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La Coroplastie Chypriote Archaïque: Identitiés Culturelles at Politique l’époque des Royaumes

La Coroplastie Chypriote Archaïque: Identitiés Culturelles at Politique l’époque des Royaumes

By Sabine Fourrier. Pp. 196, figs. 9, tables 257, pls. 24. Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée, Paris 2007. €25. ISBN 978-2-903264-66-6 (paper).

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Fourrier arranges her book into two main sections, prefaced by a methodological introduction (13–20). The first and most extensive section contains nine chapters, in which she characterizes the different local Cypriot styles and their diffusion on the island. It constitutes the background for the three chapters of the second section, in which she interprets these styles and their diffusion as expressing cultural identity in terms of political separation. In other words, the circulation of Cypriot terracotta styles indicates the territorial expansion and political control of Cypriot kingdoms in archaic times. The two sections are followed by a detailed catalogue in the form of a registry of terracottas (125–73), in which figurines are listed first in alphabetical order according to site, and then arranged by styles. In doing so, the author confines object information to current depository and inventory number. For all further descriptions and illustrations, the author refers to other publication catalogues. The usual appendices—bibliographical abbreviations (175–76), bibliography (177–87), index (189–92), list of illustrations (193–96), as well as 24 plates—complete Fourrier’s publication.

The book begins (13–14) by referring to the modern lack of knowledge about particular political and cultural structures in archaic Cyprus, to which the author’s comprehensive analysis of the abundant corpus of archaic terracottas may provide insight. Fourrier’s ambition is to arrange the corpus of Cypriot terracottas in stylistic groups to identify various cultural identity markers. Accordingly, she presents a new stylistic system based, partially on already known local styles and their patterns of diffusion, to draw out regional styles of terracotta manufacture in which different ateliers depended on regional centers, residences of royal authority. Fourrier, therefore, rejects Gjerstad’s stylistic system for Cypriot sculpture (14–15) and its chronological sequences, which he applied to all of Cyprus—an issue she takes up later in the book (104–6). She also challenges his subjective selection of stylistic analyzable objects (“art sculpture”), because it excluded most of the corpus of Cypriot terracottas (“idol-plastic”), which, as Fourrier points out, displays the most obvious expressions of local and regional styles (contra Gjerstad).

Fourrier reasonably classifies the styles according to manufacture technique (solid handmade figurines, hollow hand- or wheel-made figurines, moldmade solid plaque-shaped figurines, hollow moldmade figurines, figurines of mixed techniques). However, only published anthropomorphic figurines with clear provenance are included in her analysis. Therefore, the criterion for diagnosing a local style is the appearance of a major group of one style and/or technique at one location, which should represent the local style.

In the first section, “Les centres producteurs” (21–100), Fourrier presents the different regional styles of Salamis, Idalion, Kition, Amathus, Kourion, Paphos, Marion, Soloi, and northern Cyprus (Lapithos and Kazaphani) in nine single chapters. Each chapter is then divided into two parts. In the first, she reviews the discovery of the terracottas (in legal or illegal excavations) and the state and reliability of publication. This is followed by a definition and description of the style and its further subdivisions. In the second part of each chapter, Fourrier represents the distribution of the style, as far as possible, in three circles of geographical distance from the assumed center of manufacture or on which others may depend (immediate surroundings, hinterland sanctuaries, and frontier sanctuaries adjacent to another regional style or kingdom). The stylistic nomenclature, listed above, is applied to the names of the common archaic poleis so far as they are known from written sources, even if some sites do not constitute the main findspot for that style, as with Ayia Irini. Fourrier demonstrates the close stylistic connection of the terracotta finds from the Apollo sanctuary with the finds of Soloi (87–92); she relates that extraurban temenos to Soloi’s area of influence.

