 10.2cm
((Ex. William R Crawford collection acquired in Cyprus prior to 1972. Like the other piece of his I own it is accompanied by a copy of the 1972 export license issued to him by the Republic of Cyprus Department of Antiquities. The originals were thrown out but he had luckily sent copies to someone. William Crawford was an American career diplomat and expert on the Middle East and Cyprus. He was director of Arab-Israeli Affairs at the State Department 1959-64 and Deputy Chief of Mission in Cyprus thereafter. In 1970s he was ambassador to Yemen and then to Cyprus and later became principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near East and South Asian affairs. He donated part of his collection to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art prior to his death in 2002. See http://www.adst.org/OH%20TOCs/Crawford,%20William.R.toc.pdf))
(Aquired Sands of Time Ancient Art, Washington USA Sept 2016)
A very fine Bichrome Ware, Free Field jug depicting a stylised bird, possibly a cormorant, with a fish in its beak, with another fish and several swastikas. This abstracted fish (or fish skeleton) shape is found on seemingly non-figurative pots but this pot, and a number of others very similar, make the meaning clear. The swastika was an auspicious symbol found in many cultures, but especially ancient India, which seems to be the source. It has been found in Cyprus as early as the Early Cypriot I (Early Bronze Age I). It originated in the Paleolithic period. Early Archaic, Free Field jugs with depictions of birds and other animals or people are largely 7th century and from South Cyprus where the dominant kingdom was the Phoenician dominated Kition. The dominant imagery of these jugs is of birds, often, as here, identifiably water birds. Possibly they were inspired by imported Egyptian pieces depicting Nile scenes. There is a tradition from early Greek and other cultures of the bird as a spirit vehicle and symbol of regeneration. The chief goddess of the Phoenicians, Astarte, was particularly linked to birds. (Her Greek equivalent, Aphrodite, was linked to the dove and, like Astarte, believed to have been born in Cyprus) The Handle decoration derives from 13thC Mycenae (the whiskers at the base possibly a remnant of handles depicting twin snakes) as does the tradition of free-field animal representations. Bichrome Ware pots are wheel-made terracotta covered in a pale slip and painted in 2 colours. (Painted in one colour it is called White Painted Ware.) This tubby, trilobe-spouted, oinichoe-style vessel with eyes painted near the top lip is typical of Archaic Cypriot jugs. Cypriot potters from the early Bronze Age onwards had liked to turn their whole pots into personages and animals.
This century saw a marked increase in prosperity and wealth. New and rebuilt walled-towns flourished.
Cyprus had remained largely independent through its earlier history, other than for a while paying tribute to the Hittites. However during the middle of this period the Phoenicians, who paid tribute to the Assyrian Empire, sought their help in support of the Phoenician Kingdom of Kition in south Cyprus. Kition was one of the 10 Kingdoms of Cyprus and, with Salamis, the most powerful, but the others were culturally Greek. The Phoenicians shipped Sargon II’s Assyrian army over and Cyprus was conquered, and became a vassal state (709-663BC) - paying tribute to Assyria, but being allowed to continue to govern themselves internally as before. From 663 BC Cyprus was again independent, but in 570BC they were conquered by the Egyptian Ahmose II and had to pay tribute, though they still remained relatively independent.
There was strong mutual stylistic influence between Phoenician and Cypriot pottery, particularly Cypriot Black on Red Ware. The Phoenician equivalent wares are called Cypro-Phoenician since it is now agreed to have originated in Cyprus. The orientalising influence of the Phoenicians and Egyptians on the predominantly Greek, Cypriot sculpture is also clear.
Greek settlers escaping the collapse of Mycenaean civilisation had brought the custom of cremation to Cyprus as early as the 11th century BC (as seen at Salamis). The first evidence of Greek script is also from this time, though the use of Cypriot script carried on as late as the 3rd century BC.
In the 8th century the Homeric myths spread across Cyprus and many towns, such as Paphos and Salamis were given mythical Trojan-war founders. Greek fashions were introduced, such as the safety pin to secure garments, and the deceased were sometimes buried with logs and skewers to roast meat.
In the Bronze Age up to 1200 BC burial of bodies had been in rock cut tombs, changing in the last, more unsettled, period before the Iron Age, to shaft or pit graves. However the Early Iron Age, at least in the known high status graves, they changed to chamber tombs with a long Dromos (antechamber or ramp) plus a few Tholos tombs in the Mycenaean style. Generally tombs were reused many times (anything from 1-62 burials). Some graves had as many as 500 vessels in them plus metal and stone tools, gold, silver and stone jewellery plus faience, glass and ivory etc.
These jugs are among the most sought after Cypriot antiquities. There is an expert mend (and possible small infill) on the spout. Also the minerals deposited on the surface have clearly been cleaned off the area of the bird painting (and probably lip and handle), leaving a slightly fuzzy, less black result than the untouched bird claws and lower junction of the handle, which give a better idea of the original crisp appearance.
