Pottery in ancient Cyprus

In order to understand aright the history of Cypriote art, it is indeed necessary to know something of its ethnography and political history, and the various influences to which it has been subjected. But space forbids us to do more than make very brief allusions to the more important of these features. Speaking generally, Cyprus may be regarded as a centre wherein have met all the currents of ancient civilisation, forming an amalgamation of artistic elements. Thus Cypriote art, though it loses in originality, gains in interest; and yet though often slavishly imitative, it has at bottom great individuality, more especially in its pottery. Hence it will be seen that it is essentially necessary to consider the pottery of Cyprus as a thing apart.

As regards chronology, except for a certain determinable sequence of artistic phases, even more caution than in dealing with Hellenic art is required. The remarkable conservatism and persistence of types exhibited by Cypriote art has more than once proved a pitfall, and has given rise to considerable controversy at one time or another. Dates can only be used in the vaguest manner.

The pottery of Cyprus falls under three headings, which for convenience, though not perhaps with the strictest accuracy, are usually defined as follows:—

1. Bronze Age , from about 2500 B.C. to 800 B.C.

2. Graeco-Phoenician period , from 800 B.C. to 400 B.C., overlapping with

3. Hellenic period , from 550 B.C. to 200 B.C., representing the time during which imported Greek vases are found in the tombs, native pottery gradually dying out except in the form of plain vessels.

The pottery of the Bronze-Age period again falls into two distinct periods: (1) Copper Age or pre-Mycenaean period (2500–1500 B.C.), during which few bronze implements are found in the tombs, and all the pottery is purely indigenous, the work of the original inhabitants of the island, without any admixture of importations. (2) The Mycenaean period (1500–800 B.C.), during which the local pottery (including both unpainted and painted vases) is reinforced by large quantities of imported Mycenaean pottery, together with elaborately decorated vases of Mycenaean technique, either made locally or specially made for Cyprus and imported.

The sites on which Bronze-Age remains are found are chiefly confined to the central and southern parts of the island, the most important sites being near the modern towns of Nicosia, Larnaka, and Famagusta. The discovery in these tombs of such objects as milking-bowls and querns is an additional proof of the conclusion naturally to be drawn—that the early inhabitants of Cyprus were a race of pastoral lowlanders. The tombs are mostly pit-tombs of moderate depth, recalling in type the Egyptian mastaba , and burial is universal.

There is no doubt that the art of pottery was introduced into Cyprus coincidently with the beginning of the Copper Age, which may be placed at about the year 2000 B.C. Although no bronze is found in the earliest tombs, on the other hand stone implements are absent, and the types of the pottery are identical with those of the later Bronze Age. It will be seen that it presents throughout very striking parallels with the pottery of Hissarlik, which will form the subject of the next section. The forms are largely similar and the technique is the same, but the Hissarlik pottery is ruder and of inferior clay. Stone implements are found at Hissarlik, but no copper, from which the inference may be drawn that that metal, being indigenous to Cyprus, supplanted stone there at an earlier date than in the Troad, whither it had to find its way by means of commerce. It was no doubt largely due to the existence of its copper ores that Cyprus so early shows an advance in its civilisation.

The shapes of the earliest Cypriote pottery are purely indigenous and very characteristic, but the technique may very likely have been learned from elsewhere; in regard to which it should be noted that as it is invariably hand-made, an Egyptian origin is altogether precluded, owing to the early use of the wheel for pottery in that country. For the most part the forms are characterised by a tendency to fantastic and unsymmetrical modelling, with a preference for complicated forms, such as two or three vases joined together. Others again imitate gourds or vessels of straw and basket-work, such as are used in Cyprus at the present day. They have no foot or “base-ring” to stand upon; and another characteristic is the frequent absence of handles, the place of which is supplied by small ears, by means of which the vase was hung up or carried by cords. Sometimes these ears cover the whole outline of the vase. The plastic principle is always popular in the Bronze-Age pottery, and manifests itself in more than one direction. From the first it is exhibited in the tendency, so common in early art, to combine the vase and the statuette, a tendency which is even stronger in the pottery of Hissarlik. It also takes the form of designs in relief covering the surface of, or moulded to, the vase.

