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Le donateur, l’offrande et la déesse

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Clarisse Prêtre

Some Remarks on Meaning and Function of Moldmade Terracotta Relief Plaques Depicting Naked and Dressed Females Figures1

Oliver Pilz

Résumé

Les plaques moulées en terre cuite représentant des femmes nues ou vêtues sont des offrandes fréquemment attestées dans les sanctuaires crétois du début de la période archaïque. La recherche récente a mis l’accent sur la fonction jouée par ces plaques dans les rites d’initiation destinés aux jeunes membres de la société. Cet article montre que de telles plaques relèvent, d’un point de vue typologique, des figures sculptées sur des manches en ivoire, importées du Proche-Orient ou fabriquées localement. Dans le contexte d’un changement de comportement votif dès la fin de l’époque géométrique, il est vraisemblable que ces plaques moulées ont été produites à l’origine pour satisfaire une demande croissante d’images associées à l’élite aristocratique. Par conséquent, l’association supposée de ces plaques avec les rites de maturité, qui ne suffit pas dans tous les cas à expliquer leur fonction, pourrait s’être développée progressivement sur une plus longue période. En conclusion sont évoquées les ressemblances fonctionnelles constatées entre les plaques moulées montrant des femmes nues ou vêtues, et les objets figurant des poupées.

Texte intégral

  • 1 I would like to thank A. Babbi, J.D. Baumbach, J. Larson, A. Muller, and V. Pirenne-Delforge for di (...)

1The meaning and function of early moldmade terracottas depicting naked and dressed female figures (Fig. 1-2, 5) have been much disputed since such votive offerings first came to light in Greek sanctuaries at the end of the nineteenth century. In this debate, the naked type in particular has attracted considerable interest. Earlier research generally emphasized the connection of the naked figures with fertility or tended to identify them with specific deities, for instance Aphrodite. In the last decades, research has focused more on the role that moldmade plaques and figurines of this type played in ritual practice.

  • 1 Cf. K. Waldner, Geburt und Hochzeit des Kriegers. Geschlechterdifferenz und Initiation in Mjthos un (...)
  • 2 Waldner, o.c. (n. 1), p. 44-45; W. Burkert, s.v. «Initiation», ThesCRA II (2004), p. 118.

2Since the time when such plaques first attracted scholary attention, a paradigm shift has taken place in regard to the explanation of their primary function. It contributed to replacing the previously dominant concept of fertility by that of initiation as the general framework of interpretation.1 Since it is widely accepted that there were no rites directly comparable to ‘tribal initiation’in ancient Greece, initiation has been described in a broader sense as the process of integrating children and adolescents into the socio-religious system of the polis society.2 However, accepting such a definition, it becomes clear that religious rites with presumed initiatory function are only one aspect of this integration process. Accordingly, it would be more correct to speak of socialization instead of initiation.

3Applying the concept of initiation to the interpretation of the plaques in question has indeed proven fruitful. The aim of this paper is therefore not to fundamentally challenge this approach but, on the contrary, to provide further evidence for the suggestion that in particular the plaques showing naked females could have been associated with rites of maturity. In contrast to previous research, however, it will be argued that this might actually not have been the case already from the moment when such plaques first occurred. To clarify this point, the origins of moldmade terracottas and the reasons for the demand for such objects will be examined. In addition, it is very unlikely that the role plaques of the type discussed here might have played in initiation rites can be regarded as an exclusive explanation of their function. Therefore, other possible occasions for their dedications must be taken into consideration as well.

  • 3 A. Muller, «Artisans, techniques de production et diffusion: le cas de la coroplathie», in F. Blond (...)
  • 4 Cf. O. Pilz, Matrizengeformte Terrakotten der spàtgeometrischen undfruharchaischen Zeit auf Kreta, (...)

4It is commonly agreed that in the early seventh century BC Greek craftsmen introduced from the Near East the use of molds for the production of terracottas. This new technique, allowing the serial if not mass-production of clay plaques and figurines, seems to have first appeared in Crete and quickly spread from there all over the Greek world. The general opinion is that the introduction of the mold technique is closely related to the appearance of terracotta plaques depicting naked female figures.3 However, new finds as well as the re-study of previously examined material indicate that the use of molds was sporadically documented in Crete as early as the late eighth century BC.4 The relation between the introduction of the mold technique and the appearance of the plaques might therefore not have been as close as previously assumed.

5From the very beginning of their appearance, moldmade terracottas were used as personal votive offerings in Greek sanctuaries, replacing to a large extent the until then common hand-made human figurines. In this regard it is important to emphasize that the use of molds in connection with the attractive Orientalizing Daedalic style led to a significant quality improvement in terracotta production. Apart from other factors, this too must have contributed greatly to the rapidly spreading use of moldmade plaques as votive offerings.

  • 5 For Crete f. M. Prent, Cretan sanctuaries and cults: continuity and change from Late Minoan IIIC to (...)

6During the Early Archaic period, one of the most popular subjects of moldmade terracottas is the standing female figure (Fig. 1-2, 5). Plaques of this type are attested as votive offerings in a wide range of sanctuaries from Asia Minor to the Greek colonies in the west. As already alluded to, mold-made terracottas in general and particularly the plaques in question here were mainly dedicated in cults related to female deities such as Athena, Artemis, Aphrodite, and Hera. Moreover, such plaques are frequently attested together with other inexpensive terracotta votives in cult places situated in urban or suburban locations. In these sanctuaries, which were apparently visited by a considerable portion of the local population, community-based ritual activities are likely to have been performed.5

  • 6 O. Pilz, “Find contexts of Archaic Cretan terracotta relief plaques. With a note on the Oxford plaq (...)

