Out of the mouths of pots : Towards an interpretation of the symbolic meaning of Cypriot Bronze Age funerary artefacts including examples in the University of Canterbury's Logie Collection
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis proposes that objects from funerary contexts in Early Bronze Age Cyprus were expressions of belief in a continuation of some form of life for the deceased. In reference to this, the author argues that these funerary deposits were intended for the use of the deceased who were reborn into the Underworld; with some objects actually playing a symbolic role in the process of rebirth. So-called 'Plank Figure' images were probably representations of a deity associated with re-birth (in this thesis identified as the Near Eastern Inanna-Ishtar); whilst the pottery bowls, jugs, and elaborately decorated vessels may have also been linked with the idea of re-birth by performing the function of surrogate agents in which 'gestation' occurred. In support of this hypothesis, the form and decoration of the Red Polished funerary ware of the Early Cypriot Bronze Age is discussed in relation to its associations with motifs generally accepted as pertaining to fertility. As this pottery comes from a pre-literate period in the history of Cyprus, Near Eastern literature and artifacts are used to provide evidence of contemporary practice outside Cyprus as this may have impacted on Cypriot culture. A chapter dedicated to archaeological comparanda from the Near East, Anatolia, and Cyprus, provides evidence to suggest that Cyprus was in contact with Near Eastern religious ideas that probably influenced Early Bronze Age Cypriot society. The notion that Bronze Age beliefs survived into literate periods is pursued, with the Greek goddess Aphrodite providing the link between the Near East (in her guise as Inanna-Ishtar), Cyprus (as Phoenician Astarte), and Greece. Art, archaeology, and 'survivals' of an earlier age into a literate society are brought together in an attempt to reconstruct the Cypriots' intentions concerning the deposition of funerary goods during the Early Bronze Age. The University of Canterbury's Logie Collection provides some of the evidence, and a catalogue of the Cypriot Bronze Age tomb-groups held in the collection is included.