Height: 6.500 cm
Room 12b: Greece: Mycenaeans
Terracotta group of three dancers in a ring
Mycenaean, around 1300 BC
This small terracotta group has three female figures wearing long striped dresses and dancing in a ring. Their arms are joined as if linked at the elbows or as if they are holding hands. The group is perhaps intended to represent a form of sacred dance and was probably made as a dedication at a sanctuary.
Ring-dances in terracotta originated in Minoan Crete, where dancing as part of ritual activity was also shown on frescoes. In the Iliad (xviii, 591-605), Homer talks of a 'dancing floor, like that which once in the wide spaces of Knossos Daidalos built for Ariadne of the lovely tresses'. Excavations at Knossos have revealed circular structures which could be identified as dancing floors. It seems that the evidence of archaeology bears out the literary tradition associating Crete with sacred dances, and this terracotta shows the tradition as it was inherited by the Mycenean world.
J.L. Fitton, 'Three Mycenean terracottas', British Museum Magazine: the-7 (Summer 1996), pp. 24-25