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149 “HEAD HUNTING” IN CYPRUS Lone Wriedt Sørensen e fascination with heads through time is well documented in the mate- rial culture. Heads appear, for instance, as fictive renderings of gods, as more or less realistic portraits of humans, as masks and apotropaic sym- bols, and in some societies they are even depicted as war trophies. Heads, particularly when rendered en face, have an arresting effect on the beholder because they engage with him or her. As demonstrated in early rock art, in drawings produced by children of a certain age group in Western socie- ties and by members of tribal societies unfamiliar with figural depictions, the head is typically a focus element in drawings by humans. According to Sütterlin, and others, this is not just a social or cultural but rather an evolved phenomenon, and “humans are depicted according to a rudimen- tary symmetrical concept underlying our perception of a human being”. 1 When Cypriot painters of the Archaic period suddenly chose to decorate pottery with only heads and faces, they must have done so in response to certain demands among contemporary purchasers. Yet, these heads and faces do not lend themselves to a quick interpretation. ey appear on a series of Cypro-Archaic I (CA I) vases (750–600 BC) of the so-called Picto- rial Style that was produced in Cyprus from the early Iron Age. e vases are painted, using the White Painted (WP) or Bichrome (BC) technique, with frontal heads and faces and large eyes, nose and mouth predominat- ing, and they form a small but far from homogenous group. Setting aside earlier interpretations, the following analysis proposes a new reading of these vases that is more rooted in a Cypriot context. Heads drawn as pro- file protomes appear only in four instances, 2 and although they differ from one another and apparently defy a mutual interpretation, they may still be understood within the local complex cultural framework. Heads could also form part of figural scenes, as demonstrated by a single vase paint- ing that shows a chariot with warriors and two heads suspended from the chariot pole (Fig. 13).e scene seems to refer to contemporary war cus- toms known in other areas, if not in Cyprus, and together with other vase paintings it demonstrates the plurality expressed by this particular media.

"Head hunting" in Cyprus

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“HEAD HUNTING” IN CYPRUSLone Wriedt Sørensen

The fascination with heads through time is well documented in the mate-rial culture. Heads appear, for instance, as fictive renderings of gods, as more or less realistic portraits of humans, as masks and apotropaic sym-bols, and in some societies they are even depicted as war trophies. Heads, particularly when rendered en face, have an arresting effect on the beholder because they engage with him or her. As demonstrated in early rock art, in drawings produced by children of a certain age group in Western socie-ties and by members of tribal societies unfamiliar with figural depictions, the head is typically a focus element in drawings by humans. According to Sütterlin, and others, this is not just a social or cultural but rather an evolved phenomenon, and “humans are depicted according to a rudimen-tary symmetrical concept underlying our perception of a human being”.1

When Cypriot painters of the Archaic period suddenly chose to decorate pottery with only heads and faces, they must have done so in response to certain demands among contemporary purchasers. Yet, these heads and faces do not lend themselves to a quick interpretation. They appear on a series of Cypro-Archaic I (CA I) vases (750–600 BC) of the so-called Picto-rial Style that was produced in Cyprus from the early Iron Age. The vases are painted, using the White Painted (WP) or Bichrome (BC) technique, with frontal heads and faces and large eyes, nose and mouth predominat-ing, and they form a small but far from homogenous group. Setting aside earlier interpretations, the following analysis proposes a new reading of these vases that is more rooted in a Cypriot context. Heads drawn as pro-file protomes appear only in four instances,2 and although they differ from one another and apparently defy a mutual interpretation, they may still be understood within the local complex cultural framework. Heads could also form part of figural scenes, as demonstrated by a single vase paint-ing that shows a chariot with warriors and two heads suspended from the chariot pole (Fig. 13).The scene seems to refer to contemporary war cus-toms known in other areas, if not in Cyprus, and together with other vase paintings it demonstrates the plurality expressed by this particular media.


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Heads or faces depicted en face appear on various different vessel shapes – including an amphora, a hydria, two dinoi, a jug and a bowl – illustrating that these vessels were not produced just for one specific purpose, such as, for example, libation. Nor are the heads/faces drawn in an identical man-ner, and some of them are accompanied by other figures. On a large BC IV amphora from Amathus, two heads described as male, with red beards, are painted beneath the handles (Fig. 1). They both seem to be wearing a diadem decorated with alternating red and white triangles around the forehead, above which a row of untidy black and red tufts of hair stands upright.3 Another face is painted on the neck of a WP IV hydria (Fig. 2) that seems to be sporting an Assyrian style of beard. This face is flanked by objects that Karageorghis suggests look like necklaces although he con-cludes, however, that they are probably meant to be ears, and that the painter was making an effort to humanize the vessel through the painted face.4

Two heads on a BC IV–V dinos (Fig. 3) are likewise described as beard-ed.5 One is equipped with a similar Assyrian-looking, pointed beard and is accompanied by two horned quadrupeds, while the other, with a heavy

Fig. 1. BC IV amphora from Amathus (after Louca 2000, fig. 2).


