Tag Archives for " Bronze Age figurines "

May 14

The Pointed Cap or Helmet

By Victoria | Ancient Figurines from Ancient Near East , Bronze Age Figurines , Tell Ahmar Figurines

Both the Bronze and Iron Age figurine repertoires include humans wearing a pointed or conical headdress. Most of the figurines wearing conical caps appear to have had the standard standing base. However, some figures wearing the conical helmets also appear to have been attached to the back of horses.

The faces of figurines wearing the pointed helmet are formed using the same techniques as the standing figurines: sharply ridged noses, applied eyes and no apparent mouths. The eyes are perforated in the same way as the Bronze Age figurines. Some helmeted figures from the Bronze Age also appear to have ear lobes, often perforated with large holes, such as those from Selenkahiye.

The cap or helmet on the Bronze Age figurines is also often decorated with tiny incisions. Another piece strikingly similar to those from Iron Age Euphrates sites comes from Çatal Hüyük and depicts a head wearing a pointed cap decorated with a single strip applied around the rim. A second strip runs around the neck, mirroring closely the later style. From the Upper Euphrates basin, similar pieces have been found at Tell Halawa.

 

Figurine wearing the pointed helmet from Tell Halawa, Early Bronze Age (After Meyer, J-W and Pruss, A, 1994, Abb.7:57).

Figurine wearing the pointed helmet from Tell Halawa, Early Bronze Age (After Meyer, J-W and Pruss, A, 1994, Abb.7:57).

 

 

Figurine wearing the pointed helmet (three views) from Tell Halawa, Early Bronze Age (After Meyer, J-W and Pruss, A, 1994, Abb.5:38).

Figurine wearing the pointed helmet (three views) from Tell Halawa, Early Bronze Age (After Meyer, J-W and Pruss, A, 1994, Abb.5:38).

 

Figurine wearing the pointed helmet from Tell Halawa, Early Bronze Age (After Meyer, J-W and Pruss, A, 1994, Abb.7:67).

Figurine wearing the pointed helmet from Tell Halawa, Early Bronze Age (After Meyer, J-W and Pruss, A, 1994, Abb.7:67).

Figurines from Tell Ahmar wearing a pointed helmet:

Figurine from Tell Ahmar wearing a pointed helmet.

Figurine from Tell Ahmar wearing a pointed helmet.

 

Figurine from Tell Ahmar wearing a pointed helmet.

Figurine from Tell Ahmar wearing a pointed helmet.

It seems probable that the standing figurines with elaborate hairstyles represent women. Some are modelled with breasts. Others are not, but this does not mean that they did not represent females. It seems that it was unnecessary to model anatomical evidence of sex. Rather, it appears, as with the Iron Age figurines, that some images were modelled with breasts if that was the wish of the maker. This feature does not appear to have beenessential to the understanding of the significance of the standing figurines. Indeed, the sex/gender of the figurine is likely to have simply been understood by those who made them without it having to be deliberately modelled.

The figurines with pointed helmets are never depicted with breasts, either in the Bronze or Iron Ages, strongly suggesting that they represent men. The excavations at Selenkahiye yielded at least four figurines wearing the conical helmet who had incised beards as well. Furthermore, many of these individuals were also modelled with perforations through the arm stumps, a feature also noted within figurine assemblages from Tell Halawa, Tell Hadidi and Habuba Kabira.

 

May 14

Did Iron Age Figurines Appear in a Stylistic Vacuum?

By Victoria | Ancient Figurines from Ancient Near East , Tell Ahmar Figurines

As I continued working with the Iron Age figurines I wondered about the possibility that they might have grown out of an earlier figurine making tradition or style, so I decided to take a closer look at the handmade figurines from the Bronze Age. The Bronze Age in North Syria is divided into three periods: the early Bronze Age which is early-third-early second-millennium (about 3300-100 BC), the Middle Bronze (about 2100 BC to 1550 BC) and the Late Bronze Age, (1550-200 BC). This post concerns the standing, or ‘pillar-based’ figurines from both periods.

Dr Leila Badre and others have studied the Bronze Age and recognised that the assemblages of this period from the Upper Euphrates Valley do represent a regional tradition. I believe that the Iron Age figurines also indicate localised conventions and that at some sites, both Bronze and Iron Age examples have been found.