Size: 22.5cm H
(Ex collection of Mr H Wagner in Berlin, Germany. Previously on the European Market and bought at auction in the 70s / 80s. Possibly from a dispersal sale of the second Pitt Rivers Museum, Farnham (formed after donating his first, Oxford, collection) which made up the majority of the sale it was bought from. Research ongoing.)
(Aquired Art Ancient, Antiques Fair Olympia June 2015)
Very fine, large free-field Bichrome jug. This 6th century Archaic Cypriot type is much prized. This less elegant, neckless jug shape is a little later than the other, the emphasis being to produce the maximum field for the bird design. In contrast to my other Free-field jug the bird is huge and covers as much of the jug as possible. The surface also shows the imprint of many roots. There may be a small amount of touching-up of some of the painted lines in the tail, but this does not seem very significant. Again it is likely to be a fish-eating water bird, though there are no fish depicted this time.
Size: 27cm high
(Ex collection BL (known to me and in my records). Purchased 1989 from Chris Martin (dealer))
(Aquired As above, private sale)
A painted terracotta warrior on horseback from the Archaic I period. In the Early Iron Age many country shrines appeared and at these and a few temples large numbers of votive figurines were left. The most common are priest figures and female musicians, probably involved in religious ceremonies, plus warriors, often on horseback, and figures in chariots. These stood in for the presence of the dedicatee, and since horses and chariots were valuable, also denoted their status. The left arm of this rider is missing but probably carried a shield. Often a raised right hand such as this contained a weapon. Notice his cap and the painted line denoting the bridle.
The condition, especially the paint, is otherwise very good, though mended and lightly varnished with PVA. I have had it partially removed with acetone by Collin Bowles but it seemed to be tied into the unstable surface too well to be fully removed.
Size: 17 x 13cm
(Culture: Cypriot Collection General-Surgeon Dr. Josef Mayer-Riefenthaler, Vienna. Acquired in Cyprus in the 1960s, during his deployment as UN soldier.)
(Aquired acquired Christoph Bacher, Vienna, March 2016)
These crudely made pottery figures are often called snowman figures, due to their shape. This warrior type is usually, as here, hollow and pierced twice, both through the top of the head and edge of base. The former is probably for suspension and the latter is for attachment of movable legs, though only a few retain these. This warrior has helmet, shield and a weapon which I take to be an abbreviated spear, since it extends downwards from the hand in an over-hand grip often depicted in classical Greek representations and probably a way to get over the shield wall of opponents in battle. Most of these figures only have a raised right arm or perhaps the broken-off arm-end which may have held a weapon. The image presumably represents the donor if it was a votive offering (or dead person if it was in a tomb). V Karageorghis speculates that these figurers with movable legs might have been used as marionettes.
complete with quite well preserved bichrome colour on a creamy slip
Size: 14cm high
(Ex. Massachusetts private collection, J.B., acquired in the early 1960's)
(Aquired Aphrodite Gallery, New York. Live Auctions 24th Sept 2018 lot 110)
A bronze fibula for fixing clothing (like the numerous Roman ones, or the large bronze pins from the Early and Middle Bronze Age. Intact apart from losses to the clasp into which the pin attaches
From a famous collection, acquired over a period of 60 years described in the essay in the Christies catalogue (2016), where most was sold, as as a Cabinet of Curiosities.
Size: 9.2 x 4.1 cm
(Ex. collection: Seward Kennedy, London and New York (1925-2015). Acquired on the London art market 1980s.)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 10th Aug 2017)
Terracotta, Late Geometric or Early Archaic, Bichrome Ware chariot. It was sold to me as Archaic I but the Metropolitan Museum has a very similar chariot body which they date as Geometric III. There is a very similar chariots in Berlin and in the St Barnabas Monastery Museum in North Cyprus, and another depicted in Desmond Morris's book of his collection. V Karageorghis says that these chariots without horses date from 8th and 7th century BC and 12 are illustrated by him, almost all contain a small figure (with another 5 with 2 figures). This small passenger or charioteer, peers over the front edge. Only the upper part is depicted, attached to the inner face of the chariot. There is a scar in this position inside my chariot which suggests that it may once have had a similar figure. Morris imagines the vehicle as transporting the spirit to the afterlife. Other Archaic chariot depictions, mostly votive offerings, have smaller chariots with larger figures in them, usually pulled by 4 horses (quadrigia).
During the Bronze Age in Cyprus and the Greek world, chariots were used for warfare and transport. During the first millennium and perhaps as late as the fifth century B.C. in Cyprus, and many other places chariots continued to serve both purposes, while in Greece they had by this stage lost any military function, though still retaining a strong presence in ceremonial and mythological depictions. In other areas, such as Britain in the first century AD, the chariot continued to be a weapon of war much later.