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rounded outline, is flanked by vertical cross-hatched “triglyphs”. Thin horizontal lines, perhaps diadems like those on the amphora heads, mark the upper termination of the heads. The red line drawn around the nose and the eyes of both faces probably mean nothing, as similar red lines are drawn on either side of the head with the pointed beard and along the

Fig. 2. WP IV hydria from the Kourion region (after CCSF, X.2)


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Fig. 3. BC IV–V dinos from the Paphos region (after CCSFS, SX.2).

backs of the animals. The outline of a face on a BC IV jug (Fig. 4) is also quite heavy, and, as in the case of the dinos head, it is difficult to decide if it is meant to be male or female. This is likewise the case with the frontal heads on the two vessels in Figs. 5–6. The red areas on the cheeks may indicate a facial decoration, like the red spots on the six heads/faces with square mouths painted on the dinos in Fig. 5. Five of these faces have a V-shaped outline with a zigzag line above, perhaps indicating the hair line, a band or a diadem. This is absent from the sixth head which is drawn in full outline with short strokes, perhaps marking the hair on the top of the head. The last frontal head I will discuss is depicted on the inside of a small WP bowl from Amathus, the only open vessel shape of the group (Fig. 6).6

In sum, the heads are painted on different types of vessels and display different details. The full outline of the scull is drawn on only one of the dinos heads (Fig. 5) and on the head on the small bowl (Fig. 6). Except


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for the head on the hydria (Fig. 2), and at least one of those on the dinos (Fig. 3), it is difficult to decide whether we are dealing with female or male heads. In the Greek world, frontal heads or faces in particular are charac-teristic of images of Gorgo/Medusa and of satyrs. In his consideration of the heads in Figs. 3 and 4 as masks inspired by real masks worn during ritual ceremonies,7 Karageorghis found that the heads on Fig. 3 are similar to Humbaba or Phoenician grotesque masks, while the terrifying head on Fig. 4 recalls the head of Medusa.8 Louca focused on the large square red mouths of the faces on the other dinos (Fig. 5) and the jug (Fig. 4), inter-preting them as mouths opened in a prolonged cry. She also agreed that they are inspired by masks worn during ritual ceremonies and that they evoke Medusa or a Gorgo.9 Subsequently, when discussing the heads on Fig. 1, she suggested that they have an apotropaic significance.

Depictions of frontal heads or faces are often attributed an apotropaic and protective significance, but an interpretation of some of the Cypriot ones presented here as images of Humbaba, Gorgons or Medusa herself may be questioned. Observed through Greek lenses, the Gorgo/Medusa identification may seem reasonable, although the Cypriot faces lack the

Fig. 4. BC IV jug from the Famagusta region (after CCSFS, SX.1).


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characteristic feline features of the Gorgons, and it should be remembered that in the Greek area other beings, including humans, are also depicted with heads en face.10 Even more significantly, according to the extant mate-rial evidence, Gorgons did not play a prominent role in Cyprus during the CA I period or earlier. It is only later that depictions of heads which may be interpreted as such creatures appear on seals, jewelry and, in a single case, on the apron of a statue belonging to the Egyptianizing group.11 The iden-tification of some of the heads as representations of Humbaba is likewise questionable. Humbaba is usually depicted with grotesque facial features resembling entrails, and such images were known from other contexts in Cyprus as demonstrated by the finials on the ivory bed found in a tomb at Salamis and the clay masks found in sanctuaries.12 The Near Eastern ancestry of the Greek Gorgo, and the correspondences between the legends of Medusa and Perseus and Gilgamesh and Humbaba have been widely discussed over the years.13 Leaving aside the lack of the same grotesque facial features, it cannot be excluded that in a mixed society like that on Cyprus, the anonymous faces on the pots could, in certain contexts and depending upon the disposition of the observer, be interpreted as either Gorgo or Humbaba.

If the suggested identifications of the painted heads/faces are rejected, how are we, then, to interpret them in a Cypriot context? Perhaps a series of vases produced during the 6th century BC at Amathus on the south coast of the island may prove useful, although they are later than most of the vas-es presented here. The Amathus production comprises a number of small

Fig. 5. BC IV dinos from Achna in the Famagusta region (after Louka 1999, fig. 2).


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amphoras and jugs, which are the only other Cypriot vases decorated with frontal heads.14 The heads are identified as images of the Egyptian goddess Hathor, although there are varieties in the details as is illustrated by a jug, or feeding bottle (Fig. 7). This feeding bottle, which is anthropomorphized by the large eyes painted on either side of the spout, has on one side a head with Hathor locks. The head on the other side of the spout, however, lacks these distinctive locks and hatchings cover the forehead, the chin and the area on either side of the cheeks. The eyes and nose of both these, as on all other Hathor heads, are prominent, and the cheeks are decorated with spots. If an assumption is made that the earlier frontal heads refer to the religious sphere, the following represents an analysis of the various details of these heads, and the later painted Hathor heads, that relies heavily upon three articles which discuss Hathor, the goddess of fertility, death, rebirth and sex, and her related Near Eastern sisters such as the Sumerian Inanna or Ishtar (her Accadian name in later Assyrian annals) and the Cananite/Phoenician Astarte with her relations to the Greek Aphrodite.15