In one point Cyprus is manifestly in advance of the rest of the ancient world, and that is, in the decoration of the pottery. Here, in fact, we meet with the first attempts at painted vases, combined with the employment of a fine bright red or polished black slip to cover the surface. In the earlier varieties the designs, when they occur, are confined to simple rectilinear geometrical patterns incised through the slip before baking; but these are soon supplemented by the employment, first of a matt-white pigment, secondly of a brown-black paint obtained from the native umber. The only other locality in which painted vases occur at so early a period is the island of Thera.

We pass now to the consideration of the later Bronze-Age pottery—namely, that which is found in tombs together with vases of Mycenaean style. In this we see various modifications of the indigenous art, and witness its eventual transformation by the introduction of new processes and ideas from various sources. The main streams of influence are three in number, coming from the east, south, and west respectively. Of these the first represents the Asiatic civilisations of Babylonia and the Hittites, to whom in the first place are due the engraved cylinders frequently found in these tombs, and at a comparatively late date such objects as the ivory draught-box from Enkomi in the British Museum, which affords points of comparison with the reliefs of Kouyounjik. Egyptian influences date from the invasion of Cyprus by Thothmes III. (eighteenth dynasty), about 1450 B.C., as exemplified by the frequent occurrence of scarabs and porcelain objects. A counter-influence of Cyprus on Egypt is seen in the presence of exported Cypriote pottery in tombs at Kahun, Saqqara, and elsewhere. Lastly, there is the far more extensive influence of the Mycenaean civilisation, covering several hundred years, and eventually absorbing the indigenous fabrics until the foundations of a new phase of decorative art were laid on a combination of the two. The Mycenaean vases belong to the later styles exclusively, and show a strong preference for certain forms such as the false-necked amphora and the large richly-decorated krater peculiar to Cyprus; but these we must discuss later in fuller detail. Briefly, they represent the first entry of Greece proper into the Cypriote world.

The ethnological affinities of the early inhabitants of Cyprus cannot be positively ascertained. In M. Heuzey's opinion they were Asiatics, Syrian rather than Phoenician, and he suggests that the names of Kition (Chittim) and Amathus (Hamath) imply Hittite and Hamathite colonists. Dümmler regarded them as closely akin to the race which inhabited the second city at Hissarlik, an idea to which the similarity of the pottery might be thought to lend support. At all events in Greek legend this people was personified by the mythical king Kinyras, the father of Adonis, who came from the neighbouring Asiatic coast. The Hellenic, or rather Achaean, invasion is crystallised into the legends of Teucer's colonisation of Salamis after the fall of Troy, of an Arcadian settlement at Kerynia and elsewhere, and of the founding of Curium by Argives (? Mycenaeans).

The first attempt to classify the pottery of Cyprus, and to distinguish between the Bronze-Age wares and what are now known as the Graeco-Phoenician fabrics, was made by the late Mr. T. B. Sandwith in 1876. Considering the comparative poverty of material at his command, and the state of archaeological knowledge at the time, his brief but illuminating monograph is a wonderfully accurate and scientific contribution, and, so far as it goes, his classification can still be accepted in the main. But the extensive series of excavations in the island since the British occupation, and the investigation of such fruitful sites as Salamis, Curium, and Kition, have resulted in a great advance of our knowledge of the subject. The elaborate classification made by Messrs. Myres and Ohnefalsch-Richter of the representative collections of the Cyprus Museum must for the present be regarded as final, and of necessity forms the basis of the succeeding description.

The pottery of the Bronze Age may be classified under two main headings: Painted and Unpainted Pottery. Of these the former is practically confined to the later tombs, and we naturally turn first to the unpainted pottery as taking precedence in chronology and development.

Almost the commonest, and probably the earliest, variety is the red polished ware , sometimes plain, but generally ornamented with incised patterns or reliefs (see Plate XI., Nos. 3, 4, 7). The polished surface, which seems to betoken a great advance in technique, was doubtless produced by means of a burnisher. In some varieties the surface is black, a result due to the action of smoke in firing. The commonest forms are a globular bottle with long neck and handle, a plain bowl, a cooking-pot on feet, and a two-handled globular amphora; besides composite and abnormal forms. None of these vases have any kind of base except the cooking-pots.

The incised patterns, when they occur, are scratched in deeply before firing, and often filled in with white; the patterns, which tend to become more and more elaborate, consist of zigzags, wavy lines, chequers and lozenges, network patterns, and concentric circles. Ornament in relief is applied in the form of strips of clay, often worked into the shape of rude figures of trees, snakes, animals, or simple patterns. Many tombs and even cemeteries, as at Alambra, Agia Paraskevi, and elsewhere, contain no other form of pottery; but though these are undoubtedly earlier than the mixed tombs, the red ware in a degenerate form continues long afterwards.