Largely wheel-made (the chariot body is a pot shape bisected vertically). Possibly a votive offering deposited at a shrine or more likely from a tomb (wheels remounted)
Size: 17.2 x 24 x 19cm
(Ex collection of Edwin Henry Lawrence Esq (1819-91), (great nephew of Sir Thomas Lawrence the artist), acquired with hundreds of others from Alessandro Palma di Cesnola (his future son in law) after financing Alessandro's excavations. Most were excavated by him in 1876-78, largely with a view to turning a profit on the sale of the antiquities. (A few of the Cypriot items in fact originated in the excavations of Alessandro's brother Luigi who had left Cyprus in 1876.). Attempts to sell the entire Cypriot collection to the British Museum and South Kensington Museum proving unsuccessful, Lawrence disposed of almost 14,000 items at Sotheby's between 1883 and 1888. A fourth lot was sold in 1892, the year after his death. Buyer of this piece not known. Bought by me from Griffin Gallery USA, having been in the private collection of owner Clifton McCracken, acquired 1999 Bonhams Auction Lot 52. The opening text of the catalog states that this was one of the most comprehensive auctions of Cypriot artifacts in several decades. “The antiquities are from a Private collection formed primarily in the 1970s. The artifacts were purchased from other collectors and War correspondents who obtained them in the 1940s.. ….Lots 1 - 95 are mostly from the Lawrence - Cesnola collections, names synonymous with Cypriot archaeology and collection.” Name of the 1999 seller is not given, I will enquire if Bonhams know.)
(Aquired Griffin Gallery USA, February 2017)
Chariots are known from illustration on pottery and from wheel ruts in Kition from the Late Bronze Ag but became common in Cyprus from the 8th century BC, but Actual chariots have been found at Salamis, Kourion, Meniko and in the Limassol district. They were used for warfare in Cyprus as late as the 5th century BC, after their use had become purely ceremonial in Greece, as mentioned by Herodotus, and continued for ceremonial use for a while after. Their introduction may have been influenced by the Assyrians. Their abundant representations in the 7th - 6th centuries suggest chariots and cavalry were used in battle at the same time. The Cypriot chariots were unusual in often having two shafts, though the shafts and yokes are not always depicted in models. Here, though, there seems only to be one. They are depicted with 1-4 riders (in this case 2). Model chariots have only been found in shrines and not in tombs and like the soldier models are presumed to have been left in the shrines of a male god as votive offerings. Extensive red and black paint remains on horses and also on chariot wheels, shield hung on front figure's back and the riders' eyes and ears.
Almost all models are of Quadrigas (with 4 horses) and only a very few Bigas (2 horses). Of those known to Karageorghis none are Trigas (3 horses), as here, though he says they probably existed and certainly existed in other countries, though rare. This makes this model slightly questionable, though it looks right. I have seen another triga model from the Cyprus Museum, Carolina (recently dispersed), but in the past chariot models have been known to be faked by combining parts from more than one chariot model. The quantity of paint on this model is unusual - a number of them have lost their paint. The horses are usually crowded together but here are well spaced. There would have been room for 4 horses. Also the right hand horse has a collar modelled in relief which extends down to between the legs while the others do not. This chariot is unusually narrow, given the width of the base plate, which is suspicious - it is rather like the few known chariot models with riders but without horses. The components look genuine, but the question is, is this fully genuine or made up of parts from two models?
Chariot (Archaic I)
Size: 17cm high
(Ex collection of BL (friend, named in my records). Bought 1991 from dealer Chris Martin. (It was claimed Desmond Morris considered buying this model).)
(Aquired Private sale, December 2018 see above.)
Fine, large Archaic Bichrome barrel jug made in two pieces on the wheel and then joined, and wheelmade neck and handmade handle added. The complexity of the process has led to some slight deformations in the main body. Typical Archaic decoration of concentric circles in red and black. Vessels of this type started to be made in the Cypro Geometric III and could be in the form of tiny juglets less than 10cm tall
Size: 30cm high
(Ex collection BL (friend named in my records) Bought 1990 from Chris Martin (dealer))
(Aquired BL , private sale (see above))
limestone votive chariot pulled by 4 horses (known as a quadrigia). The chariot is reduced to its front and side rail with the top half of two occupants (their heads now missing). These votive sculptures are mostly single figures, sometimes including men on horseback or people in chariots. They probably were intended to stand in for the presence of the worshiper or supplicant. They are found in large numbers at the many country shrines which appear in that period as well as larger temples in towns. Most are pottery, very quickly and cheaply made to be affordable to large numbers of people. Stone sculptures are a step up, though this piece is relatively schematic compared to the finest examples. Often in the pottery examples the horses are omitted and the chariot has wheels indicated (which are here omitted) and the riders often have conical helmets and shields.
