Three terracotta figurines

Mycenaean, about 1400-1200 BC
Made in Greece

Female figures, goddesses or worshippers

Female figures like these are found throughout the Mycenaean world of the Greek mainland and islands. The three elegantly schematised types are named phi, tau and psi figurines, after the letters of the Greek alphabet they resemble.

The standing females wear long patterned dresses and have their arms either by their sides, folded or raised. These three types appear successively over time. The figurines shown here wear flattened head-dresses (poloi) and this suggests they may be goddesses, though, as so often with prehistoric figurines, it is hard to distinguish between representations of deities and of worshippers. It is also possible that some ambiguity may have existed when the figures were made. They were probably made by the craftsmen who produced contemporary vases: the shapes are simply pinched from clay, and the decoration uses vase-painting techniques.

The figurines are found in settlements, in graves and in contexts identified as shrines. The significance of the figurines may, therefore, have varied depending on their use. If they are deities, it is possible that more than one goddess is represented. For example, as a generalised representation of a female deity, one of these figurines could perhaps be recognized as a local goddess when used in a local shrine.

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Three terracotta figurines

  • Detail of one figurine

    Detail of one figurine

 

More information

Bibliography

O.T.P.K. Dickinson, The Aegean Bronze Age (Cambridge, 1994)

R.A. Higgins, Minoan and Mycenean art, new revised edition (London, Thames & Hudson, 1997)

Dimensions

Height: 5.000 cm
Length: 2.800 cm
Weight: 102.500 g

Museum number

GR 1871.5-12.4 (Terracotta B 6);GR 1871.5-12.5 (Terracotta B 5);GR 1864.2-20.33 (Terracotta B 12)

GAA6161

Gift of Charles Merlin (B5 and B6 )
Strangford Collection (B12)

Location

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