The heads on the CA I vases show certain characteristic details. On some, the hair is not indicated while the zigzag line traced above the eye-brows of five of the heads on one of the dinoi (Fig. 5) may indicate the hairline. Although the short hair standing on end on the sixth head on the same dinos, and on the heads on the amphora (Fig. 1), is unusual on Cypriot products from the Archaic period, it is clearly repeated on the pro-file heads painted on an oinochoe discussed below (Fig. 10). The hatched forehead of the head on the bowl (Fig. 6) is repeated on one of the heads on the feeding bottle (Fig. 7). This trait, together with the hatched area on either side of this head – and on another Hathor head16 – may reveal the technical influence from ivory carvings such as the plaques showing the so-called “Woman in the Window” motif, which we shall return to below. At least a couple of the painted faces on the CA I vases are clearly bearded (Figs. 2–3), and some of the Hathor heads, including one of the heads on the feeding bottle (Fig. 7), may also be interpreted as bearded.17 Although it cannot be ruled out that they are actually male heads, reference can be made to several later sources that mention a bearded, androgynous Aph-rodite in Cyprus. They called her Aphroditos, and men and women trans-dressed when they took part in offerings to her.18 In her survey of this phenomenon in Cyprus, MacLachlan has pointed out that figures with a dual sexual character appear already in the Neolithic period in Cyprus;19


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and, according to Washbourne, a Middle Bronze Age terracotta figure given a beard and small breasts wears clothing covering the right shoulder like Inanna-Ishtar.20 Inanna is likewise described as bearded in a Sumero-Akkadian hymn which lists her various attributes and status at different locations.21 Apparently bearded female figures are also known from the Aegean Bronze Age, as is documented on terracottas from Mycenae and Phylakopi,22 and androgynous figures continued to be made in Cyprus during the first millennium BC.23 According to MacLachlan, “the figure of a divine androgyne is found frequently in cosmogonic myths and can be accounted for by the need to embody all characteristics required in crea-tion”.24 Hermary, on the other hand, expressing his criticism concerning the interpretation of some of the texts that refer to the androgynous Cyp-riot Aphrodite, has suggested that the discussion be put aside.25

Fig. 6. WP IV bowl from Amathus Tomb 604 (after Karageorghis 1998, fig. 1).


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Facial painting is another characteristic trait of some of the heads. The red painted faces on the amphora (Fig. 1) and the red spots on the faces of the vases reproduced in Figs. 4–5 could, together with the dots on the cheeks of the Hathor heads, be interpreted as facial decoration and may refer to make-up worn by prostitutes, as told in passages from the Old Tes-tament. In the Book of Kings, for example, we learn that Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal of Sidon, in trying to seduce King Jehu of Israel, leaned out of the palace window painted like a harlot and was thrown to her death.26 As proposed by Washbourne, other passages in the Old Testament confirm that wearing make-up was a sign of being a whore, and even a goddess such as Inanna-Ishtar painted her face before she seduced men.27 Various types of facial painting with a possible religious connotation are also known

Fig. 7. WP V feeding bottle from Amathus tomb 194 (after Her-mary 1997, pl. LI).


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from the Aegean Bronze Age. For instance, the fresco found in the House of the Ladies at Akrotiri shows two women, who are interpreted as priest-esses, wearing rouge.28 And from the cult centre at Mycenae, the gypsum head decorated with rosettes on the forehead, the cheeks and the chin, as well as two terracottas with cheek decoration consisting of, respectively, rosettes and rhombs, may be mentioned.29

The objects that look like necklaces and which flank the bearded head on the White Painted hydria (Fig. 2) probably are necklaces. The hatched band forming the lower limit of the head with Hathor locks on the feeding bottle (Fig. 7), as on other Hathor heads,30 may also indicate a necklace, while a necklace is clearly depicted on yet another Hathor head.31 Neck-laces are also repeated on some of the local so-called Hathor capitals,32 which were venerated by the Cypriotes according to a scene preserved on a sherd that shows a quadruped, probably a sacrificial animal, being led towards a large Hathor capital.33 In Egypt, necklaces may symbolize Hathor.34 They are also associated with Inanna. A textual reference to the connection between Inanna and necklaces is found in the Sumerian hymn mentioned above, where Inanna is called a hierodule.35 On Assurbanipal’s garden relief, a large necklace with several tiers of pearls is shown hanging from one of the front legs of the king’s couch; Washbourne says this type of necklace is also closely related to Ishtar.36 According to Barnett, Assurbani-pal’s relief illustrates the celebration of the New Year Festival at Arbela, in which cult practices were performed in the context of a feast.37 Among the rituals may have been the Sacred Marriage, carried out to ensure the fertil-ity of the land for the following year.38 Necklaces could also have religious connotations during the Aegean Bronze Age as is indicated by some of the surviving frescoes. The fresco from Xeste 3 on Thera, for example, shows a woman holding a large necklace and the enthroned goddess adorned with impressive necklaces.39 The so-called Mykenaia from Mycenae like-wise wears a large necklace and holds up another;40 it has even been sug-gested that some of the grotesque looking terracotta figures from Mycenae actually held necklaces in their raised hands because a large number of pearls were found with them.41 It has been suggested recently that these unsexed figures were images of deities who were considered neither male nor female, or that perhaps accessories such as garments, headgear and other attributes were applied as gender markers when the figures were used in cult situations.42