The sculpture is worn and broken, missing the riders' heads and the furthest right horse's front leg and parts of heads. For similar examples see Cesnola Collection, cf Metropolitan Museum of Art, inv No.74.51.2845
Size: 17 x8.5 x 14cm
(Ex English private collection Mr AH, purchased from Robin Symes, London c.1965)
(Aquired Acquired Chiswick Auctions 29.09.2015 lot 54)
Archaic votive figure of a male worshiper in a typical standing pose found from the mid 7th century, but probably here of the early or mid 6th century BC. The figure, other than the head, is plank-like and has a flat back from shoulders downwards, presumably intended to stand against the wall of a shrine. The rigid pose is derived from Assyrian models (the Assyrians had conquered Cyprus near the end of the Geometric period and the island, though retaining its own local rulers, only became properly independent in 663BC). By contrast, in the later 6th century one foot of a full length figure would usually have been depicted further forward, as is found in Archaic Greek sculptures and Egyptian figures, though Greek male figures are usually naked. He is dressed in an Eastern Greek style, wearing an ankle length short sleeved chiton with a shorter cloak over the top (probably the Greek Himation - a rectangle of heavy woollen cloth which could be worn in several ways, pinned with a fibula at the left shoulder and here draped over the right arm - the right hand perhaps holding the fabric). His hair is swept back behind his ears in the Egyptian style (Cyprus was conquered by Egypt in 570BC and paid tribute, though they continued to be ruled by their own kings). He has a conical cap or helmet. There are traces of red pigment along the edges of his garments. The eyes are, unusually, not carved in the normal Cypriot almond shape, but are still very faintly discernible, and were possibly originally painted. The piece extends into a long base which presumably fitted originally into a stone base (or even into the ground). As exhibited it is slotted into an imitation-bronze base. Stone votive carvings are much less common than pottery examples which are found in large numbers in country shrines, but also occasionally in graves. There is no marble in Cyprus and the native Limestone does not allow the finely carved detail which marble encourages.
There is probably a restored break across the top of the body.
Size: 37cm + base 40cm
(Ex the collection of the writer, W. Somerset Maugham, (1874 – 1965). Sotheby's, London, 2th November 1967, The Contents of the Villa Mauresque, the Property of the Late W. Somerset Maugham, lot 157. Purchased at the above sale by Hammerton Galleries for £65. Subsequently in the collection of Michael Michaeledes, (1923 - 2015) a well known Cypriot artist resident in the UK. After his death sold Chiswick Auctions Sept 2015 lot 96)
(Aquired ArtAncient 22nd May 2018)
Hollow handmade pottery figure with face made with a mould of a Musician holding tympanum (hand drum or tambourine). Figures playing the tympanum in ancient religious rites were normally depicted as female, as this one probably is. In Cyprus there are votive depictions of several such figures surrounding a priest, so these figures seem to relate to religious ritual, possibly priestesses. This tradition continued into ancient Greece and Rome.
These mass produced, usually votive figures appear in the 11th century, and earlier designs, paricularly some with raised arms, may derive from Minoan (Cretan) originals. They proliferated in the Archaic period and have been found in large numbers in shrines (and also tombs). Though a few large temples had existed previously, numerous country shrines were a new feature of the period. The figurines usually depict either worshipers, musicians, offering bearers or warriors (sometimes mounted on horses or chariots). The high hats of some are thought to indicate priests. They were almost all originally painted in red and black (like Bichrome Ware pots). There are traces of red paint on the hair and shoulders. I am unsure if the eyes are only modelled or if I am seeing paint traces (normally the eyes are painted black). They were probably not servants for the after-world, as in Egyptian tombs but rather substitutes for the worshiper or mourner. They are most likely to represent human living figures, offered in tombs or shrines to carry out some musical rite for the deceased on behalf of the donor or as a homage to the gods, or in shrines given in the hope of fertility (both human, livestock) good harvests and healing etc. . Known as snowman figures from their shape, they are generally crudely made offerings, affordable to a wide range of people. The head is usually made in a mould and fixed onto the body which is sometimes hollow and slightly conical, or cylindrical as here with only the base splaying out. This latter is a type of tambourine figure derives from Lapithos. However Cypriot craftsmen were capable of fine human sculptures – as can be seen from impressive carved figures of the time. There were also pottery animal figures, (bulls, deer, goats, sheep horses, donkeys and birds).
By contrast earlier, during the bronze age, human representations were highly stylised, individually made and almost exclusively female, starting with Early Bronze Age plank figures and ending with strange figures with birdlike features and huge pierced ears (occasionally also carrying a tympanum/tambourine). Animal represented were mostly horned and male, chiefly bulls, stags and goats, probably related to a fertility cult.
Cyprus was invaded by the Egyptian Pharaoh Amasis II in 570BC. .A brief period of Egyptian domination left its influence mainly in the arts, especially sculpture, where the rigidity and the dress of the Egyptian style can be observed. Cypriot artists later discarded this Egyptian style in favour of Greek prototypes. However Cyprus was largely left to govern itself. In 526 BC The Persian’s invaded. At first their rule was light and local kings still had some power but later Cyprus was fully absorbed into the Empire, though the culture was still largely Greek. In 499 Cyprus took part in the Ionian revolt against the Persians but this failed.