7The island of Crete not only played a key role in the transmission of the mold technique from the Near East to Greece, but it is also the richest source of moldmade plaques depicting facing female figures in the seventh century BC. At least 30 sites — most of them sanctuaries — producing such plaques have been identified. Praisos, Lato, Axos and in particular Gortyn seem to have been leading production centers, judging by the quantities of moldmade terracottas found there. With the exception of Lato, sanctuaries with large numbers of plaques are located in close range of these settlements.6 Outside Crete, the situation is somewhat different. In sanctuaries such as the Ephesian Artemision, the Samian Heraeum or the sanctuary of Artemis Orthia at Sparta, the naked type usually appears only in a few specimens. Plaques depicting dressed females, on the other hand, are generally not attested as early as in Crete, but only from the later seventh century BC onwards.

  • 7 St. Böhm, Die nackte Gottin. Zur Ikonographie und Deutung unbekleideter weiblicher Figuren in der f (...)

8As already noted, previous research has mainly focused on the plaques showing naked female figures. In her thorough study on the so-called Naked Goddess in Early Greek art, St. Böhm suggested that both meaning and function of the Greek plaques largely corresponded to those of their Near Eastern counterparts. Interpreting the frequently attested gestures pointing to the sexual organs as reference to the organs’function in connection with childbirth and nursing, Böhm argued that the plaques were associated with female fecundity, pregnancy, motherhood and women’s sexual life in general. According to Böhm, such plaques would therefore represent suitable votive offerings for female worshipers.7

  • 8 G. Rizza, V.S.M. Scrinari, Il santuario sull’acropoli di Gortina I, Rome, 1968, p. 161, no 60a, fig (...)
  • 9 Rizza, Scrinari, o.c. (n. 8), p. 162-163, no 66a, pl. 12.
  • 10 Pilz, o.c. (n. 4), p. 161.

9This debate has largely neglected the fact that plaques showing naked figures were almost immediately followed by specimens depicting dressed females. One of the stylistically earliest moldmade plaques found in the sanctuary of Athena at Gortyn shows a naked figure with an extremly elongated triangular face (Fig. 1).8 A second plaque fragment depicting a dressed female (Fig. 2) is only slightly later, as the equally elongated but somewhat fuller face indicates.9 It is important to stress that plaques depicting naked and dressed figures regularly appear together in the same votive assemblages.10 Furthermore, the same gestures of placing the hands on the breasts or the pubic area occur with both naked and dressed figures. It is therefore necessary to treat these two groups not separately but as a single class. Regarding their role in ritual practice, broadly similar but probably not identical functions for both variants can be assumed.

  • 11 H. Cassimatis, «Figurines dédaliques de Gortyne. Essai de typologie», BCH 106 (1982), p. 453, 461; (...)
  • 12 Prent, o.c. (n. 5), p. 480-481, 635-636.
  • 13 Prent, o.c. (n. 5), p. 487.
  • 14 For a general account, cf. M. D’Acunto, “Gortina, il santuario protoarcaico sull’acropoli di Haghio (...)

10Elaborating on ideas first expressed by H. Cassimatis,11 M. Prent recently argued that such plaques, emphasizing the beauty of the youthful female body, might betray a special association with young, unmarried women and their sexuality. Therefore, according to Prent, plaques of this type could have been dedicated in connection with rituals accompanying girls’transition from childhood to maturity.12 The nudity of the figures is interpreted by Prent as an allusion to a “desired or expected state of sexual attractiveness”.13 In the case of the sanctuary of Athena at the acropolis of Gortyn, where large numbers of plaques depicting naked and dressed females were dedicated, Cassimatis has noted that votives referring to pregnancy and motherhood are completely absent.14 Hence, both Cassimatis and Prent concluded that the rituals carried out in the sanctuary must have centered on young, unmarried women.

  • 15 Prent, o.c. (n. 5), p. 331-332, noΒ.59.
  • 16 Cf. D’Acunto, l.c. (n. 14), p. 215-217.
  • 17 Both Cassimatis and Prent refer to a type showing a dressed female carrying a circular object on he (...)

11It is interesting to see that in Prent’s approach, initiation is now universally applied in the interpretation of the plaques, virtually excluding any other explanation in regard to their function. Although Prent’s suggestions are very intriguing, the evidence presented to strengthen her case remains largely circumstantial. This is partly due to the fact that literary sources referring to female initiation are rare and hardly ever tell us anything about votive dedication in connection with such rituals. Regarding the points made by Prent, it is questionable whether the absence of votives associated with pregnancy and motherhood really indicates that the rituals involving the plaques in question must have mainly concerned young women. Votives related to childbirth as well as kourotrophic imagery are in general scarcely attested in cult places of Athena throughout the Greek world. Other Cretan sanctuaries, however, for instance the cult cave of Eileithyia at Inatos, have yielded terracottas depicting naked females as well as pregnant women and kourotrophic figures.15 It is therefore evident that the range of votives dedicated in a sanctuary depends to a large extent on the deity’s specific area of responsibility. Nevertheless, in an important suburban cult place such as the sanctuary of Athena at the acropolis of Gortyn, rituals are likely to have been performed on many different occasions. Furthermore, a considerable portion of the local community is supposed to have taken part in these rituals. As a result, the votives dedicated in a sanctuary of this type are most probably associated with a great variety of concerns. In fact, the cult of Athena at the acropolis of Gortyn seems to have evolved from the veneration of an all-powerful goddess ruling over both nature and human beings.16 Apart from the few plaque types that seem to show young girls with hardly defined breasts,17 there are many other types depicting naked and dressed women with more fully developed breasts. Consequently, the youthful appearance of the idealized female figures cannot be interpreted as an actual reference to the age of their dedicants, and it would be unwise to exclusively link these images to a specific age group.

