British Museum collections, £12.99
Height: 8.000 inches
Turner Bequest Excavations
GR 1897.4-1.1087 (Terracotta A11)
Room 72: Ancient Cyprus
Terracotta figurine of a woman with a child
From Tomb 67 at Enkomi, Cyprus, 1450-1200 BC
Many female figurines of this type have been found throughout the island of Cyprus. They characteristically have wide hips tapering to small, pointed feet, thin arms holding a baby and very large pierced ears, in which earrings, also of clay, are sometimes preserved. The figures are hollow, and therefore light. Their faces are formed by pinching, giving a bird-like effect. Details, such as eyes, are added using pellets of clay, while incisions decorate the neck and exaggerated pubic triangle.
The style of such figures owes something to Syrian prototypes, but they seem to have been produced to the same pattern at many places in Cyprus, and are so numerous that the term mass-production may be appropriate. Most examples of known provenance come from tombs.
The figurines may represent a female deity with a child, or they could have been felt to represent ordinary women, possibly their owners and perhaps the occupants of the tombs where they were found. In either case both the exaggerated sexual characteristics and the presence of the babies emphasize female fertility, and the figures may have acted as fertility charms.