Front of foot restored.
Size: 17.9cm H
(Ex private collection, Paris, France acq 1970/80s)
(Aquired Helios Gallery Apr 2015)
A plain pottery saucer-shaped wheel-made oil lamp with a pinched spout and flat rim, a type sometimes called "cocked-hat". The wick was laid in the spout. The type existed for a long time, from the Late Bronze Age to the end of the Classical period, and was superseded by closed types. Earlier versions did not have the flat outer rim.
Some small chips, but no soot staining which might indicate it was not used before deposition or just possibly was scoured by regular inundation. However it is possible that lamps put into tombs or given as votive offerings might not have been used.
Size: 3 x 10.8cm
(Ex. private collection, Lincolnshire, UK; acquired in the 1960's. The underside of the rim is inscribed with a Cypriot export permit reference number: S.R. 5019/68 indicating authorised export from the island.)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 19th November 2018 (still with))
Tiny <1cm silver coin issued by Evelthon (560-520 BC), first historically documented Wanax (King) of Salamis. Evelthon was the first king to strike coins in Cyprus (538 BC?), around the time of the Persian conquest, and they probably continued to be struck in his name after his death. He only issued silver coins in a style imitating Greek coinage. His currency showed on the obverse a recumbent ram, or (as here) a ram’s head with Cypro-syllabic script “elu” (divinity). However the reverse of this coin is blank (like several of his earliest coins) instead of showing his usual Ankh symbol. Salamis was at that time one of the 9 kingdoms of Cyprus, out of 10 which had formed around the start of the Iron Age. However it seems, under Evelthon, to have been the most dominant, and continued to be under the Persians. He conducted foreign policy and dedicated offerings at Delphi. Salamis was founded in the 11th century BC to replace the nearby Enkomi, which had been the largest Late Bronze Age city. It had been destroyed by earlier earthquakes and sea raiders and rebuilt with defensive walls, but was finally destroyed in 1050 by earthquakes and not rebuilt since it had become isolated from the sea.
After Evelthon the other Cypriot kingdoms struck their own currencies using the same Stater weight. Cypriot script (which was derived from Minoan Linear A) was used on all early Cypriot coins, later replaced by Greek. The exception was the Phoenician kings of Kition who used Phoenician: itself the ancestor of the Greek alphabet.
Coins existed in Lydia, Greece, India, and China from c. 700BC. Herodotus wrote that the Lydians had struck the first gold and silver coins (the former actually Electrum, a naturally occurring mixture of both). The silver Stater was worth 1/10th the electrum Stater and was based on the Babylonian Shekel weight: 1/60th of a Mina. (Babylonians often used multiples of 12 or 60: we still use their hours, minutes seconds and angles in degrees).
The Persians under Cyrus the Great had defeated Lidia’s king Kroisos (as in our “rich as Croesus”) in 546 BC and absorbed Lydia into their empire. In 530 Cyrus died and was succeeded by Cambyses. In 525 and 526 his armies conquered Egypt and Cyprus, which had been under Egyptian control for 44 years, but he left the local Cypriot rulers in place. Their rule was light at first but later Cyprus was fully absorbed into the empire. UnderDarius I, who succeeded Cambyses in 522 BC, it contributed soldiers to the Persian re-conquest of Babylon and war in Egypt. At its height the Persian empire under Darius ruled c.50 million people: estimated as about 44% of the world’s population. Somewhere between 520-500BC he struck the first specifically Persian coins: the silver Siglos and gold Daric (20 Sigloi = 1 Daric: this ratio and 1/12 siglos division was reflected in British pounds / shillings & pence). Persian currency imitated Lydian currency except at half the Lydian weight and value.. The Persian Siglos weighed about 5.4gm. The weight of a coin reflected its value so my 1/12 stater coin at 0.832gm should make a whole stater weigh 10gm, which is about the c.11gm Lydian weight. (So I was wrongly sold this as a 1/12 siglos). The Cypriot stater is sometimes called a double siglos. Minor coins were 1/3, 1/6, 1/12 and 1/24 of a stater. (Greek Staters/Drachmae were 8.6/4.3gm) The Lydian coins had a blank reverse except for punch-marks, so this is in line with the blank reverse of my coin and suggests it was the earliest version.