There is also a small class of black-slip ware , covered with a thin dark lustreless slip which flakes off easily. The ornamentation, which is seldom absent, is generally in the form of a straight or wavy line with a row of dots alternately on either side, either incised or in relief. The forms are much the same as in the red ware, but often seem to suggest metal or leather prototypes.

An interesting class is formed by the black punctured ware , in which the clay is black throughout, without a slip, but partly polished. Most of these vases are small jugs with a narrow neck, swelling body, and small foot, and they are ornamented with punctured dots, usually in triangular patches, but sometimes irregularly distributed. In Cyprus they are mostly found in the early necropolis at Kalopsida, but they also occur in the late Mycenaean tombs at Enkomi. The special interest of this ware is that it is found in Egypt, under such circumstances that it can fairly be dated; notably at Khata'anah in conjunction with scarabs and flint chips of the twelfth and thirteenth dynasties (2500–2000 B.C.). It is also found in the Fayûm, where Prof. Petrie obtained some good specimens.

Allied to this is the Cypriote bucchero  ware, of plain black clay without slip, ornamented with ribs or flutings. It is only found in the later tombs, and can be traced through the subsequent transitional period.

Of the remaining fabrics the most conspicuous is that termed by Mr. Myres the base-ring ware , which is marked off from other Bronze-Age types by its flat-ringed base in all cases. The clay is dark and of fine texture, with thinly-glazed surface. The ornament is either in relief or painted in matt-white, the patterns being exclusively of a basket or network type (Plate XI., figs. 1, 2). The reliefs, when they occur, consist of scrolls or raised seams curving over the body, obviously in imitation of the seams of a leather bottle; they sometimes end in a leaf-ornament, and at other times take the form of a snake. This fabric is very commonly found in the later tombs with Mycenaean vases, and hardly earlier. It has been found in Egypt and at Lachish.


Early Cypriote Pottery (British Museum).
1, 2, “Base-ring” Black Ware; 3, 4, 7, Incised Red and Black Wares; 5, 6, “White-slip” Wares.

Among the rarer varieties of unpainted wares Mr. Myres includes white base-ring ware (plates and bowls), imitations of straw-plait or wicker-work, and plain wheel-made wares  with red or black slip, of peculiar form.

Among the Painted Pottery by far the most widely-spread local fabric is that styled by Mr. Myres the white-slip ware , which appears in the tombs of the later Bronze Age, and is more than any other associated with Mycenaean vases. In cemeteries such as Enkomi, Curium, and Maroni it has been found in large quantities in almost every tomb, and its range is not limited to Cyprus. The characteristics of this ware are a black gritty clay, worked very thin, and a thick white creamy slip with which it is covered both inside and out; it is exceedingly brittle, and perfect specimens are comparatively uncommon. The ornament is laid on in a black pigment, often turning to red by the action of fire; the most common form is that of a hemispherical bowl with a flat triangular handle, notched at the apex. Almost the only other forms are a long-necked flask or bottle of the lekythos type and a large jug with cylindrical body (like an olpe ) and a flat thumb-piece above the handle.

Mr. Myres points out that the scheme of decoration seems intended to imitate the binding and seams of a leather bowl; it usually consists of a band of various patterns (lattice-work, zigzags, lozenges, or lines of dots) round the rim, from which similar bands descend vertically, but do not meet at the bottom. Similarly the handle seems intended to represent two pieces of flexible wood bound together. In the case of the jugs the patterns follow a similar principle, giving the effect of a decoration in panels to the upper part. Specimens of this ware are given in Plate XI., Nos. 5, 6.

Beyond the confines of Cyprus isolated specimens of this ware have been found at Athens, Hissarlik, Thera, Lachish in Palestine, and at Saqqara and Tell-el-Amarna in Egypt, in the last-named instance along with Mycenaean vases. The resemblance of some white-slip wares to the Dipylon vases is not a little curious. But it can hardly be thought that the one influenced the other.

