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Weihgeschenke aus dem Heiligtum der Aphrodite in Alt-Paphos: Terrakotten, Skulpturen und andere figürliche Kleinvotive

July 2013 (117.3)

Book Review

Weihgeschenke aus dem Heiligtum der Aphrodite in Alt-Paphos: Terrakotten, Skulpturen und andere figürliche Kleinvotive

By Danielle Leibundgut Wieland and Lore Frey-Asche (Ausgrabungen in Alt-Paphos auf Cypern 7). Pp. xxvii + 236, figs. 10, pls. 44, Beilagen 4, map 1. Philipp von Zabern, Mainz 2011. €89.90. ISBN 978-3-8053-4315-2 (cloth).

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The volume under review, the latest contribution to the Alt-Paphos series published by the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut (DAI), presents the figural votive offerings from the Sanctuary of Aphrodite at Kouklia-Palaepaphos. The monograph analyzes more than 9,000 votives, most of which are terracotta, with far fewer limestone statues and even fewer fragments of marble and other figural votives. This study includes votives recovered from earlier explorations as well as the more comprehensive DAI excavations. The monograph is written for the specialist familiar with past publications on Palaepaphos, but a more general scholarly audience would benefit from the discussion of the Paphian cult. The finds are illustrated with eight beautiful color plates and 36 high-quality black-and-white plates; most objects are shown in frontal view, and only a small selection are illustrated with drawings.

After a brief introduction by Leibundgut Wieland, Maier provides a succinct summary of the history of excavations as well as an overview of the sanctuary and its architecture, while Leibundgut Wieland presents the archaeological contexts of the votives, all from disturbed levels. The corpus is extensive but fragmentary. The authors are to be commended for their painstaking work in cataloguing, analyzing, and reconstructing this important votive material. The dedications were found throughout the sanctuary, including in the Bronze Age shrine, in the redesigned Roman sanctuary ca. 100 C.E., and in the large Roman peristyle house to the west. Based on heavy concentrations of terracottas in select areas, Leibundgut Wieland suggests that they were originally deposited in bothroi concentrated in the northeast part of the western sanctuary that were destroyed by later constructions. Without clear stratigraphic contexts, they do not refine the terracotta chronology for the island.

Frey-Asche analyzes the small handmade and moldmade terracottas in chapter 3. Aside from five Late Bronze Age figurines (cat. nos. 1–5), four of the stylized naked female type, the tradition flourishes in the Cypro-Archaic and early Cypro-Classical periods (cat. nos. 6–898). They are manufactured of poor fabric and badly fired but are enhanced by painted color. Almost all these figurines represent the “goddess with upraised arms” (GUA) type, which represent clothed females with cylindrical bodies, upraised arms, and a high, flat polos. Details such as facial features, jewelry, and dress design were painted. The figurine repertoire is very limited beyond this type and includes a few tympanum players, moldmade male figures wearing pointed caps, a possible horse rider, moldmade nude and clothed female figures, zoomorphic figures, votive trees, and an unusual double anthropomorphic figure. A smaller number of moldmade figurines date from the Cypro-Classical and Hellenistic–Roman periods (cat. nos. 899–935).

Leibundgut Wieland presents the larger-scale terracotta and other figural votives in chapter 4. The terracotta statuettes and statues, beginning ca. 650 B.C.E., are more uniform in type, fabric, and manufacture; their distinctive local style remains remarkably homogeneous over several generations. The author divides this group into complex large-size statues (ca. 61 cm to slightly under-life-sized) and medium-sized figures (ca. 25 to 50–60 cm). After a review of manufacturing techniques (a combination of hand-modeled, wheelmade, and molded parts), there follows a lengthy description of the coating and bright paint preserved, which originally decorated all terracotta sculpture from Paphos. The high quality and uniform nature of these larger figures leads the author to conclude that they were likely produced in a large local workshop, perhaps attached to the urban sanctuary itself (77). The overwhelming majority of these were the GUA type. Leibundgut Wieland provides a detailed discussion of the varieties of garments, textile decorations, headdresses, and hairstyles. The limestone statues form a surprisingly small part of the corpus; their representation is skewed by preservation, although one still awaits the final publication, by Leibundgut Wieland and the late Veronica Tatton-Brown, of the impressive corpus of limestone sculptures and votive monuments discovered at the North East Gate and Siege Ramp, believed to come from a rural sanctuary in the area of Kouklia. The few marble fragments dated to before the Hellenistic period suggest the importance of this sanctuary beyond the island, as indicated by literary sources.