(Aquired Forum Ancient Coins, Nov 2015 (from a USA dealer))
The Persians occupied Cyprus in about 525BC as part of their 5th Satrapy. Cyprus contributed men and ships to the Persian war against Greece 480-479BC. The Phoenicians, as allies of the Persions gained influence, controlling 6 of the 10 kingdoms, with 3 of the kings being Phoenician. They introduced their deities to Cyprus, many of them corresponding to existing Greek deities (for example Astarte/Aphrodite). Cyprus was cut off from trade with Greece till late in the 5th century, after which Greek intellectuals and artist moved between the two countries, influencing Cypriot art, particularly Sculpture which flourished, and jewellery. Large quantities of Greek style pottery has been found. Cypriots fought for independence several times, aided by the Greeks. Finally Cyprus was liberated by Alexander the Great in 333BC.
The death of Alexander in 323BC marks the start off the Hellenic period. His empire (and Cyprus) was fought over by his followers, Cyprus falling to the (originally Greek) Ptolomaic rulers of Egypt around 300BC. They abolished the Cypriot kingdoms and ruled through officials in Paphos. Greek was the dominant language, though the Etiocypriot language was still spoken. However gradually the influence of Egyptian art came to dominate, till the island was annexed by Rome.
My chief interest in Cyprus is with the Bronze Age and ends before these periods. However I have two Classical/Hellenic pieces.
The Cypriot concern with bull imagery goes back into the Early Bronze Age I and is found in Crete and, later, Mycenae, and continues in almost every period. Gold earrings with bull-head imagery are known from the Late Bronze Age till at least the Roman period. The Bronze Age type was a full-face bull and the hoop passing through its top suggested the horns. This earring is of a type famous from the classical period (see Cesnola collection NY) and continuing through the Hellenistic.
This is an extremely fine example made from 3 strands of trwisted goldwire, two twisted filigree and one plain. The hollow bull-head terminal has chased decoration andapplied coiled and filigree wire. I am unsure if it might have had glass or stone eyes originally.
Size: 2.65g. 2.5 x 2.0cm
((Ex the collection of Michael Michaelides (1923-2015), an internationally famous Cypriot artist born in Paphos but resident later in London. His collection of Cypriot pieces was formed 1950s-1970s. This piece was purchased in at Sotheby’s London, 8th January 1968, lot 158 (part). Sold Chiswick Auctions 29th Sept 2015.))
(Aquired (Acquired from ArtAncient, May 2016))
Cypriot Hellenistic redware (red slip) wine cup, typical of the period during the rule of Cyprus by Ptolomaic Egypt, after the break-up of Alexander the Great's empire. 3rd or 2nd century BC.
Repaired from several pieces. with some surface wear and minor losses.
New acquisition: still with Helios Gallery
Size: 6.3x15.5cm (handles)
(Ex the Desmond Morris Collection, collected 1967-85. Sold as part of group lot , Christie's November 6, 2001. Subsequently collection of on display at the Cyprus Museum North Carolina, USA till 2018. The museum was founded by Dr Takey Crist in 1988 and the majority of its collections were acquired in the US and Northern Europe during the 1970's and 1980's. Dr Crist is a Cypriot honorary consul to the US, and his museum was officially endorsed by the President of Cyprus, George Vassiliou in 1990. Museum dispersal sale, Leland Little Auctions, USA, 15th June 2018, lot 2419)
(Aquired Helios Gallery December 2018)
During the Bronze Age Cypriot art was distinctive. In the Archaic many influences blended to continue the distinctiveness of Cypriot style, but following this Cypriot styles were more and more provincial copies of the products of empires which dominated them.
Until modern times Cyprus continued to be ruled by more powerful neighbours, successively under the Romans, the Byzantines (including briefly Arab/ Bizantine co-rule) and later still crusader Franks (Lusignans), Venetians, Turks and finally the British. They finally became independent in 1960, but Partition into a Turkish North and Greek South followed the Turkish invasion of north Cyprus in 1974.
Size: 17.5cm high
(collection of Mr Rosen, New York City private collection, acquired mid 1990s from Frishman Gallery Tel Aviv Israel.)
(Aquired Palmyra Heritage Gallery USA, 16th Sept 2017)
Etruscan Bucchero-ware Kantharos : 6th century BC
The Etruscans copied most of their pottery designs from Greece but the Kantharos two-handled cup was an Etruscan shape which the Greeks later adopted. Bucchero ware is considered the national pottery of Etruria. It is not a glaze: the black colour was produced by closing the vent holes in the kiln, forming a reducing atmosphere which took the oxygen out of the red iron oxide in the clay. The clay become black right through. A similar technique may have produced some early bronze age wares (eg the black and red/black polished ware in Cyprus and Yortan (Troy). This is a fairly early and unusually crude and lopsided example: normally Bucchero ware is extremely refined and very thin-walled. (I actually propped it under one edge for this photo to make it look level. It was a disappointment but not, I think, a fake (nobody would make a fake this crude). Might it have been made by a young child, perhaps the child of the potter, and subsequently put into his tomb (or the tomb of his mother)? Since reading "Learning to make pottery: a look at how novices became potters in Middle Bronze Age Cyprus" a paper by Laura A Gagné I am now convinced of it. Perhaps I should re-photograph it more honestly.