The other local painted wares are by no means so common. They are, in fact, almost limited to specimens of an unpolished white ware , with fine cream-coloured clay, on which patterns such as groups of straight or wavy lines, chevrons, chequers, and triangles filled with hatched lines are painted with a pigment varying from dull black to dull red. The commonest forms are one-handled bowls and small bottles, either globular or sausage-shaped. The latter are distinguished by often having long tube-like spouts attached and by the numerous perforated projections for the attachment of strings, handles being generally absent at first, but when they are introduced the projections remain as an ornamental survival. In a few isolated specimens the surface is covered with a polished slip. Others again are covered with a black glaze , on which are painted in dull red groups of short parallel lines, which (as Mr. Myres points out) seem to have been executed at a single stroke with a cluster of brushes.

The Mycenaean pottery  which has been found on not a few sites in Cyprus, and of late years in such surprising quantities at Enkomi and in the neighbourhood of Larnaka and Limassol (Maroni, Curium, etc.), belongs properly to another section of this chapter, and would not call for discussion in this connection, but for the fact that in Cyprus it presents certain features which seem to be almost exclusively local. At all events it is advisable to consider how far Mycenaean pottery in Cyprus differs from that found in Rhodes, Crete, or Mycenae.

Two points claim our attention in the first instance: (1) that in point of technique the Cypriote finds fall absolutely into line with those in other parts of the Mycenaean world; (2) that the range of subjects depicted on the vases found in Cyprus is wider and in a measure more developed than elsewhere. To what extent we may be permitted, bearing both facts in mind, to predicate a local fabric of Mycenaean pottery in Cyprus, must for the present remain an open question; at the same time it seems extremely probable that the larger vases, which it will be necessary to discuss in detail, are, if not of localmanufacture, at all events a fabric made specially for exportation to Cyprus, as we shall see was the case with a later variety of black-figured Attic ware.

The peculiarity of the Cypriote-Mycenaean pottery is that whereas on other sites the decoration is confined to linear ornaments, and animal or vegetable subjects drawn almost exclusively from the aquatic world (such as cuttle-fish, shell-fish, or seaweed), in Cyprus we find represented not only animals, such as bulls, deer, goats, and dogs, but even human figures, both male and female, and monsters such as Sphinxes and Gryphons. Having regard to what M. Pottier calls the law of the hierarchie des genres , it does not seem impossible that this may imply a late survival  of Mycenaean art in Cyprus, and although this view has been hitherto strongly contested in certain quarters, it finds support from other evidence obtained in recent excavations. The whole chronology of Cypriote pottery is still in a very unsettled state, and until it can be definitely shown that the Cypriote Geometrical style began concurrently with the appearance of Geometrical pottery in Greece, it is still admissible to urge that Mycenaean art prevailed here for some time subsequent to its disappearance from the greater part of the Hellenic world. For this the accepted date is the end of the tenth century B.C., but it is not necessary to extend its influence in Cyprus more than two centuries longer, i.e. beyond the eighth century, at the latest.

If we accept the view generally held that the Mycenaean civilisation was Achaean, and that after the Dorian invasion its representatives were driven in an easterly direction and settled on the coast of Asia Minor; and if again we regard this as an historical version of the Greek traditions of the Trojan war and the subsequent migrations of the Achaean heroes; we may then consider that the stories of Teucer's foundation of a new Salamis and of an Argive colonisation of Curium find their verification in the Mycenaean settlements recently discovered on those two Cypriote sites. The extent and richness of the old Salamis at Enkomi at any rate seems to suggest that it may have flourished as a Mycenaean settlement for some centuries.

But to return to the pottery. Two forms are eminently characteristic of the Cypriote varieties. Of these, one—the “false amphora” —is not peculiar to the island, but is found wherever Mycenaean pottery has penetrated; though especially common in Cyprus, it is in fact the most popular of all Mycenaean shapes. The other is a large krater, found in two varieties, either a straight-sided deep bowl with wide mouth and no neck, or a spheroidal vessel on a high stem, with a low straight neck of less diameter than the body. It is this latter class which appears to be of local manufacture and presents such a variety of painted decoration.

Up to the year 1895 only some half-dozen of these kraters were known, one of which was found by General Cesnola in the rich necropolis at Agia Paraskevi near Nicosia; another he alleged to have come from Amathus, but it was no doubt found at Maroni, not so far distant, where for many years a Bronze-Age cemetery has been known. In the above-named year two more came to light at Curium,one of the same type as General Cesnola's, with figures driving two-horse chariots; the other having in addition the unique subject of a series of women, each figure in a separate panel, represented as waving their arms or holding flowers. These were speedily followed by the rich and valuable series from Enkomi now in the British Museum, since which time other interesting specimens have been obtained for the Museum in various excavations or have found their way into the hands of local collectors (see Plate XII.).