“Head Hunting” in Cyprus

As mentioned previously, the horizontal lines on the forehead of some of the heads painted on the CA I vessels may represent some kind of dia-dem or tiara (Figs. 1, 3). If so, they may be related to the “Woman in the Window” motif that is well-known from Near Eastern ivory plaques.43 Although none of these have been found in Cyprus, the motif was used on the island already during the 12th century BC,44 and it is also depicted on some of the Cypro Geometric (CG) gold plaques found in a tomb in the Palaepaphos-Skales necropolis. According to Karageorghis, these plaques may have formed part of a tiara; some of the plaques are decorated with female heads wearing a necklace and perhaps a diadem around the fore-head.45 The heads on some of the ivory plaques, which probably decorated furniture, carry a cord around the forehead with a plaque suspended from it, while others wear a necklace of a string of pearls.46 A related motif is depicted on one of the legs of Assurbanipal’s couch on the garden relief.47 This particular motif is often linked to sacred prostitution as mentioned in ancient texts. The tiara may be associated with whoredom and perhaps fertility, as in a hymn by Enheduanna in which Inanna is referred to as “Hierodule of Anmuch bejeweled, who loves the life-giving tiara, fit for the priesthood”.48 In the Theogony, Hesiod calls the Cypriot Aphrodite “rich-ly-crowned”, “member-loving” and “quick-glancing”, and in his account of women who had sexual relations with strangers in the temple of Mylitta in Babylon, Herodotus mentions that they wore a stephanos which identi-fied them as hierodules. He adds that sacred prostitution also took place in Cyprus.49 According to the apocryphal letter of Jeremiah (43), the cord was broken after the act. The existence of this particular institution in Cyprus may be supported by a BC V bowl which depicts three couples having sexual intercourse in what is probably a religious setting,50 as well as by a 4th century BC inscription from Kition, where sacred prostitutes are listed among other professionals attached to the sanctuary. Plutarch relates what is probably an aetiological myth explaining the appearance of a statue of Aphrodite Parakyptousa in Cyprus, in which a young woman stood at her window watching pitilessly the funeral procession of a young man who had committed suicide because of her, and that Aphrodite, infuriated by her attitude, turned her into stone.51 Ovid, furthermore, informs us that the statue of the woman was housed in the temple of Aphrodite Parakyptousa, or Venus Prospiciens, in Salamis.52

If the suggestions proposed above are accepted, the anonymous frontal


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faces painted on the CA I vases may be interpreted in both a local and a wider context through the various painted elements and through their correlation with the painted Hathor heads and other supporting evidence from the Near East and the Aegean. Another couple of Cypriot vase paint-ings should be mentioned. The only other depiction of a frontal head is seen on the shoulder of a BC V amphora, where a head with Hathor locks is inserted into a scene showing two sphinxes flanking a “Tree of Life” motif.53 Between one of the sphinxes and the “Tree of Life”, there is a small rearing goat turned toward the tree. Similar animals are depicted on both the previously mentioned sherd, with its sacrificial scene at a Hathor capi-tal, and on the feeding bottle (Fig. 7), next to one of the Hathor heads, thus forming a link to the horned animals on one of the dinoi (Fig. 3). A panel decoration on an 11th century kalathos that shows a figure, a goat, a table and a palm tree has been identified as an offering scene, indicating that this was not a new phenomenon in archaic Cyprus.54 Furthermore, the handles of the amphora form a kind of frame around the heads below them (Fig. 1), and one of the heads on the dinos (Fig. 3) and the small head on the bowl (Fig. 6) are painted in panels like the Hathor heads on the Hathor vases, perhaps referring to the “Woman in the Window” motif. It has also been suggested that the empty stepped window frame, that is shaped like the frame of the “Woman at the Window” and found in tomb contexts in Cyprus, likewise refers to Aphrodite and her consorts and their association with death and rebirth.55 The amphora (Fig. 1) was found in a very interesting cremation cemetery at Amathus and had been used as an urn for an adult;56 and two of the Hathor amphoras, a fragment, and the bowl and the feeding bottle (Figs. 6–7) were also found in tombs at Amathus.57 As the Great Goddess of the island, and her Egyptian and Near Eastern sisters, were associated with death and rebirth,58 it would have been appropriate to depict a face referring to her on vessels destined for funeral purposes.59 This is supported by the finds of Hathor stelai in the necropolis of Amathus and Golgoi,60 and the connection between the Great Goddess and death in Cyprus is supported by the decoration of the later Amathus sarcophagus where she is repeated four times on one of the short sides.61

While this has demonstrated that although the anonymous heads/faces painted on the Cypriot pots display different details, they may be perceived as images that make reference to local Cypriot religious conditions. It should be stressed, however, that this is not saying that the Gorgo/Medusa


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equation is irrelevant, as, like a Great Goddess herself, the Medusa also embodies an androgynous aspect and is similarly associated with life and death,62 and, like Aphrodite, she had the capacity to turn people into stone.

Profile protomesWhile the frontal heads/faces may be interpreted as apotropaic and pro-phylactic images with connotations to the Great Goddess of the island, the painted profile heads are more difficult to interpret. The heads, or rather protomes, are painted on BC IV jugs, mostly oinochoai with the addition of a single amphoriskos. Like the frontal heads, they appear either alone or together with other motifs, and they all have long necks which are deco-rated except for a bearded male with a red face (Fig. 8).63 His long hair terminates in a curl behind the neck and he wears a pointed cap with two

Fig. 8. BC IV jug from Kourion? (after Karageorghis et al. 2000, fig. 152).