  • 18 Böhm, o.c. (n. 7), p. 22-23; C. Bonnet, V. Pirenne-Delforge, «‘Cet obscur objet du désir. La nudité (...)
  • 19 Cf., e.g., a bronze horse ornament from the Samian Heraeum dating to the eighth, if not even late n (...)
  • 20 E. Kunze, Kretische Bron%ereliefs, Stuttgart, 1931, p. 7-8, no 5, pl. 7-8; Ρ. Blome, Die figurliche (...)
  • 21 Kunze, o.c. (n. 20), p. 247. Cf. Blome, o.c. (n. 20), p. 15-27.
  • 22 Cf. Prent, o.c. (n. 5), p. 369.

12In order to discuss an interpretation recently proposed by N. Marinatos, the origins of the iconographic scheme referred to as the ‘Naked Goddess’should be briefly considered here. It has rightly been recognized that a distinction must be made between the strongly Orientalizing representations of the so-called Naked Goddess and naked female terracotta and bronze figurines of Geometric style. Whereas in the latter case nudity was primarily used to indicate the sex of the figure,18 the pronounced nudity of the Orientalizing figures clearly points to a different meaning of this feature. The motif was probably introduced through imported Near Eastern bronze items19 and quickly adopted by Greek craftsmen. On a bronze shield from the Idaean cave a ‘Naked Goddess’holding lotus stems appears between sphinxes (Fig. 3).20 Kunze assigned this shield to his Group Β (‘Jagdschildgruppe’), which he convincingly dated to the late eighth century BC.21 Items such as precious bronze shields have strong elite male connotations. In a sanctuary context they are therefore best understood as votive offerings of leading members of the aristocracy.22

  • 23 N. Marinatos, The goddess and the warrior: the Naked Goddess and Mistress of Animals in early Greek (...)
  • 24 Cf. O. Keel, Chr. Uehlinger, Gods, goddesses, and images of God in ancient Israel, Edinburgh, 1998, (...)
  • 25 Marinatos, o.c. (n. 23), p. 27-28.

13Referring to Near Eastern iconographic and textual evidence, N. Marinatos recently interpreted the nudity of divine females, formerly seen in connection with fertility, as an attribute of their powerful and dangerous sexuality. Stressing the possible protective and apotropaic properties of such divinities, she interprets the ‘Naked Goddess’depicted on weapons and horse ornaments as a patroness of warriors.23 According to Marinatos, this specific meaning also applied to the naked females appearing on Early Archaic moldmade plaques. The ‘Naked Goddess’is considered by Marinatos as one of the aspects of a powerful female deity overseeing the initiation of male adolescents into their role as warriors. Accepting the presumed association of their Near Eastern counterparts with female initiation,24 Marinatos proposes that the Greek plaques depicting naked females might have been dedicated by male adolescents as well.25

  • 26 For male initiation at Kato Syme cf. A. Lebessi, Τ ερ το ρμη ϰαί τς ϕροδίτης στ Σύμη Βιάννο (...)
  • 27 Marinatos, o.c. (n. 23), p. 67-78.
  • 28 Bonnet, Pirenne-Delforge, l.c. (n. 18), p. 869.

14Not to mention the general difficulties of her cross-cultural approach, Marinatos’suggestion in regard to the function of the plaques is highly questionable. Typological similarities, particularly in a diachronic perspective, do simply not imply an identical role in cult practice. Furthermore, if plaques showing naked females had played a significant role in rituals of male initiation, one should expect to find them in considerable numbers in sanctuaries where such rites are actually attested, for instance in Kato Syme.26 Since this seems not to be the case, it is rather unlikely that such votives were related to male elite initiation. Moreover, Temple A at Prinias, though repeatedly mentioned by Marinatos as evidence for the association of a Potnia Theron with the initiation of young warriors,27 did not yield any moldmade plaques. As the idealized representations of female figures on the plaques probably imply a certain degree of identification between this imagery and the donors,28 it would be much more appropriate to assume that they were dedicated by female worshipers in the first place.

  • 29 E. Kunze, “Zu den Anfangen der griechischen Plastik”, MDAI(A) 55 (1930), p. 147-148, nos 1-5, fig. (...)
  • 30 Böhm, o.c. (n. 7), p. 25-27.
  • 31 K.D.S. Lapatin, Chryselephantine statuary in the ancient Mediterranean world, Oxford, 2001, p. 44-4 (...)
  • 32 For the high esteem of ivory, cf. Lapatin, o.c. (n. 31), p. 46, with further references.
  • 33 J.N. Coldstream, H.W. Catling (eds.), Knossos North Cemetery: early Greek tombs, London, 1996 (BSA, (...)