Mycenaean Vases from Cyprus  (British Museum ).

Native imitations of the Mycenaean vases, which have been described as “sub-Mycenaean wares,” have been found in considerable numbers on most of the sites where the genuine Mycenaean ware exists. They fall technically under the heading of painted white ware, the difference being that the decoration is in matt  colour (varying from black to red) on an unpolished drab ground. The patterns mostly follow Mycenaean models, but some are new. They are well represented on the Mycenaean site at Curium, especially in one or two tombs of transitional character, and in some cases the decoration is of a distinctly Geometrical type, illustrating the development of the succeeding style. In any case it is not difficult to distinguish them from the genuine Mycenaean fabrics.

In these so-called sub-Mycenaean vases we can trace the best evidence of the transition from the Bronze Age to the succeeding or Graeco-Phoenician period. But on the whole the line of demarcation is clearly defined, as for instance by the forms and position of the tombs, which become larger and lie deeper; by the appearance of iron implements and bronze fibulae; and by the fact that all the native pottery is now made on the wheel. Relations with continental Greece are evidenced by the occasional importation of Geometrical pottery of the Dipylon type (as in the great vase found at Curium), dating from the ninth and eighth centuries B.C. As we have already seen, the first Hellenic settlements in Cyprus seem to have followed on more or less immediately after the Dorian invasion, in the sites of Salamis, Curium, Kerynia, Paphos, and others which afterwards became the capitals of small Hellenic kingdoms.

On the other hand, the Phoenician thalassocracy, which began about the ninth century B.C., never had much foothold in Cyprus, less at any rate than was formerly supposed. Politically at all events the Phoenician influence was comparatively small, even in their settlements at Kition and Amathus; we read of expeditions of the kings of Tyre in the tenth and eighth centuries, the object of which was to force the former town to pay tribute; but subsequently they were compelled by the Assyrian domination under Sargon to retreat westwards. In the seventh century a new power arose in the shape of Egypt, and in the sixth Cyprus became a tributary of Amasis. Throughout, however, relations with Greece were maintained, and we read that in 501 B.C. the Cypriote princes joined the Ionians in their revolt against Persia, a fact which shows the strength of the Hellenic element.

Nevertheless the term “Graeco-Phoenician,” which has been adopted to describe the art of this period, is convenient, and can hardly be improved upon, if we bear in mind that the term “Phoenician” really represents the combination of Egyptian and Assyrian elements of art which filtered through that race into Cyprus, and in which sometimes the one, sometimes the other has the predominance. This is seen perhaps more clearly in the sculpture, metal-work, and terracottas, as for instance in the incised bronze and silver bowls, than in the pottery. Painted pottery was never a feature of Oriental art, and the Phoenician influence in the pottery is confined to borrowed motives of Oriental character, like foreign words in a language. Another proof that Cyprus resisted the Phoenician domination is afforded by the curious fact that though the Greeks of the mainland adopted the Phoenician alphabet entirely, in Cyprus, on the other hand—where, above all, we should have expected to find it—its place is taken by a syllabary, the forms of which appear to bear some relation to the Lycian, Carian, and Pamphylian alphabets. That this syllabary, which is universally employed for inscriptions down to the fourth century, is of a very high antiquity is shown by its close affinities with the newly-discovered Cretan script, and by the fact that single characters of a similar type are often found engraved on the handles of Mycenaean vases in Cyprus. Each character represents a syllable, not a letter (except in the case of vowels), and the dialect is thought to be largely influenced by Aeolic.