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coils. It has been suggested that he may be wearing a mask and a horned helmet.64 The pointed cap is quite common on Cypriot stone and terra-cotta sculpture, and in other vase paintings it is worn by hunters.65 Horned helmets are worn by the two well-known Late Bronze Age (LBA) bronze figures from Enkomi, the so-called Ingot God and the Horned God, and some of the centaurs from the sanctuary at Ayia Irini are likewise horned,66 but generally there are few Archaic figures with horned head-gear and they are dated later than the vase paintings in question.67 The headdress shows affinities, rather, with other types of painted headgear. On another con-temporary jug, the head of “a warrior” is rendered in profile,68 while the pointed cap bordered by lines terminating in volutes looks like the Egyp-tian composite crown as depicted in Egyptian paintings and reliefs. It also resembles the frontal rendering of it on some Near Eastern ivories and local reproductions on later sculpture.69 However, the two coils may also refer to Uraeus snakes; a single Uraeus is sometimes rendered as a coil in front of the crown on other Near Eastern ivories and on later Cypriot sculpture.70 A pointed headdress with a double outline and a coil in front of it worn by a man smelling a lotus flower on a Cypriot jug (Fig. 9) may be interpreted as a schematic rendering of a similar crown.71 Except for the head and the neck, this male figure is painted black, and his exposed genitals indicate that he is naked. This makes him exceptional in a Cypriot context, where he is only matched by two other male figures: this time painted red on a fragment of an amphora and perhaps also a black painted man on a jug.72 Yet another detail of this painted protome is noteworthy: his long hair, which seems to form a curl at the nape of his neck, may be compared with the Hathor locks, although it also resembles the coiffure of helmeted fallen Asiatics and an enthroned figure flanked by sphinxes on North Syrian ivories,73 thus underlining some of the complexities inherent in the Cypriot iconography.

The two heads with short, cropped hair painted on either side of a bird on another oinochoe (Fig. 10) are also probably male.74 The hair recalls the hair of the frontal head on one of the dinoi (Fig. 5), as well as the naked man smelling a lotus flower (Fig. 9) and the black figure on the oinoch-oe mentioned above. Depictions of short-cropped hair are rare in Cyprus during the Archaic period, and it is therefore tempting to suggest that it conveys a special message, as does the nakedness of the flower smeller, the two red male figures mentioned above and yet another black painted male.


“Head Hunting” in Cyprus

Although the Phoenician inscription on a bowl found in the sanctuary at Kition Kathari is no longer interpreted as someone dedicating his hair to Astarte,75 the 4th century BC inscription found at Kition still informs us that barbers were attached to sanctuaries on the island,76 and we may also refer to Lucian who describes the rituals involving hair cutting in the sanc-tuary at Byblos.77 It is tempting to see the heads in this light and interpret them as images with connotations to hair cutting and rites of passage, perhaps in connection with the transition from childhood to adolescence. Such rites are said to have existed during the Bronze Age.78

Another human protome (Fig. 11) faces the head of a horned sheep-like animal that is also rendered as a protome with a long snake-like neck.79 Here, a lotus forms the central motif, and, according to the description,

Fig. 9. BC IV jug (ater CCSF, VIII.1)


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another similar animal protome and concentric circles decorate the other side of the jug. The human protome is similar to another six protomes on an amphoriskos (Fig. 12),80 which all appear to be female with long hair falling down the neck, although one of them seems to be wearing a coni-cal hatched cap that is usually reserved for men. Karageorghis suggested that the vase painter just wanted to depict some nice ladies, and, with reference to Dugas and Walter-Karydi who both credit Cycladic painters for inventing the female bust, he compared the heads with female heads on Cycladic vases.81 It is generally agreed that the profile protome was a Greek invention.82 However, while von Vacano found that the phenom-enon appeared more or less at the same time in the various Greek areas due

Fig. 10. BC IV jug (after CCSFS, SX.3)

Fig. 11. BC IV jug (after CCSF, X.7).


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to the “gleiche Voraussetzungen in der selben Zeit im ganzen griechischen Raum”,83 Zaphiropoulou, in discussing the so-called Melian vases now believed to be produced on Naxos, pointed towards mainland Greece, and in particular to Corinth, as the place of origin.84

Although profile protomes are seen during the Bronze Age, both Brein and von Vacano point out that the earliest profile renderings in the Mediter-ranean during the first millennium appear on a local crater from Pithecus-sai and a Cretan lid, both of which are dated to the second part of the 8th century BC, and that some time went by before the next representations appeared around the middle of the 7th century BC.85 Most of the early profile protomes from the mainland are male; among them is a Proto-Attic oinochoe: the so-called Phaleron jug.86 The decoration of the neck shows a standing woman holding something in her hand, and behind her are two bearded protomes with prominent noses and long spotted necks that have been interpreted as caricatures, unintentionally comic figures or portraits of Orientals or demons.87 Brein, on the other hand, referring to the account of Cambyses’ conduct at Memphis recorded by Herodotus, suggests that

Fig. 12. BC V amphoriskos from Idalion (after CCSF, X.1).