15Already in the Geometric period, there is, in fact, evidence for a close relation between the motif of the naked female figure and the female sphere. A grave in the Kerameikos, possibly a female burial, yielded at least five ivory figurines dated by the ceramic context no later than 730/20 BC.29 The largest statuette measuring 24 cm is also the best preserved (Fig. 4). Even though locally produced, the TDpylon ivories’are clearly inspired by handle figures of Near Eastern ivory items such as mirrors or fans.30 The figurines are often treated as free-standing, but technical features indicate that they served, as their Oriental prototypes, as handles or attachements.31 Although the grave context is not particularly rich, the precious material of the figurines again suggests elite connotations.32 In Crete, fragments of similar female ivory figurines, belonging to toiletry articles or luxury furniture, came to light in a Knossian chamber tomb and the Idaean cave.33 Due to the fragmentary state of preservation and the fact that the ivories from the Idaean cave are not yet fully published, the question whether there are local imitations among the female figures is still a matter of debate.

16As we have seen, throughout the Geometric period representations of Orientalizing naked female figures occur predominantely on luxury items. Such items, usually appearing in sanctuaries and rich tombs, played an important role in the social articulation of elite groups. Since precious ivory items, in particular toiletry articles, clearly point to the female sphere, the Orientalizing ‘Naked Goddess ‘was by no means exclusively associated with male warriors. It is, however, difficult to determine to what extent the naked handle figures of items such as mirrors or fans had any religious meaning to their Greek owners. Certainly, a general allusion to female beauty and youthfulness is evident.

  • 34 A. Snodgrass, Archaic Greece, London, 1980, p. 52-54; I. Morris, Burial and ancient society: the ri (...)
  • 35 For Crete cf. Prent, o.c. (n. 5), p. 240.

17But yet, how can the sudden appearance of moldmade terracottas depicting Orientalizing naked females in the early seventh century BC be explained? Above all, the phenomenon must be considered in the context of major changes in votive behavior taking place during this period. Generally, from Late Geometric times onward, a considerable increase in the number of votive offerings is attested in numerous Greek sanctuaries.34 Closely linked to this process is the appearance of new votive types frequently consisting of rather inexpensive materials. In the same period, the wider diffusion of iconographic motifs formerly associated almost exclusively with the aristocratic elite can be detected.35 This dissemination of motifs is not limited to Orientalizing representations but involves the whole range of symbolic imagery previously linked to the elite sphere.

18The case of the terracotta plaques depicting Orientalizing naked female figures is best suited to illustrate the interrelation between these developments. As a new votive type, relief plaques were mass-produced, using molds, in cheap and easily available material. The comparison with the ‘Dipylon ivories’clearly shows that the plaques reproduce an iconographic scheme already known from locally made luxury items. Consequently, the appearance of the plaques might have been related in the first place to a local demand for readily available votives showing elite imagery. It seems therefore very likely that the earliest moldmade figurines depicting naked females imitate ivory carvings, in particular handle figures of toiletry articles. A technical detail can possibly provide additional evidence for this suggestion. The cream-colored slip of the already mentioned plaque from Gortyn (Fig. 1) could have been applicated to imitate the appearance of its ivory prototypes.

  • 36 Cf. Prent, o.c. (n. 5), p. 483-484, with further references. For a more general view, cf. Bonnet, P (...)
  • 37 For the warrior figurines, cf. M. Byrne, The Greek Geometric warrior figurine: interpretation and o (...)

19In marked contrast to their presumed prototypes in ivory, the terracotta figurines did not serve as parts of implements but were produced as independent votive offerings. It is, however, important to emphasize that the presumed typological dependency on the ivory figurines does not determine either the meaning or the function of the plaques. In addition, one should keep in mind that the functions of a votive type were not necessarily the same throughout the whole period of its occurrence. Whereas the earliest plaques were perhaps simply produced to satisfy the demand for objects resembling luxury items, they could have subsequently assumed different functions in connection with specific rituals. Yet, it is questionable whether the naked figures on the plaques have ever been associated with ‘cultic’nudity in the context of initiation rituals. In Crete, at least, the scarce evidence for the changing of garments and nudity in the context of maturity rites seems to be confined to male initiation.36 As we have seen, the earliest plaques showing naked females were almost immediately followed by a dressed variant. This might best be explained as an adaptation to the demands of certain groups of worshipers. On a more general level of interpretation, richly dressed female figures, similarly to bronze and clay statuettes of warriors,37 are likely to reflect a generic social role model. It is apparent that both meaning and function of the moldmade plaques in question are not clearly defined from the moment they first appear, but have gradually evolved as the result of a rather complex development.

  • 38 P.J. Riis, “The Syrian Astarte plaques and their western connections”, Berytus 9 (1949), p. 69-90; (...)

20The suggestions made here partly contradict the widely accepted opinion that Greek moldmade plaques typologically depend on their Near Eastern counterparts.38 Although this view is generally accepted, it is questionable whether there was a direct connection between meaning and function of Near Eastern and Greek plaques. According to the model proposed here, only a very loose association, namely the use of molds for the production of the plaques, can be assumed. For these reasons, any interpretation of the Early Archaic plaques showing naked female figures largely based on the presumed meaning of their Near Eastern counterparts should be dismissed. Since votive offerings assume a specific function only in the context of contemporary ritual practice, diachronic, not to mention cross-cultural approaches to the understanding of their role are not at all helpful.

