You are here

Kition-Bamboula VI: Le sanctuaire sous la colline

April 2017 (121.2)

Book Review

Kition-Bamboula VI: Le sanctuaire sous la colline

By Annie Caubet, Sabine Fourrier, and Marguerite Yon (Travaux de la Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée, Série recherches archéologiques 67). Pp. 414, figs. 192, tables 14, plans 9. Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée, Lyon 2015. €44. ISBN 978-2-35668-048-8 (paper).

Reviewed by

The publication of the “temple below the hill” at Kition-Bamboula is a rewarding and beautiful book. The authors begin with a history of the excavations at this important site, most notably under the British mandate, when much of the hill was removed to fill swamps during a malarial epidemic in 1879. Subsequently, numerous artifacts were brought to the British Museum from the hill. Among them were an inscription in Phoenician referring to a “Temple of Astarte” and a royal inscription of King Milkyaton of Kition.

Truly scientific investigation began with Einar Gjerstad and the Swedish Cyprus Expedition (SCE) in 1927. Their discovery of a bothros indicated the cultic nature of Kition-Bamboula. In 1975, Vassos Karageorghis asked the French to commence investigation of the site, and a series of excavations ensued. The account of the succession of excavations makes clear to the reader how emphases shifted over the decades of work.

The presentation of the excavation results in terms of the architecture is somewhat traditional; it is divided into two parts, discussing first the phasing and then the “ateliers” of phase 3. The remaining chapters are devoted to various finds by type; finds are reported room by room, and photographs with labels make the lateral context easily understood.

There is one troubling feature of this mode of presenting the excavation narrative. Photographs such as those in figure 2 show excavation methodology, including clear, crisp sections, but no drawings or diagrams of stratigraphic sequence. This type of presentation recurs throughout the volume: there are discussions of periodization, including a chart comparing the Swedish understanding of phasing and the French sequence (15), but nowhere is there a representation of the stratigraphy. Nor is there a Harris matrix diagram of soil layers and their relationship to walls. The absence of data concerning stratigraphy leaves the reader wholly dependent on the authors’ judgment as to the relationship of soil layers to architecture.

Fourrier’s discussion of the geometric and archaic pottery found at Kition-Bamboula is thorough, detailed, and well laid out. Charts list the “securely dated” examples of each type of vessel in each period (tables 1–7). Drawings are clear and useful. However, the same lack of stratigraphic association is found here in the pottery presentation. One more irksome feature of the catalogue, which obtains throughout the treatment of the small finds of all sorts as well as the ceramics, is the use of labeling conventions, for example, “KEF-587 UF 1980.33,” that remain mysterious. “K87” probably refers to a “Kition” designation of some kind, but others are opaque, and the reader remains at sea. Presumably, each long designation is a kind of accession number differentiating one vessel from another.

After the ceramic treatment, a useful discussion of the relationship of pottery types to architectural phases helps assuage the reader’s anxiety about the discussion of pottery divorced from its context. However, in 33 pages of pottery discussion, context occupies only two pages.

The following section on imported Greek pottery is also organized first chronologically by period designation (not date) and then by type or shape. It is little more than a list of finds, again divorced from context. The presentation of the Greek pottery is followed by a discussion of Greek imports into the eastern Mediterranean, with emphasis on the connections between East Greece and the eastern Mediterranean.

The treatment of the terracotta figurines is a tour de force. Caubet presents a clear discussion of the fact that almost all the terracotta figurines and fragments are products of local Kition-Bamboula output and examples from elsewhere are extremely rare. The figurines are arranged by mode of production (handmade or moldmade) and then by type and chronological period. Only photographs accompany the catalogue, no drawings, but the photographs are stunning. This photographic presentation means that even the least diagnostic fragments (237, cat. nos. 2.57–2.70) are presented clearly and decisively so that one may form one’s own judgment.

Caubet’s presentation of the small finds is similarly thorough, careful, and clear. Even fragmentary artifacts identified as loomweights are presented in the same stellar photography as noted for the terracottas. The clear presentation of the objects is divided by material and use. Composite vases and lamps are followed by metal objects. Similar divisions and order of presentation are applied to the products of the stone industry. A thorough and informative discussion of the three types of stone used highlights the particular limestone prevalent in the Larnaca area. Also of interest is the use of gypsum for objects, a practice not common at inland sites. However, although there are drawings as well as photographs of some of the stone vessels, these do not adhere to usual conventions of stippling stone vessels and are somewhat difficult to “read.”

