Two Terracotta Plaques of Late Iron Age Related with the Cult of Astarte in the Muğla Museum


6. Sayı

Received Date : 19.01.2023 | Acceptance Date : 01.05.2023

DOI : 10.32949/Arkhaia.2023.57 | Online Publication Date : 1.10.2023 17:32:22


The finds constituting the scope of the present article are two terracotta plaques related to the iconography of Astarte which are currently kept in the depot of the Muğla Museum. Because the plaques were acquired through purchase,no information is available regarding their geographical context. As a result, their dating and evaluation are based entirely on comparison and stylistic analyses. The first artefact depicts a draped female figure, standing, holding her breasts with both hands; the second artefact depicts a woman playing a tambourine or similar percussion instrument whose function and iconography are not well-known. Their styles and iconographic features as well as their production technique involving the use of molds indicate a specific region. These plaques, which are part of an authentic work, feature different types of iconography, henceforth making them important for their contribution to the existing repertory. Each work is a unique example and is evaluated overall by their technical features, iconography, ritual contexts, functions and stylistic features of their periods; and some possibilities regarding their provenance are explored.

Mold made terracotta panels depicting a female figure standing facing forward, referred to as “Astarte plaques” or “Astarte panels”,bcame into wider use during the Bronze Age and their production continued increasingly during the Iron Age. Production of plaques similar to TK.1 started from the end of the Akkadian Period at the earliest and continued well into the Hellenistic Period across a vast geographic area encompassing North Syria and neighboring regions. With the Persian Achaemenid Empire, a new phase in iconography and the technology used to produce it began. In this phase, figurines became mass produced and rendered in much higher detail as allowed for by the advancement in mold production. In addition to naked Astarte figures produced before the Persian Period, the novelty of draped figures similar to TK.1 was introduced in mass production. Specimens of various naked and draped Astarte figures can be found throughout Anatolia, Syria, Palestine, Cyprus, Egypt, Corinth, Rhodos, Sardinia and Susa. Astarte plaque TK.1 is thought to reflect the figural art of the ancient North Syrian Period; Based on comparison to similar figures, it may have served as a votive offering and may have come from a site in south-eastern Anatolia, which was under the influence of Mesopotamia. Thus in this context it can be said that plaques with Astarte depictions in Anatolia emerged as a direct result of cultural interactions between Anatolia and the Near East.

That figures reflecting the drummer or tambourine player tradition such as TK.2 as being associated with the goddess Astarte is the most valid among numerous postulations proposed by scholars. In this regard, the plaque TK.2 may be interpreted, considering the cult of fecundity, as a votive offering presented to a goddess associated with fecundity in the Archaic Period. Such figures displaying variants technically and iconographically can be traced to cultural centers such as Anatolia, Syria-Palestine, Jordan, Tunisia, Italy, Cyprus, Carthage and Ibiza.

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