Terracotta figure of a tambourine player
Phoenician, 7th-6th century BC
From Tharros, Sardinia
This fired clay female tambourine player comes from a tomb at Tharros, the most important Phoenician trading centre on Sardinia. Although undoubtedly of local manufacture, it is very like terracottas of a similar date found on Cyprus. Cyprus had a long-established tradition of making clay figurines, and played an important role in the transmission of Canaanite or Phoenician figurine types to the colonies in the West.
The widespread use of similar figures shows the commercial contacts established by the Canaanites of the Levant coast (known as Phoenicians) in the first millennium BC. They grew rich by supplying luxury materials to Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Iran. Their natural harbours became major ports for handling international shipping.
Phoenician contacts with Sardinia can be traced back to around 1000 BC, but it was not until the eighth century BC that permanent colonies were established on the island. Tharros remained a major trading centre through the Roman period. Over seventy tombs were excavated in the cemetery there between 1853 and 1855. These demonstrated the great wealth of some Phoenicians, who could afford rock cut tombs and be provided with rich objects, including elaborate gold jewellery, as well as terracottas such as this one, which were presumably put in the grave to invoke the protection of the gods.
R.D. Barnett and C. Mendleson (eds), Tharros: a catalogue of materi (London, The British Museum Press, 1987)
J.N. Tubb, Canaanites (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)