  • 39 R.M. Ammerman, “The naked standing goddess: a group of Archaic terracotta figurines from Paestum”, (...)
  • 40 V.K. Müller, Der Polos, die griechische Gotterkrone, Berlin, 1915, p. 84, 102-103. For a contrary v (...)
  • 41 Hes., Th., 578.
  • 42 Unpublished. Cf. Pilz, o.c. (n. 4), p. 35, 167, 327, no Un III/12, pl. 8, 5.
  • 43 Hom., Il. XVII, 597.
  • 44 E. Simon, “Hera und die Nymphen. Ein bootischer Polos in Stockholm”, RA (1972), p. 205-220.

21As already noted, the attempt to identify the figures on the plaques with Olympian deities has rightly been abandoned in recent years. Nevertheless, the interpretation of the plaques is still often reduced to the question whether they depict either deities or worshipers. For various reasons, such an approach seems far too simplistic. Since attributes are lacking except for some figures with poloi, a ready identification with a specific deity was obviously neither possible nor intended. On the other hand, it cannot be excluded that the females depicted on the plaques could sometimes be identified with a goddess in the context of a specific cult. In this regard, there is still a tendency to see the polos as an attribute indicating the divine character of the figures.39 However, it is hard to prove that this headgear was worn exclusively by divinities. In the Homeric-Hesiodic epics, the words στέφανος and στεφάνη probably refer to cylindrical headgear not only of female divinities, but also of mortal women engaged in cultic activities.40 In the Hesiodic Theogony, Pandora is crowned with a στεφάνη decorated with land and sea monsters.41 Interestingly, poloi of early moldmade figures are occasionally decorated, for instance with heraldic sphinxes or griffins (Fig. 5).42 It is therefore possible that Hesiod referred to some high cylindrical headgear. Consequently, in the case of the Knossian girls performing a cult dance mentioned in the Iliad, we cannot exclude either that the term στεφάνη refers to some headgear similar to what we would call a polos.43 In addition, E. Simon suggested that poloi might have served as bridal crowns in the context of cultic celebrations.44

22

  • 45 For the different types cf. K.McK Elderkin, “Joint dolls in Antiquity”, AJA 34 (1930), p. 455-479; (...)
  • 46 Cf. V. Dasen, «Les lieux de l’enfance», in H. Harich-Schwarzbauer, Th. Späth (eds.), Gender-Studies (...)
  • 47 Π. Καστριώτης, Ανάγλυϕα πιτύμβια μετά πλαγγόνος”, AEphem (1909), p. 123, no ς’, fig. 4; Ch.W. Cla (...)
  • 48 J. Larson, Greek nymphs: myth, cult, lore, Oxford, New York, 2001, p. 101-102.
  • 49 For a different view, cf. Dasen, l.c. (n. 46), p. 68: “Plusieurs détails suggèrent que la plupart d (...)
  • 50 A Hellenistic epigram (Anth. Pal. VI, 280) has been cited as evidence for the offering of dolls on (...)
  • 51 Anth. Pal. VI, 309: Philokles dedicates various toys to Hermes.

23Previous research has completely neglected several features linking the plaques in question with an interesting class of objects of a somewhat later date, usually referred to as ‘dolls’. Dolls were produced in different materials, but only the seated or standing terracotta figurines, whose limbs are occasionally truncated or separately attached, have been preserved.45 Just like the figures depicted on the plaques, dolls may wearpoloi and occur both naked and dressed. Doll-like objects have been found not only in sanctuaries — frequently dedicated to female deities — but also in tombs.46 Moreover, on a number of Attic grave reliefs of the late fifth and fourth centuries BC, girls and young women are represented holding dolls or playing with them (Fig. 6).47 As J. Larson has rightly observed, no distinction can be made between the doll figurines with truncated limbs and other dolls in regard to their function.48 Therefore, doll-like objects should generally be interpreted as toys, which could also function as votive offerings.49 Although the scanty literary evidence for the specific case of the dolls is disputed,50 it is occasionally attested that toys were dedicated when adolescents reached maturity.51

  • 52 J. Reilly, “Naked and limbless: learning about the feminine body in ancient Athens”, in A.O. Kolosk (...)
  • 53 W. Burkert, Griechische Religion der archaischen undkkassischen Epoche, Stuttgart, 1977, p. 236, 26 (...)
  • 54 Schol. Theoc., Id. II, 110d: δαγδες ϕροδίτης πειϰονίσματα. Cf. Larson, o.c. (n. 48), p. 105, 106 (...)
  • 55 C. Calame, Choruses of young women in ancient Greece, Lanham, 1997,passim.

24As toys, naked doll-like objects were probably dressed by the young girls playing with them. Similarly to the plaques, the nudity of the dolls might have been related to their socializing function, which was recently emphazised by J. Reilly.52 According to Reilly, the naked dolls in particular, representing anatomically correct reproductions of the female body, would have helped the girls in their sexual maturation. As idealized images of females at a nubile age, doll figurines might have foreshadowed the future social role of young girls as brides. In this context it is interesting to see that one of the ancient Greek terms for ‘doll’νύμφη also means ‘bride’.53 Again, the aspect of identification between the idealized representation and the owner or votary might have played an important role. As already mentioned, poloi might have been worn as bridal crowns, and one wonders whether there is a connection between this attribute and the abovementioned nuptial connotations of the dolls. On the other hand, it is literarily attested that doll-like objects could have represented Aphrodite and probably also nymphs or other goddesses.54 Interestingly, many dolls hold cymbals or krotala and have been interpreted as dancers or chorus members. As chorus members, the doll figurines possibly reflect not only divine choruses of nymphs, but also human choruses made up of young women. C. Calame has shown that choruses of male and female adolescents taking part in religious festivals are an essential element in socializing young members of the society.55 More clearly as in the case of the plaques, we can see with the dolls how ambiguous the distinction between the divine and the human sphere is.