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they probably represent gods or demons of the Underworld, such as the Pataikoi.88 According to Herodotus, Cambyses mocked the cult statue of Hephaistos for its resemblance to the Pataikoi which adorned Phoenician war ships. He adds that they looked like dwarfs, and it has been suggested that they may be compared with the figures of Ptah or Bes.89 The decora-tion on two Proto-Corinthian vases also confirms that the early protomes are male. An incised and painted male head with bared teeth and its tongue sticking out, scratched and painted on the shoulder of a Proto-Corinthian olpe, also has a demonic character.90 The male head on a Proto-Corinthian lid looks human, but the object painted opposite the head is dotted like the necks of the so-called Pataikoi.91

Later profile protomes on Corinthian pottery are primarily females painted on aryballoi.92 On the famous Ainete aryballos, a series of male names listed below her name are interpreted as admirers,93 and others agree that many of the names on this type of aryballoi refer to hetairai and relate them to the Cypriot Aphrodite Parakyptousa and the “Woman in the Window” motif, thus bringing us back to the earlier discussion of the frontal heads.94 As to the unnamed female and warrior protomes on Corinthian pottery from the end of the 7th century BC, von Vacano has suggested that they refer to members of the leading social classes of socie-ty.95 The protomes on the “Melian” pottery are generally painted in panels, and here females clearly prevail. Some consider the “Melian” series merely decorative, while others suggest a funerary or apotropaic function for vases found in funerary contexts and interpret those dedicated in sanctuaries as representations of chthonic deities.96

Although the animal protomes on the Cypriote jug (Fig. 11) stand alone in a Cypriot context, they find parallels in Greek vase painting where they appear at the same time as human protomes.97 Whether or not Near Eastern products such as cauldrons with animal attachments presented a source of inspiration, the idea of painting both animal and human profile protomes on Cypriote pottery seems to have close links with the devel-opments in Greek vase painting. In particular, the heads on the jug and the amphoriskos (Figs. 11–12), and the upper part of a man smelling a flower, are comparable with East Greek representations.98 This is perhaps not surprising as the latter two vases are dated to the 6th century BC when Greek style was gradually being appropriated in Cyprus. But while profile protomes continued to be painted on pottery in certain areas of


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the Greek world, they were of no further interest in Cyprus. Here, on the other hand, frontal heads reappear in one particular context during the Hellenistic period.99

Although the topic of the last Cypriot vase painting to be included here is slightly removed from those already discussed, it still serves to demonstrate the importance of heads. Profile heads appear in a chariot scene on a BC IV jug showing a war chariot with a charioteer and a war-rior charging forward with two decapitated male heads hanging from the chariot pole (Fig. 13).100 The representation is unique in Cyprus, and it has been suggested that it draws inspiration from the Near East,101 where the decapitation of enemies is known already from the third and the second millennium BC.102 During the Neo-Assyrian period, depictions and texts give vivid testimony to the beheading of enemies and the piling up of anonymous heads as a display of military power.103 Special treatment was reserved for the most important enemies, such as Assurbanipal’s enemy Teumman, King of Elam, for example, whose head attained political and ritual focus through Assurbanipal’s handling of it: it was depicted hang-

Fig. 13. BC IV jug (after Brehme et al. 2001, no. 70).


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ing from a tree in the Garden Relief as a trophy of Assurbanipal’s control of his enemies.104 According to Herodotos, the Scythians likewise decapi-tated their enemies, and only those who brought the heads to the king shared the booty. 105 The sculls were subsequently adorned and made into precious drinking cups. Apparently, the beheading of enemy heads was not generally taken up by the Persians, although a later account by Plutarch informs us that the head and right hand of the slain Cyrus were cut off in accordance with the law of the Persians.106 Herodotus reports that Xerxes, during his inspection of the battlefield at Thermopylai, ordered the head of the dead Leonidas to be cut off and fixed on a stake.107 Decapitation was not practiced amongst the Greeks, and when Achilles and his son Neop-tolemos nonetheless both committed this act at Troy they brought down upon themselves the wrath of Apollo and their own eventual destruc-tion.108 Herodotus also informs us about a single case in Cyprus, where the Amathusians cut off the head of Onesilos from Salamis because he had besieged their city during the Ionian revolt. Like the Assyrians, they hung it up above the gates, probably as a political as well as an apotropaic sign,109 where a swarm of bees occupied it and filled it with honeycomb. This caused the people of Amathus to consult an oracle, which advised them to bury the head and subsequently honour Onesilos as a hero with annual sacrifices. Apparently the head attained religious connotations, as did the head of King Teumman that Assurnasirpal finally consecrated to the gods at Nineveh, and the same phenomenon is repeated much later.110 The actual transportation of the heads, however, is not often depicted. On some Assyrian reliefs, heads being held up in the air are presented to the king.111 One relief shows the head of Teumman being lifted up by a soldier standing in a chariot,112 and another shows Teumman’s captured ally, the Gambulean king Dunanu, in a particularly humiliating scene where he carries Teumman’s head hanging around his neck on the march to Nineveh.113 However, to suspend heads from chariot poles was appar-ently not an Assyrian custom. The Scythians, on the other hand, would strip the skin off their enemies’ heads and hang them on the bridle of their horses, more in line with the depiction on the Cypriot jug. Even though it is impossible to identify the exact motivation for the motif, and to decide if the scene on the jug refers to a real or mythical event, or perhaps both, or whether it was enacted at home or abroad, it documents that the phe-nomenon was indeed also known in Cyprus.