In this context, Fourrier assigns Arsos (35–6, 47–8) to Salamis’ area of influence because of the close stylistic connection between the finds from both sites and their respective environs. Yet she classifies Arsos—astonishingly—as a site without its own workshop (36). In the same way, she denies the political autonomy of Tamassos (45–7), because of, among other reasons, the homogeneous style of the terracotta finds with Idalion (46). Similarly interesting is the case of Kition and Lapithos, where a close stylistic connection is visible in the sixth century B.C.E., which Fourrier interprets in political ways. She sees the suddenly noticeable stylistic affinity between figurines from Lapithos and those from the “Phoenician” Kition as a kind of new rising authority of Kition over Lapithos by a Phoenician royal dynasty. This could possibly be read as a political strategy against the authority of the city kingdom of Idalion, which used Lapithos as its harbor in archaic times (99, 119).

In the second part of her publication, “Ateliers, sanctuaires et royaumes” (101–24), Fourrier grapples with fundamental questions. She offers some important conclusions in “La naissance des styles” (103–9) concerning the previous classification of stylistic groups and their chronology, which even for Gjerstad did not always seem coherent, and which was contradicted by Schmidt’s chronological arrangement of Cypriot terracottas on Samos. Fourrier resolves the problem of the many previous attempts to assimilate these two opposing systems by exposing Gjerstad’s sequential styles as contemporary regional styles (104–6). She also challenges Schmidt’s chronological interpretation of different production techniques, opening up new possibilities for understanding finds in the eastern Aegean (106–7). In a kind of appendix, Fourrier then reviews the development of the Cypriot kingdoms (“Styles et royaumes” [107–9]). The title of her book references not only the cultural but also the political spheres, so she seems compelled to deal with this complicated topic. After noting the various arguments, she finally reasons that the kingdoms developed before the eighth century B.C.E. and then underwent some kind of “reorganisation” in the eighth and seventh centuries from “un régime royal à un régime monarchique” (109). A clearer explanation and definition of terms would have been welcome in this context. Looking ahead to the book’s conclusion, that the distribution of regional styles as a cultural phenomenon might coincide with the “political” territory of the kingdoms, this section seems unnecessary, as it does not bridge the cultural and the political spheres. One homogenous cultural community can be divided into different spheres of political control, which is not inevitably noticeable in the substantial remains, as may be possible in the case of Tamassos, discussed above.

In “Identités culturelles et territoires politiques” (111–20), Fourrier draws conclusions about the distribution of styles as an indicator of the territorial dimensions of the poleis and their interacting political associations. This connects to “Les sanctuaires” (121–24), in which she explains the importance and function of the different kinds of sanctuaries (urban and extraurban) as making up the expression, establishment, and consolidation of coherent cultural and political communities with territorial tenure. Different coroplastic styles then become credible as expressions of these cultural identities. In this, the different styles of manufacture in the western and eastern parts of the island find affirmation. Nevertheless, the question remains whether political communities can be detected in regional styles (e.g., for Tamassos). As mentioned above, Fourrier denies the political independency of that kingdom, mentioned in the list of Assarhaddon, because of the lack of an autonomic regional style (115). The author is therefore forced to find explanations for the discrepancy (119–20).

In conclusion, Fourrier’s presentation, description, and definition of the different local styles of Cypriot terracottas discharge a long-existent desideratum in Cypriot archaeology and deliver the necessary basis for further research into archaic Cypriot sculpture. This is true not only for the large corpus of terracottas on the island itself but also for the finds of Cypriot terracottas in the eastern Mediterranean, especially those in the eastern Aegean. The work also draws attention to stylistic peculiarities, partly mentioned above. Great appreciation is due the author for locating and organizing the material; her laborious evaluation results in a simple map (fig. 9) of the distribution of regional styles, which fills, for the moment, a longstanding gap in our knowledge.

Jan-Marc Henke
German Archaeological Institute, Athens
Fidou 1
106 78 Athens

Book Review of La Coroplastie Chypriote Archaïque: Identitiés Culturelles at Politique l’époque des Royaumes, by Sabine Fourrier

Reviewed by Jan-Marc Henke

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 113, No. 4 (October 2009)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1134.Henke

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