  • 56 V. Pirenne-Delforge, «L’Aphrodite greque: le < dossier cretois >«, in S. Ribichini, M. Rocchi, P. X (...)

25Even though it cannot be argued that the moldmade plaques were used as toys in analogy to the dolls, several similarities regarding the role of such objects in the socializing process of girls and female adolescents have been pointed out. Whereas the youthful naked figures depicted on the plaques allude to female beauty and sexual attractivness, the elaborately dressed females more clearly reflect a social role model. In this sense, plaques showing naked and dressed female figures might have been precursors of the later doll figurines, especially in regard to their role in the construction of gender. Nevertheless, the idealized females depicted on the plaques do not justify linking them to a specific age group. It is therefore highly improbable that plaques of this type were exclusively dedicated by young girls in connection with rites of maturity. Similarly to the doll-like objects, the naked and dressed females depicted on the plaques might have been occasionally identified with a specific goddess. However, as in the case of the warrior figures, the aspect of identification between donor and votive must have played an important role. In this regard, V. Pirenne-Delforge convincingly argued that the gestures of both warriors and female figures depicted on the plaques point to the underlying gender concept. Whereas swinging a spear or holding a shield emphasizes warlike qualities, touching the breasts and/or the pubic area may indicate concern with sexual maturation, childbirth, or motherhood.56 Although we cannot exclude that plaques of this type were occasionally dedicated by male worshipers, they are better understood as typical votive offerings of female donors. The dedication of such votives most likely involved a wider range of concerns, probably including human fecundity as well as female sexuality and health in general. Typological similarities with Oriental and locally made ivory figurines serving as handles of toiletry articles indicate that the moldmade terracotta plaques might have been initially produced to satisfy an increasing demand for imagery with elite connotations. Accordingly, it must be emphasized that the above-mentioned functions of the plaques in question probably evolved only gradually over a longer period of time. Although it is difficult to gain insight in this process, the moldmade plaques depicting naked and dressed females may nevertheless attest that both meaning and function of a votive type are not invariable characteristics, but subject to change in the course of time.

Captions

26Fig. 1 Terracotta relief plaque from Gortyn (Heraklion, Arch. Mus. 11298)

27Fig. 2 Terracotta relief plaque from Gortyn (Heraklion, Arch. Mus. 11291)

28Fig. 3 Bronze shield form the Idaean cave (Heraklion, Arch. Mus. 6)

29Fig. 4 Ivory figure (Athens, Nat. Mus. 776)

30Fig. 5 Terracotta relief plaque from Crete (Athen, Benaki Mus. 31173)

31Fig. 6 Attic grave relief (Athens, Nat. Mus. 2771 )

List of Illustrations

32Fig. 1 SAIA Neg. B/6715

33Fig. 2 SAIA Neg. B/6714

34Fig. 3 D-DAI-ATH-Kreta 234 (E. Kunze)

35Fig. 4 D-DAI-ATH-NM 3282 (H. Wagner)

36Fig. 5 Photo Athens, Benaki Museum

37Fig. 6 D-DAI-ATH-Grabrelief 640

Notes

1 Cf. K. Waldner, Geburt und Hochzeit des Kriegers. Geschlechterdifferenz und Initiation in Mjthos und Ritual dergriechischen Polis, Berlin, New York, 2000 (RGVV, 46), p. 39-44; F. Graf, “Initiation. A concept with a troubled history”, in D.B. Brooks, Chr. A. Faraone (eds.), Initiation in ancient Greek rituals and narratives: new critical perspectives, London, 2003, p. 3-24.

2 Waldner, o.c. (n. 1), p. 44-45; W. Burkert, s.v. «Initiation», ThesCRA II (2004), p. 118.

3 A. Muller, «Artisans, techniques de production et diffusion: le cas de la coroplathie», in F. Blonde, A. Muller (eds.), L’artisanat en Grèce ancienne: les productions, les diffusions. Actes du Colloque de Lyon (10-11 décembre 1998), Lille, 2000, p. 94-96; G. Salapata, “Greek votive plaques: manufacture, display, disposal”, BABesch 77 (2002), p. 22.

4 Cf. O. Pilz, Matrizengeformte Terrakotten der spàtgeometrischen undfruharchaischen Zeit auf Kreta, unpublished PhD thesis, Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, 2008, p. 44-45, 192-195.

5 For Crete f. M. Prent, Cretan sanctuaries and cults: continuity and change from Late Minoan IIIC to the Archaic period, Leiden, 2005 (RGRW, 154), p. 477-478, 633.

6 O. Pilz, “Find contexts of Archaic Cretan terracotta relief plaques. With a note on the Oxford plaques from Papoura”, in G. Deligiannakis, I. Galanakis (eds.), Aegean Koine: a diachronic approach to the Aegean world and its cultures, 3000 BC — AD 2000. Graduate workshop, University of Oxford, 22-23 April 2005, in press.