“Head Hunting” in Cyprus

Conclusion Although these vessels represent a small group, they demonstrate that, like Greek pottery, Cypriot pottery was used as a medium for different types of messages. Some may be read as illustrations of contemporary customs, while others seem to have strictly religious connotations. Abbreviations of figures such as heads rendered en face, as well as profile protomes, are a phenomenon that appears on Greek and Cypriot pottery at about the same time, but that is not to say that they had the same meaning. Frontal heads with staring eyes catch our attention because they involve the spectator in a dialogue. The early Greek Medusa/Gorgo with gnashing teeth, the tongue hanging out of the mouth and the snake-like locks of hair is partic-ularly arresting. But the frontal heads painted by the Cypriot painters lack these characteristic features, and there are few easily recognizable images of Medusa/Gorgo in Cyprus during the period in question. The heads on the Cypriot vases refer, rather, to local conditions. The various details of the heads point, firstly, to the Great Goddess of the island and her related sisters in the surrounding world, particularly because depictions of heads such as the “Woman in the Window” motif already had a long tradition. This suggestion also creates a link to the later series of Hathor vases made at Amathus. It must be kept in mind, however, that not only was Cyprus a crossroads in Mediterranean communication but it was also inhabited by a mixed population with potentially different attitudes and religious beliefs. As is now commonly held, there is not, and never was, one correct reading of images, and the Cypriot painted heads may have been perceived as images of different beings or even as masks, according to the religious disposition of the spectator.

Another issue raised by this discussion is the appearance of similar phe-nomena in the Bronze Age and the period discussed here. However, it is not the intention here to enter deeply into the debates concerning tradi-tion versus innovation, and the influence of the Near East, which have a long tradition and are still ongoing, as demonstrated by several contri-butions published from recent conferences.114 It serves, rather, to keep in mind that although the world of images was substantially reduced during the so-called Dark Ages embedded beliefs and religious convictions both continued and evolved, and “the pictured topics relied on the traditions, habits, beliefs, needs and the natural environment that both periods had in common”.115


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notes 1 Sütterlin, 2003, 147. 2 CCSF, no. II.6. 3 Louca 2000, 163. 4 CCSF, no. X.2. 5 CCSFS, 30. 6 Karageorghis 1998, fig. 1. 7 CCSFS, no. XIII. 8 CCSFS, 29. 9 Louka 1999, 205. 10 Frontisi-Ducroux 1985, 217–241. 11 Krauskopf & Dahlinger 1988, 322; Faegersten

2003, no. 12. For a 5th century BC depiction of a decapitated Medusa, cf. Karageorghis et al. 2000, no. 331.

12 Karageorghis 2002, fig. 347; Karageorghis 1993, 117.

13 Frontisi-Ducroux 1985, 217–241. For a dis-cussion of the close connection between the gorgoneion and the Perseus legend, and the subject of the gaze, cf. Mack 2002, 571–604; Jameson 1990, n.1.

14 CCSF, 504. 15 Washbourne 1999, 163–177; Serwint 2002,

325–350; MacLachlan 2002, 365–376. 16 CCSF, 511 no. 8. 17 CCSF, 505, no. 2, 511, no. 8. 18 Cf. MacLachlan 2002, 375, for quotations of

the relevant texts. 19 MacLachlan 2002, 366. 20 Washbourne 1999, 170. 21 Washbourne 1999, 169; Serwint 2002, 328. 22 Moore & Taylor 1999, pl. 12; Whittaker

2009, fig. 1. 23 MacLachlan 2002, 369; Sørensen (in print). 24 MacLachlan 2002, 372. 25 Hermary 2008, 45. 26 Serwint 2002, 331; 2 Kings IX, 30–33. 27 Washbourne 1999, 168, n. 23; Ezekiel XXIII,

39–43; Jeremiah IV, 30. 28 Doumas 1999, pls. 9–10. 29 Schoefield 2007, fig. 103; Moore & Taylor

1999, pl. 12. 30 CCSF, 505, no. 2; Hermary 1985, fig. 27. 31 Karageorghis 1977, fig. 35. 32 Hermary 1985, figs. 9–12; Hermary 1998, 69,

pl. III, 1. 33 CCSF, 510, no. 7. 34 Serwint 2002, 328; Washbourne 1999, 172. 35 Barnett 1975, 106; Washbourne 1999, 164, n.

6, 169; Serwint 2002, 331. 36 Wasbourne 1999, 172. 37 Barnett 1975, 118; Serwint 2002, 228 38 Wasbourne 1999, 171; Serwint 2002, 329. 39 Doumas 1999, 138, 163. 40 Jones 2009, fig. 26.

41 Moore & Taylor 1999, 95, pl. 20. 42 Whittaker 2009, 104. 43 Barnett 1975, 145. 44 Catling 1964, 204, pl. 33c; Washbourne 1999,

fig. 3. 45 Karageorghis 1983, 249, pl. CLV, 1–8; cf. also

Washbourne 1999, 168; Kontomichali 2002, 197.