Size: 11cm H
(Aquired Ancient Art 2013)
A common Etruscan design of genucilia (what Romans called patera), often seen in Etruscan and Roman paintings used for offerings to the gods. (The Etruscans were a league of city states and became a culture distinct from the earlier Villanovans in 8th century BC. They were strongly influenced by Greek culture, particularly through the Greek colonies of South Italy. They eventually ruled most of north and west Italy, roughly north-west of the Tiber, plus Corsica. They are a rather mysterious people, known through their objects and Roman accounts, since they left only a few inscriptions (in an alphabet written right to left) and only some of the words are understood. The Romans achieved independence from them and gradually conquered their lands during the late 4th century BC but retained a huge amount of their culture, and also their technology such as aquaducts and sewers, and the stone arch which Classical Greece never had. They finally assimilated Etruria in 264BC, though the Etruscan language and culture persisted into the 1st century BC).
Size: 14.6cm W
(Ex private collection, Essex, collected late 19C)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 2013)
This black glazed pottery was typical of Greek (especially Athenian) pottery. This is a small version of a common jug form, normally for wine, from Classical Greece and its colonies. Normally with this trefoil spout and sometimes (clearer in larger versions) a lion’s head at top end of handle, as here. Widely imitated, for example by the Etruscans and others (eg Cyprus) but in this case from from Gnathia, a Greek city and colony in pre-Roman south Italy (modern Apulia). The fourth century was the height of classical Greek civilisation. In later 4th century BC Apulia the Greek style took over from the earlier native Italic styles, such as the Daunian. The Greek colonies were defeated by the Romans at the end of the century and absorbed. Most of the handle has been reconstructed.
Size: 13cm H
(Ex private collection Edinburgh early 20thC)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 2013)
The kylix was a shallow form of two handled wine cup from Mycenaean and classical Greece. The word relates to the English “chalice”. This one comes from the pre-Roman Greek colonies in south Italy, sometimes called “Magna Graecia” (which began in the 8th century BC and were finally conquered and absorbed by Rome in the 3rd century BC). Stylised palm fronds (palmettes) at centre. Mended & small patch and one handle reconstructed. (Slightly over-restored for my taste)
Size: 23 x 17.2cm
(Ex private collection London - mid 20thC)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 2013)
A temple or shrine offering almost certainly dedicated to Aphrodite, goddess of love with whom the dove was associated. Most likely offered by a woman seeking success in love or fertility. It is Pierced vertically, possibly to be displayed on a stand. From the colour of the clay, possibly from the Greek colonies in South Italy. Greece had colonies all around the Mediterranean and Black Sea, especially on the coast of what is now Turkey, and in Sicily and South Italy
Size: 11.5cm L
(Ex collection J Birkin, London 1990s)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 2013)
This black glaze is typical of Attic (ie Athenian) pottery and spread to the Greek colonies as well as being imitated by the Etruscans.
After the collapse of Mycenaean Greece in 1100BC, Greek civilisation restarted in the 8th– 6th BC century with the Geometric and the Archaic periods. Writing began again with an alphabet modified from the Phoenicean. Classical Greece flowered out of this in the 5th century and was at its height in the 4th century. The 4th century started with the defeat of Athens by Sparta and subsequently the defeat of Sparta and the rise of Alexander the Great, who finished his father’s unification of Greece and went on to conquer the Persian empire as far as India. He died in 323 BC after which his empire was divided between 5 of his Generals. The period after Alexander’s death is usually called Hellenistic. Athens had introduced democracy at the end of the 6th century BC and by the 4th century the rest of Greece had copied them, except Sparta which remained a monarchy. This was the period of Plato and Aristotle, though the greatest Greek dramatists were in the 5th century BC. Euclid was born the year Alexander died. Finally Greece became part of the Roman empire in 146 BC.
Size: 6cm H
(Ex Vilain collection, Brussels, Belgium)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 2013)
Glass was very common in the Roman empire. It had been discovered in ancient Sumeria around 3500 BC.
Rome had achieved independence from the Etruscans around 500BC and formed a republic. In the !st century BC the Republic ended and Sulla ruled. Julius Caesar ended the Triumverate which followed. From 31BC the first Emperor Augustus ruled What had become a large empire which included Greece (from the 2nd century BC) Hispania (Spain) and Gaul (France). . Cicero and Virgil thought and wrote. A succession of emperors followed in the 1st century AD, including Nero, and the first Christians arrived and after a while started to be persecuted. Claudius invaded Britain in 43AD and England and Wales became a Roman colony.
The form of this bowl, like much Roman culture and design, was derived from the Etruscans and Greeks. Like many other classical shapes it was copied in the 18th century (my mother has an almost identical Georgian silver sugar bowl. Much mended
Size: 12cm W
(Ex private collection Berkshire)
(Aquired Helios Gallery 2013)
Front legs folded for sacrifice – a common representation also in Greece. Romans began their conquest of Britain in 43 AD under Claudius and the empire was at its maximum extent in 117 AD under Hadrian who built the wall which marked the Northern edge of the subdued land. The Romans finally abandoned Britain in 410-450.