7 St. Böhm, Die >nackte Gottin<. Zur Ikonographie und Deutung unbekleideter weiblicher Figuren in der fruhgriechischen Kunst, Mainz, 1990, p. 136-137. In a recent paper, Böhm has additionally mentioned the possibility that the plaques played a role in girls’transition rites: St. Böhm, “The ‘Naked Goddess’in early Greek art: an orientalizing theme par excellence”, in N.Chr. Stampolidis, V. Karageorghis (eds.), Πλόες... Sea routes... Interconnections in the Mediterranean, 16th 6th c. BC. Proceedings of the International Symposium held at RRethymnon, Crete, September 29th October 2nd 2002, Athens, 2003, p. 367-368.

8 G. Rizza, V.S.M. Scrinari, Il santuario sull’acropoli di Gortina I, Rome, 1968, p. 161, no 60a, fig. 276a, 284, pl. 12.

9 Rizza, Scrinari, o.c. (n. 8), p. 162-163, no 66a, pl. 12.

10 Pilz, o.c. (n. 4), p. 161.

11 H. Cassimatis, «Figurines dédaliques de Gortyne. Essai de typologie», BCH 106 (1982), p. 453, 461; ead., «L’Athéna de Gortyne en Crète et son culte», in Akten des 13. International Kongresses fur Klassische Archàologie, Berlin, Mainz, 1990, p. 467-468.

12 Prent, o.c. (n. 5), p. 480-481, 635-636.

13 Prent, o.c. (n. 5), p. 487.

14 For a general account, cf. M. D’Acunto, “Gortina, il santuario protoarcaico sull’acropoli di Haghios Ioannis: una riconsiderazione”, ASAtene 80 (2002), p. 183-229; Prent, o.c. (n. 5), p. 267- 273, no Β.23.

15 Prent, o.c. (n. 5), p. 331-332, no Β.59.

16 Cf. D’Acunto, l.c. (n. 14), p. 215-217.

17 Both Cassimatis and Prent refer to a type showing a dressed female carrying a circular object on her head: Rizza, Scrinari, o.c. (n. 8), p. 176, no 167, pl. 26.

18 Böhm, o.c. (n. 7), p. 22-23; C. Bonnet, V. Pirenne-Delforge, «‘Cet obscur objet du désir. La nudité féminine entre Orient et Grèce», MEFRA 116 (2004) p. 853-856.

19 Cf., e.g., a bronze horse ornament from the Samian Heraeum dating to the eighth, if not even late ninth century BC: H. Kyrieleis, W. Röllig, “Ein altorientalischer Pferdeschmuck aus dem Heraion von Samos”, MDAI(A) 103 (1988), p. 37-75.

20 E. Kunze, Kretische Bron%ereliefs, Stuttgart, 1931, p. 7-8, no 5, pl. 7-8; Ρ. Blome, Die figurliche Bildwelt Kretas in dergeometrischen undfruharchaischen Periode, Mainz, 1982, 22, 71-73, pl. 7; Böhm, o.c. (n. 7), p. 153, no Β13, pl. 21a.

21 Kunze, o.c. (n. 20), p. 247. Cf. Blome, o.c. (n. 20), p. 15-27.

22 Cf. Prent, o.c. (n. 5), p. 369.

23 N. Marinatos, The goddess and the warrior: the Naked Goddess and Mistress of Animals in early Greek religion, London, New York, 2000, p. 18-24.

24 Cf. O. Keel, Chr. Uehlinger, Gods, goddesses, and images of God in ancient Israel, Edinburgh, 1998, p. 100; Chr. Uehlinger, s.v. «Nackte Gottin», RlA IX (1998-2001), col. 58-59.

25 Marinatos, o.c. (n. 23), p. 27-28.

26 For male initiation at Kato Syme cf. A. Lebessi, Τ ερ το ρμη ϰαί τς ϕροδίτης στ Σύμη Βιάννου I 1: Χάλϰινα ϰρητιϰ τορεύματα, Athens, 1985, p. 188-198; ead., Το Ίερο τοϋ Έρμη ϰαί της Αφροδίτης στη Σύμη Βιάννου III: Τ χάλϰινα νθρωπόμορφα εδώλια, Athens, 2002, p. 269-282; Prent, o.c. (n. 5), p. 577-580, 646-647.

27 Marinatos, o.c. (n. 23), p. 67-78.

28 Bonnet, Pirenne-Delforge, l.c. (n. 18), p. 869.

29 E. Kunze, “Zu den Anfangen der griechischen Plastik”, MDAI(A) 55 (1930), p. 147-148, nos 1-5, fig. 1, pl. 5-8; N. Himmelmann, Bemerkungen zur geometrischen Plastik, Berlin, 1964, p. 20, pl. 24-27; Böhm, o.c. (n. 7), p. 156-157, nos E1-E4, pl. 6-8. Cf. J.N. Coldstream, Greek Geometric pottery, London, 1968, p. 361.

30 Böhm, o.c. (n. 7), p. 25-27.

31 K.D.S. Lapatin, Chryselephantine statuary in the ancient Mediterranean world, Oxford, 2001, p. 44-45.

32 For the high esteem of ivory, cf. Lapatin, o.c. (n. 31), p. 46, with further references.

33 J.N. Coldstream, H.W. Catling (eds.), Knossos North Cemetery: early Greek tombs, London, 1996 (BSA, suppl. 28), p. 219, no 27, fig. 190, pl. 309; J.A. Sakellarakis, “The Idaean cave ivories”, in J.L. Fitton (ed.), Ivory in Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean from the Bronze Age to the Hellenistic period, London, 1993 (British Museum Occasional Papers, 53), p. 113-114, pl. 2-4; E. Rehm, “Elfenbeine”, in E.A. Braun-Holzinger, E. Rehm, Orientalischer Import in Griechenland im fruhen 1. Jahrtausend v. Chr., Munster, 2005 (AOAT, 328), p. 146-148, nos K12-K18, pl. 28-31.

