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Terracotta female figurine


Height: 17.000 cm

ME 133132

Middle East

    Terracotta female figurine

    Phoenician, 6th century BC
    From Tharros, Sardinia

    Probably representing the goddess Astarte

    This fired clay female figurine comes from a tomb in the rich Phoenician cemetery at Tharros. It is purely Phoenician in style, and may represent the goddess Astarte, the most important Phoenician fertility goddess. She wears an Egyptian type of wig which retains fragments of paint showing that it was originally painted black. Egyptian influences were an integral element of Phoenician art.

    Over seventy tombs were excavated in the cemetery at Tharros between 1853 and 1855. Burial customs followed the fashions of Carthage, the main Phoenician colony in the west. The tombs were chambers reached by a short passage and a few steps. The entrance to the chamber was blocked by a stone or carved tombstone. The body was provided with amulets and laid on its back with feet towards the door, which faced east. Written spells and gifts such as this terracotta figure invoked the god's protection.

    From around 1000 BC Canaanite territory was restricted to the northern Levant coast. This area was known to the Greeks as Phoenicia. The Phoenicians turned to the sea for the basis of their economy. Their 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. One of the most important was Tharros, which remained a major trading centre through the Roman period.

    R.D. Barnett and C. Mendleson (eds), Tharros: a catalogue of materi (London, The British Museum Press, 1987)


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