In the conclusion, Leibundgut Wieland gives an overview of the votive practices at the sanctuary, the religious iconography, and the Near Eastern and Aegean influences. The incredibly long use of this sanctuary, from the 12th century B.C.E. until the fourth century C.E., necessitates a diachronic approach to understanding the dynamic cult and rituals. The votives’ strict frontality combined with dramatic gestures were intended to establish direct contact between the votive and the viewer, and Leibundgut Wieland posits that, as at other archaic Cypriot sanctuaries, the Paphian limestone and terracotta votives crowded around either an altar or the halls of the courtyard. Using a minimum number of individuals (MNI) of various body parts, she cautiously concludes that there was a minimum of 160 middle- and large-sized terracottas in the Archaic and Classical periods (and likely more, given looting and the poor recording of early excavations).

Most useful for the general scholar of Mediterranean religion is the final section on the GUA type at Palaepaphos, which clearly formed the centerpiece of the votive repertoire. This section succinctly overviews this type’s history outside and on Cyprus, following past assertions that the type moves from the Mycenaean world to Crete and from there to Cyprus, where it survived the longest. Missing from the bibliography on this iconographic type is Prent’s Cretan Sanctuaries and Cults: Continuity and Change from Late Minoan IIIC to the Archaic Period (Leiden 2005). Significantly, this type is concentrated in Cypriot sanctuaries and rarely appears among the exported Cypriot figurines found in large numbers around the eastern Mediterranean. The authors make a convincing argument for identifying all sizes of this type at Palaepaphos as depictions of the Paphian goddess herself, or perhaps a priestess enacting the goddess. The evidence includes: (1) the unity and dominance of the type, the emphasis on the upraised arm with outward-facing palms gesture, and the significant absence of the usual representations of offering bearers and votaries; (2) the elaborate jewelry and standardized brightly painted red dress, closely associated with goddesses in ancient Greek poetry and in the Near East; and (3) the dramatic gesture, strict frontality, and large eyes that connect the figures directly with the viewer to announce the divine epiphany. Moreover, his type is closely linked to Paphos: the medium and large figures are only found in this region, suggesting a direct link to the Paphian goddess. The small GUA figurines, however, are found in sanctuaries outside Palaepaphos, and they could more broadly represent an aspect of various local goddesses. The standardization of the type and extremely stable votive tradition throughout the Archaic period cannot be linked to a cult statue (the cult image here was aniconic), but rather is associated with a specific, recurring festival, in which the culminating act was the epiphany of the Paphian goddess in the form of a terracotta statue. The author cites textual evidence for the carrying of divine statues from Ugarit and a pictorial representation from an Early Geometric Cretan vase, and we can add to this Hägg’s suggestion that Mycenaean terracotta statuettes were likewise carried in ritual processions (R. Hägg, “Religious Processions in Mycenaean Greece,” in P.M. Fischer, ed., Contributions to the Archaeology and History of the Bronze and Iron Ages in the Eastern Mediterranean: Studies in Honour of Paul Åström [Vienna 2001] 143–48). Leibundgut Wieland suggests that the statues may have been dedicated by the most elite families or even the priest king himself.

This high-quality, comprehensive volume enhances the published corpus of terracotta figurines and statuary from scientific excavations in Cyprus (e.g., those from Salamis, Amathus, the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates at Kourion, and Marion-Arsinoe) and adds to our knowledge of coroplastic production, use, and religious significance. The only critique of this otherwise excellent study is the lack of historical contextualization linking the cult to broader sociopolitical developments at Paphos and beyond. Oddly omitted are references to Maria Iacovou’s Palaepaphos Urban Landscape Project (University of Cyprus), which would help situate the votive ritual tradition within the broader city history. The study corroborates the overall patterns of coroplastic dedications that appear to be islandwide, which need to be further analyzed. Moreover, the detailed publication of the iconographic details of the Paphian repertoire should facilitate further study on the significance of the different headdresses and garments found at Palaepaphos and elsewhere on the island. Finally, this publication elucidates the importance of the Paphian cult and establishes Paphos as a major coroplastic production center in western Cyprus.

Erin Walcek Averett
Department of Fine and Performing Art
Creighton University
Omaha, Nebraska 68178

Book Review of Weihgeschenke aus dem Heiligtum der Aphrodite in Alt-Paphos: Terrakotten, Skulpturen und andere figürliche Kleinvotive, by Danielle Leibundgut Wieland and Lore Frey-Asche

Reviewed by Erin Walcek Averett

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 117, No. 3 (July 2013)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1173.Averett

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