Yon’s treatment of the stone sculpture is helpful. She argues convincingly that the sculpture found in the 1879 excavations in the destroyed eastern sector of Kition-Bamboula was found near the sanctuary published in this volume. She laments the poor quality of the sculptures found in the French excavations but includes them in the corpus, thereby uniting all those excavated at Kition-Bamboula for the first time in more than 100 years. In her discussion of technique, she notes the presence of local limestone in most of the stone sculpture. She discusses the rough carving of two of the examples (303) and concludes these descriptions with the somewhat surprising statement that such an object must be the product of a workshop close to the temple, apparently concluding that sculptures of poorer quality would not have been brought from afar. Why not? A poorer worshiper traveling from a town or village some way inland from Kition-Bamboula might wish to participate in ceremonies or celebrations performed at the sanctuary below the hill.

Yon’s discussion of the objects from the bothros of Bamboula clearly presents the usual starkly frontal “figurine-plaquette” one would expect from a sanctuary active in the Archaic and Classical periods. She describes the Greek influence on some of the sculpture as rendering body volumes “plus réalistes.” Variety of style in a long-lived sanctuary is not surprising, as Yon notes. There follows a discussion of “types,” which can hardly be avoided, given the nonstratigraphic provenance of most of the sculpture found at Kition-Bamboula. After mention of kouroi and figures bearing instruments or offerings of various kinds, “Hathor” capitals are given a detailed discussion in their own subchapter. Appendix 1, immediately following, details the sculptures from the 1929 SCE excavation. Each figure is listed along with its publication and illustration information both in SCE and Kition-Bamboula publications. It is a little mystifying that there is no such list of the sculpture from the French excavations. The quality of the photographs of the sculpture is high, but in places (e.g., figs. 10.5, 10.6) a drawing of the detail of the offering would be helpful to the reader.

In an apparent attempt to avoid previous scholarly controversies about chronological nomenclature, Yon has appended a chart of her chronological understanding of the sequence of sculpture at the end of these discussions. She has designated them “Style I, II, III, IV, V, and VI,” rather surprisingly ignoring 50+ years of previous chronological discussion (cf. E. Gjerstad et al., The Swedish Cyprus Expedition. Vol. 3, pt. 1, Finds and Results of the Excavations in Cyprus 1927–1931 [Stockholm 1937] 72–4).

Guzzo’s discussion of the inscriptions is thorough and informative. Section A presents the Phoenician inscriptions, most of those from the site. Section B, by Fourrier, treats graffiti, incised marks, and stamps. The photographs of inscriptions are accompanied by detailed drawings, rendering the inscriptions perfectly clear. Once again, however, these finds are completely severed from their excavated context. The reader is given no information about the stratum in which each was found nor whether a findspot was sealed or not.

The faunal evidence treated by Gardeisen is presented according to the “phase” in which it was found (see above). Lists and charts of animal types and bone types are detailed and clearly presented. It is notable that shells were normal inclusions in the sediment, while the animal bones, in contrast, speak to the diet of the ancient inhabitants (rather than holding any ritual significance).

The three principal authors begin the “Conclusion” with a pair of quotations that remark on the enormity of the destruction in the 19th century, underlining the achievements of the Swedish, and later the French, excavations. The authors state that the stratigraphic sequence outlined by the Swedes was refined by the French excavations. A basic understanding emerges of two major reorganizations of monuments succeeding one another on the site.

First, beginning in the last quarter of the eighth century B.C.E. (378), structures were organized around a courtyard, the most significant to the north and a portico to the east, while workshops appeared against the wall on the west. To the south there was a street running along the temenos wall marking the limit of the sanctuary. The authors suggest that this represents a complete reorganization of the sanctuary, probably at the advent of Assyrian power signified by the Kition-Bamboula stele found here. (The Phoenicians of Kition were their agents.)

The other great reorganization of structures in this area dates to the end of the fifth century B.C.E. The grandeur of the esplanade bordering the “port de guerre” to the north and the southern “batiments” are taken by the authors to indicate the grandeur of a city-kingdom rivaling that of Salamis.

The writers struggle to define just when the area ceased to be sacred in nature. It appears that it continued in use into the Roman period, after which, the Swedes felt, the area had shifted to domestic use. Here the disturbances in the 19th century impede certainty.

The contributions of this volume are manifold. In addition to its beauty and clarity, it brings together material from diverse explorations since the 19th century in one place, rendering them accessible and comparable to one another. It stands as a final presentation of French excavations that spanned more than 40 years. The unity and accessibility of the material in this volume will make it an essential reference tool for scholars focusing on Cypriot archaeology for years to come.

Pamela Gaber
Lycoming College

Book Review of Kition-Bamboula VI: Le sanctuaire sous la colline, by Annie Caubet, Sabine Fourrier, and Marguerite Yon

Reviewed by Pamela Gaber

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 121, No. 2 (April 2017)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1212.Gaber

Add new comment

Plain text

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.