46 Herrmann & Laidlaw 2009, fig. 20. 47 Barnett 1975, fig. x; Washbourne 1999, fig. 8. 48 Washbourne 1999, 165. 49 Hdt.1, 199; Washbourne 1999, 164. 50 CCSF, 31, no. VIII.16. 51 Plut. Amat. 20, 766C–D. 52 Ov. Met. 14, 760/1; Washbourne 1999, 167. 53 CCSF, XII.a.3. 54 Karageorghis 2002, 123, fig. 252. 55 Washbourne 1999, 173, figs. 11–12. 56 Louca 2000, 163. 57 CCSF, 506, no. 3, 507, no. 4; Hermary 1985,

fig. 27. 58 Washbourne 1999, 168. 59 Lagarce & Leclant 1976, 237. It should be

noticed, however, that recent finds from Amathus show that Hathor amphoras were used also in other contexts, cf. Fourrier 2008, fig. 7.

60 Hermary 1985, 674, figs. 21, 23. 61 Petit 2004, 69; Petit 2006, 64. 62 Napier 1986, 98; Napier 1992, 95–104. For

the correspondence to Lamashtu, cf. Gold-man 1961, 6; Burkert 1995, 83. A relief with a Gorgo head placed above the entrance to a side chamber in a tomb built in the 5th cen-tury at Pyla demonstrates her later relation with death, cf. Masson 1966, fig. 6.

63 CCSFS, no. SX.4. 64 Karageorghis et al. 2000, no. 152. 65 CCSF, nos. II.1, III.4. 66 Karageorghis 1996, pls. II, 4, III, 3. 67 For an interpretation of the so-called Patriki

statue, cf. Karageorghis 1993, pl. XXIV, 1; Sørensen (in print).

68 CCSF, no.VII.3. 69 Mallowan 1966, pl. IX; Faegersten 2003, nos.

2, 21. 70 Hermann & Laidlaw 2009, 60, fig. 16. Fae-

gersten 2003, no. 58. 71 CCSF, no. VIII.2. It is clearly depicted on

a later fragmentary relief from the West necropolis at Amathus, cf. Hermary 1981, no. 7.

72 CCSF, no. IX.12; Tsipopoulou 1998, no. 28. 73 Hermann & Laidlaw 2009, 83, nos. 248–251;

93, nos. 233–234.


“Head Hunting” in Cyprus

74 CCSFS, no. SX.3. 75 Amadasi & Karageorghis 1977, 149, pl. XVII. 76 Masson & Sznycer 1972, 22–23, 28; Amadasi

& Karageorghis 1977, 125. 77 For a discussion of the phenomenon, cf.

Lightfoot 2003, 531. 78 Koehl 2001, 238. For the suggestion of a

related phenomenon in Cyprus from the Hel-lenistic period, cf. Lejeune 2009, 315.

79 CCSF, no.X.7. 80 CCSF, no. X.1. 81 CCSF, 37, n. 3. 82 von Vacano 1973, 22; Zaphiropoulou 2003,

45. 83 von Vacano 1973, 21. 84 Zaphiropoulou 2003, 8, 44, 148. 85 Pini 1999, pls. CXLI–CXLII; Karageorghis

et al. 2003, nos. 112–113; Brein 1966–1967, 49; von Vacano 1973, 21.

86 Brein 1966–1967, fig. 28. 87 Brein 1966–1967, 52, fig. 28; von Vacano

1973, 109. 88 Brein 1966–1967, 55; Hdt. III, 37. 89 Hermary 1994, 201. 90 von Vacano 1973, K9; Amyx 1988, pl. 10. 91 von Vacano 1973, K76. 92 Payne 1931, 101; Amyx 1988, 164, 542; von

Vacano 1973, 35. 93 Payne 1931, no. 480, fig. 70; Amyx 1988, 561,

no. 18. 94 Brein 1966–1967, 48; von Vacano 1973, 109;

Amyx 1988, 554.

95 von Vacano 1973, 92, 110. 96 Zaphiropoulou 2003, 44. 97 von Vacano 1973, 28. 98 Böhm 2005, 92; cf. also Sørensen 2009, 298. 99 The heads are scratched on pots dedicated to

the Nymph at Kafizin, cf. Lejeune 2009, 319. 100 CCSF, no. II.6. 101 CCSF, 17.102 Dolce 2004, 124; Bonatz 2004, 93.103 Watanabe 2004, fig. 12.104 Bonatz 2004, 94, 98.105 Hdt.4. 64. 106 Plut. Vit. Artax. 13. 2.107 Hdt. 7. 238.108 Ferrari 2003, 41.109 Hdt. 5.114; Bahrani 2004, 117. The Romans,

and in particular the later Ottoman Turks, followed the same practice of exposing decap-itated heads in public. Cf. Flower 2006, 69, 92, 94, 206, 298 n.5, 303 n. 52, 306 n. 16, 335 n. 29 and Stahl 1986, 91, 168.

110 Bonatz 2004, 100; Stahl 1986, 137.111 Dolce 2004, fig. 3.112 Watanabe 2004, fig. 17.113 Bonatz 2004, 96, 99.114 For instance, Rystedt & Wells 2006, 159–

277; Morris & Laffineur 2007; Hermary et al. 2007.

115 Dakoronia 2006, 171.

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