Early Bronze Age figurines have been found at both Tell Ahmar and Tell Amarna and these are similar to those from sites of the late 3rd- early 2nd millennium further to the south. The nearby site of Shiyukh Tahtani has also yielded a few figurine fragments of Early Bronze age date, but has poor evidence for Iron Age occupation. Tell Ahmar, Tell Amarna and Shiyukh Tahtani seem to be the most northerly sites where figurines similar to those found at Bronze Age settlements such as Selenkahiya, Tell Hadidi, Sweihat, Tell Abd, Tell Halawa and Habuba Kabira.[1]

In other words, the sites that that yielded the figurines of the Iron Age also yielded figurines of the Bronze Age though not as many as sites further to the south, which, unfortunately, were destroyed at the end of the Bronze Age with no further occupation into the Iron Age.

In appearance, the Iron Age figurines have some similar characteristics to those of the older, Bronze Age tradition. The method of manufacture is by hand and characterised by considerable use of applied clay bands and pellets, heavily incised and perforated, to produce elaborately decorated images wearing necklaces and ornate hairstyles. For example, the Iron Age figurines have solid, pillar-shaped bases, though these are stockier than the taller, slenderer figurines of the Bronze Age.

Head from a standing figurine, Tell Ahmar, showing Bronze Age

Head from a standing figurine, Tell Ahmar, showing Bronze Age features.

A noticeable exception the figurine from el Qitar as well as one from Habuba Kabira which have thick, short bodies similar to those from the later period. Other Bronze Age examples, and found further afield at the site of Çatal Hüyük in the Amuq Plain, the other from Tell Afis, are stylistically similar to the Habuba example.

Bronze Age standing figurine from Catal Hüyük (Amuq Plain) holding a child. (Artists’ impression after Badre, L, 1980, Pl.XXV:14).

Bronze Age standing figurine from Catal Hüyük (Amuq Plain) holding a child. (Artists’ impression after Badre, L, 1980, Pl.XXV:14).

Another similarity between the Bronze and Iron Age figurine collections is in the faces. With sharp pointed noses and applied clay eyes, the absence of mouths or ears. A difference is apparent in the detail of the eye. On the Iron Age figurines, the figurine maker sometimes put another blob of clay on top, while in the Bronze Age the eye pellets are usually pierced to indicate pupils.

Figurines from both the Bronze and Iron Ages have ornate hairstyles, although there are variations in decorative technique. In the Bronze Age, strips and sometimes blobs of clay are applied over the head to form a variety of styles from loosely hanging locks to ‘buns’ or ‘pony-tails’ gathered behind the neck. The figurine makers used short incised lines on the hair and necklaces, a technique which is rarely used in the Iron Age.

 

Standing figurine (two views) from Tell Halawa, Early Bronze Age (After Meyer, J-W and Pruss, A, 1994, Abb.10: 99).

Standing figurine (two views) from Tell Halawa, Early Bronze Age (After Meyer, J-W and Pruss, A, 1994, Abb.10: 99).

Standing figurine (three views) from Tell Halawa, Early Bronze Age (After Meyer, J-W and Pruss, A, 1994, Abb.10:107)

Standing figurine (three views) from Tell Halawa, Early Bronze Age (After Meyer, J-W and Pruss, A, 1994, Abb.10:107)

Both Bronze and Iron Age figurines wear bracelets and these are formed in a similar way to the necklaces. In the Bronze Age these are mostly indicated by incision, however, a few figurines from Tell Halawa, as well as Çatal Hüyük, further to the west in the Amuq Plain, have their bracelets formed using tiny strips of clay, a typical Iron Age technique.

Standing figurines from both periods are modelled with breasts. Some figurines have obvious breasts, sometimes these are covered by the hands, sometimes the hands rest on the chest but do not cover or touch the breasts. On two examples from Tell Hadidi the arms curve around the breasts, leaving them exposed.

Iron Age figurines show more variety in arm position than the Bronze Age samples. Some may have been modelled with arms raised, as indicated by the fragment from el Qitar with damaged arms, although the majority have their arms resting on the torso. Several Iron Age figurines are modelled holding a child, but there are no known parallels from the Bronze Age sites of the Euphrates Valley. With the exception of the figurine from Çatal Hüyük which holds a smaller figure in its left arm. It has a short, thick body, three applied bracelets and ‘pincer’ hands similar to a fragment from Tell Ahmar. An unusual difference is that it also has modelled feet.There certainly seem to be overlaps in style and method of manufacture between the Bronze and Iron Age figurines. Why do you think that could be?

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[1] For specific assemblages, see, for Selenkahiye, Liebowitz, H, 1988; for Tell Hadidi, Dornemann, RH, 1979 and 1989; for Sweihat, Holland, TA, 1976 and 1977b; for Tell Abd, Finkbeiner, U, 1995; for Tell Halawa, Meyer, J-W and Pruss, A, 1995; and for Habuba Kabira, Strommenger, E, 1983.

 

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