34 A. Snodgrass, Archaic Greece, London, 1980, p. 52-54; I. Morris, Burial and ancient society: the rise of the Greek city-state, Cambridge, 1987, p. 190-192; F. de Polignac, Cults, territory, and the origins of the Greek city-state, Chicago, 1995, p. 14-15.

35 For Crete cf. Prent, o.c. (n. 5), p. 240.

36 Cf. Prent, o.c. (n. 5), p. 483-484, with further references. For a more general view, cf. Bonnet, Pirenne-Delforge, l.c. (n. 18), p. 848-849.

37 For the warrior figurines, cf. M. Byrne, The Greek Geometric warrior figurine: interpretation and origin, Louvain-la-Neuve, 1991.

38 P.J. Riis, “The Syrian Astarte plaques and their western connections”, Berytus 9 (1949), p. 69-90; Böhm, o.c. (n. 7), p. 81-86.

39 R.M. Ammerman, “The naked standing goddess: a group of Archaic terracotta figurines from Paestum”, AJA 95 (1991), p. 204; Bonnet, Pirenne-Delforge, l.c. (n. 18), p. 852, 568. For a different view, cf. Böhm, o.c. (n. 7), p. 137.

40 V.K. Müller, Der Polos, die griechische Gotterkrone, Berlin, 1915, p. 84, 102-103. For a contrary view, f. M. Bell III, Morgantina studies I: the terracottas, Princeton, 1981, p. 81-82.

41 Hes., Th., 578.

42 Unpublished. Cf. Pilz, o.c. (n. 4), p. 35, 167, 327, no Un III/12, pl. 8, 5.

43 Hom., Il. XVII, 597.

44 E. Simon, “Hera und die Nymphen. Ein bootischer Polos in Stockholm”, RA (1972), p. 205-220.

45 For the different types cf. K.McK Elderkin, “Joint dolls in Antiquity”, AJA 34 (1930), p. 455-479; R.A. Higgins, Catalogue of the terracottas in the British Museum I, London, 1954, nos 683, 701, 734, 909, 959, 973; J. Dörig, “Von griechischen Puppen”, AK1 (1958), p. 41-52.

46 Cf. V. Dasen, «Les lieux de l’enfance», in H. Harich-Schwarzbauer, Th. Späth (eds.), Gender-Studies in den Altertumswissenschaften. Raume und Geschlechter in der Antike, Trier, 2005, p. 68-69.

47 Π. Καστριώτης, Ανάγλυϕα πιτύμβια μετά πλαγγόνος”, AEphem (1909), p. 123, no ς’, fig. 4; Ch.W. Clairmont, Classical Attic tombstones I, Kilchberg, 1993, p. 309, no 1.312, fig. For an overview of these grave reliefs, cf. O. Cavalier, «Une stèle attique classique au Musée Calvet d’Avignon», La Revue du Louvre et des Musées de France 4 (1988), p. 285-293.

48 J. Larson, Greek nymphs: myth, cult, lore, Oxford, New York, 2001, p. 101-102.

49 For a different view, cf. Dasen, l.c. (n. 46), p. 68: “Plusieurs détails suggèrent que la plupart des figurines n’ont probablement jamais servi de divertissement profane.”

50 A Hellenistic epigram (Anth. Pal. VI, 280) has been cited as evidence for the offering of dolls on the occasion of the prenuptial sacrifice (proteleia). However, it has been proposed to read ϰόμας (hair) instead of ϰόρας (doll) by G. Daux, «Les ambiguïtés du grec KORH», CRAI (1973), p. 389-393; id., «Anth. Pal. VI 280 (Poupées et chevelure, Artémis Limnatis)», ZPE 12 (1973), p. 225-229.

51 Anth. Pal. VI, 309: Philokles dedicates various toys to Hermes.

52 J. Reilly, “Naked and limbless: learning about the feminine body in ancient Athens”, in A.O. Koloski-Ostrow, C.L. Lyons (eds.), Naked truths: woman, sexuality and gender in Classical art and archaeology, London, New York, 1997, p. 154-173.

53 W. Burkert, Griechische Religion der archaischen undkkassischen Epoche, Stuttgart, 1977, p. 236, 269.

54 Schol. Theoc., Id. II, 110d: δαγδες ϕροδίτης πειϰονίσματα. Cf. Larson, o.c. (n. 48), p. 105, 106-107.

55 C. Calame, Choruses of young women in ancient Greece, Lanham, 1997,passim.

56 V. Pirenne-Delforge, «L’Aphrodite greque: le < dossier cretois >«, in S. Ribichini, M. Rocchi, P. Xella (eds.), La questione delle influenze vicino-orientali sulla religione greca. Stato degli studi e prospettive della ricerca. Atti del Colloquio internazionale, Roma, 20-22 maggio 1999, Rome, 2001, p. 179.

Notes de fin

1 I would like to thank A. Babbi, J.D. Baumbach, J. Larson, A. Muller, and V. Pirenne-Delforge for discussion and useful comments. Furthermore, I am grateful to I. Keller and A. Theodoris for correcting and improving the English text.

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Auteur

German Archaeological Institut at Athens
1 Fidiou St.
GR —10678 Athens
E-mail:oliver.pilz@web.de

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