This small, solid bronze bull was found in Ely, Cambridgeshire. There was no Roman town there so this must have belonged to a small British community or isolated Roman villa on what was effectively an island in the marshes.
Size: 5.5cm L
(Ex Lord McAlpine and Maurice Braham collections (I must consult the book of Lord McAlpine's collection to see if it throws any light on this piece's provenance).)
(Aquired Ancient Art 2013)
Gold and cabochon-garnet crescent pendant, with 3 small pendants and suspension loop. The crescent was a symbol of the goddess Luna. Very fine beaded decoration on the front using gold granules, and plain back. Sold to me as Roman but I have seen very similar pieces from second century BC Greece and Hellenistic Greece. Bought as present for my wife.
Size: 3.6 cm (6.3gm)
(Ex private collection of lady (known to dealer but wishing to remain anonymous), consisting mainly of ancient jewellery, moulds and ancient jewellery tools. Receipts were not kept. Purchased 1990s.)
(Aquired Artimission, London 15th November 2017)
Samian ware is the commonest and most characteristic Roman table ware, found all over the empire. The coarser red Terra Sigillata ware, such as this, was made in Gaul. This bowl has a maker’s stamp and these have been intensively studied, so the maker could probably be identified. The finer and thinner Arretine ware was made in Italy. It was entirely orange / red and often has elaborate relief decoration. In the second century Rome reached its apogee of size and wealth. This was the period of the “Good Emperors” Trajan, Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius.
Size: 12cm W
(Ex private collection Oxford mid 20thC)
(Aquired Helios Gallery)
This group of 9 dice were found in Germany. Dice, known as tesserae, were common especially among the military. The spots on opposite sides added up to 7 and many were larger than these. There was also a rare type called tali with only 4 marked sides. Greeks normally played with 3 dice and Romans with 2, but 3 to play Duodecim Scripta which was played everywhere: at home, in brothels, taverns, gambling houses, in the Imperial Palace and on the street. Dice were shaken in a cup or box and tossed. Sennet sticks would be tossed in the same way, or coins (“heads or ships” rather than “heads or tails”). The oldest known dice were from 3,000 BC Iran. Originally uncut “Knuckle” (talus) bones were used, as in Greece where they also imitated them in other materials. What is now South and West Germany was conquered by Rome in the later 1st century BC but defeat by Arminius at the battle of the Teutoberg Forest in 9AD ended Roman ambitions to conquer the rest and the border became the Rhine. During the 3rd century attacks by various tribes drove the Romans out.
Size: 1cm - 0.8cm
(Aquired Ancient Art 2014)
Glass was very common in the Roman empire. It had been discovered in ancient Sumeria around 3500 BC, perhaps during the early smelting of copper
This was the century of the Emperors Trajan, Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius.
A typical and pleasing Roman shape but is it genuine? The glass might be OK (though lacking the slight or pronounced iridescence usual in ancient glass) but is there something odd about the slightly granular adhering matter? (New note: Someone who knows more than I do about ancient glass looked at it and thought it was genuine).
Size: 15.3cm H
(Ex old private collection London)
(Aquired Ancient Artifacts UK Dec 2013)
A fibula was a kind of broach for fastening the cloak or other clothing. There were 2 types, the bow and the plate. In the late 1st century BC or early 1st century AD a new design appeared in some bow type fibulae: a separate pin was attached to the head-end of the bow with a small hinge. In the 3rd century AD, the hinge was placed in the centre of a long transverse bar creating the famous and widespread crossbow fibula. A fine example, originally fully gilded.
The Third century was a time of crisis in the Roman empire with threats of Barbarian invasion and it ended with the reforms of Diocletian which moved the capital of the empire to Milan and then Ravenna.
Size: 8.2cm L
(Ex private collection Munich)
(Aquired Ancient Art 2014)
After the defeat of Carthage in 146BC Rome formed the colony of Africa in what is now Libya. The area was lightly populated, mostly along the coast.
As in the rest of the empire, worshipers were required to buy votive lamps as a source of temple revenue. They were later dumped together in pits, as this was found.. There are huge numbers of Roman lamps in existence (plus many fakes). It would have been filled with oil and a wick placed in the front hole.
This was by a long way my earliest and cheapest acquisition (my collecting otherwise began in 2013) and I have mislaid my receipt with the lamp’s estimated date on it. However I think it was 3rd century. The third century was a period of crisis and near collapse for the Roman empire with successive barbarian invasions, but less so in North Africa. In 365 a huge tsunami devastated many coastal towns. By the end of the century the colony was basically Christian.
Size: 8.7cm L
(Aquired Parthenon Gallery, London 1990s)