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HOME : Classical Antiquities : Cypriot Art : Cypriot Base-Ring Bull Askos
Cypriot Base-Ring Bull Askos - SK.036
Origin: Cyprus
Circa: 1450 BC to 1200 BC
Dimensions: 8.25" (21.0cm) high
Collection: Classical
Medium: Terracotta

Additional Information: Art Logic—Ex Desmond Morris Collection(1967-1985), Christie's (London) 2001, Bonham's (London) 2007

Location: UAE
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The Late Bronze Age was a dynamic period in the history of ancient Cyprus. Overseas trade increased in importance and Cypriot pottery of this era has been found in large quantities on the mainland. It was also the first truly urban period in the island’s history witnessing the growth of large towns such as Enkomi and Kition in the coastal regions. Important cultural changes included the introduction of writing in the form of a Cypro-Minoan script. The arts flourished, metal production increased and jewelry, faience and ivories were produced under the influence of imports from Syria, Egypt and the Aegean. This energy and experimentation was nowhere more apparent than in the beautiful terracotta wares which reached a new level of excellence.

This terracotta askos is an example of the so- called ‘Base Ring Ware.’ Named after its shape, this was the earliest ware to display a standing base formed by a ring applied to the lower part of the vessel. This shows that it was intended to stand on a flat surface. Prior to this the bases of pottery vessels were curved or rounded suggesting they were suspended or pushed into soft ground to make them stand up. The introduction of the base-ring has been linked to changes in local architecture and improved living conditions. The terracotta was shaped by hand and fired to a very high temperature giving it a metallic ring when struck and unusually thin walls.

Pieces of this quality were buried in tombs to contain the sustenance required by the deceased in the afterlife. The surface is covered with a dark brown umber glaze with added white linear decoration. The spout is in the form a horned bull’s head. Evidence for cattle on the island of Cyprus before the Bronze Age is virtually non- existent, the main large animals being deer, sheep and goats. During the Early Bronze Age they seem to have been imported in large numbers and quickly provided a new source of inspiration for native craftsmen. Admired for their strength and virility, the bull soon acquired a spiritual significance. It is unclear if the animal was actually deified (as it was in Sumer during this period), but bull horns seem to have been mounted on poles to protect against evil spirits. A loop handle arches from the bull’s head and joins a cylindrical funnel spout.

This exceptionally well-preserved vessel is a wonderful example of the inventiveness and character of early Cypriot pottery. (AM)

Published: D. Morris, ‘The Art of Ancient Cyprus,’ (Oxford, 1985), p. 200, pl. 230. - (SK.036)


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