Mycenaean influence, as might be expected, was slow to die out in Cyprus, and the pottery is no exception. It is seen not only in the patterns, such as the concentric circles—an invention of the Cypriote-Mycenaean pottery, which forms a favourite and almost universal motive at a later date—but in the subjects and technique. The practice of painting figures in outline, not in silhouette, as in the birds and beasts of the Enkomi kraters, the use of dull red and black pigments on an unglazed light-coloured surface, and many other details are an heritage from the Bronze Age, extending over many a succeeding century. With these are combined the influences of the early Attic pottery, in the panels of Geometrical patterns, and the later rosette and conventionalised lotos-flower, which, with the concentric circles, form the stock-in-trade of the “Graeco-Phoenician” potter. The British Museum collection includes one or two remarkable isolated specimens which illustrate this principle. It is for instance instructive to compare the Sphinxes on a krater from Enkomi with those on a large amphora lately acquired from the Karpas, or the oinochoe from General Cesnola's collection with a chariot-scene (Plate XIII.), with those from Mycenaean sites similarly decorated. On the other hand, the extraordinary large vase from Tamassos, with its crudely and childishly drawn figures, combines a curious admixture of Greek and Oriental motives, and early as it must be, is not Mycenaean in conception or technique.

Oriental influence is not, however, altogether wanting in the pottery. The lotos-flowers and rosettes, of which we have already spoken, are derived respectively from Egypt and Assyria, and the conventionalised palm-trees, which also appear, are of course purely Oriental. So too, again, the typically Oriental subject of the sacred tree between two animals appears in various forms. But here again we are met with the surprising fact that the Oriental element is far stronger in Greece than in Cyprus, as will be seen later in the account of the early Hellenic fabrics; and no doubt it is due to this cause that the Geometric style was not driven out from Cyprus as it was from Greece, but continued for many centuries.

In attempting a detailed description of the Graeco-Phoenician pottery, it will be seen that any chronological system is impossible. The conservative tendency of Cypriote art caused the same methods of decoration to be employed with extraordinary persistency during a period of time which saw the whole development of Hellenic vase-painting from its earliest beginnings to its decline, and though there is a certain amount of variety, there is no development properly speaking, and the latest fabrics are, artistically speaking, on the same level as the earliest. It might be thought that the evidence of excavations would compensate for this absence of artistic criteria; but such is not the case. As a general rule in tombs containing imported Greek vases, the dates of which can be fixed within reasonable limits, native pottery is conspicuous by its absence, as may be seen from the results obtained at Curium. In any case, in the tombs richest in Hellenic pottery, as at Poli, the local wares are largely of a definitely late character, and so far distinct from the Geometrical and Orientalising fabrics as to form a class by themselves. Another difficulty which has to be taken into account, is that caused by the frequency of re-burials in Cypriote tombs. Of this there were countless instances at Amathus and Poli, so much so that explorers of the latter site were actually led to believe that the Geometrical pottery was contemporaneous with remains of the Hellenistic age with which it was frequently found. But where trustworthy evidence can be obtained, it entirely militates against this possibility.

The principal sites on which “Graeco-Phoenician” pottery has been found are: Amathus, Curium, Dali (Idalion), Kition, Lapathos, Poli (Marion-Arsinoe), Paphos, Salamis, Soli, and Tamassos. Other sites are not at present identified, but the finds were made in the neighbourhood of the modern Achna, Ormidhia, and other villages, and in the Karpas. Of these sites the richest are Amathus, Dali, Curium, and Poli; but in the finest collection of vases of this class, that of General Cesnola at New York, the alleged sites are not always to be accepted with certainty.


Graeco-Phoenician pottery is, as has been said, exclusively wheel-made, and almost always supplied with a “base-ring.” Reliefs and incised ornaments are never found, but instances of moulded wares, combining the vase with the statuette, are not wanting, especially among the later varieties. The designs are usually painted in a non-lustrous black pigment, varied with the use of opaque purple and white, corresponding to the pigments employed by Hellenic potters. The ground is either white, without any polish or slip—as in the painted white ware of the Bronze Age and sub-Mycenaean fabrics—or else covered with a more or less lustrous red slip, varying from a bright orange or deep red to a dark brown (the latter usually with unpolished surface). Purple is employed only on the white wares, white only on the red. The typical decoration of the white wares consists of lotos-patterns, tree-ornaments, and water-fowl. Generally speaking, these are earlier than the red. On the lustrous red wares the decoration is usually confined to simple patterns of concentric circles, vertical and horizontal, maeander crosses, lozenges and triangles. Fig. , from Curium, is a typical specimen of the more elaborate types, and another is shown in Plate XIII.

The forms are at first very varied, but gradually crystallise into some half-dozen main types: dishes, bowls on stems, lekythi with one or two handles, jugs with globular bodies, and large amphorae with vertical side-handles. Of these the jug is by far the commonest. Among the peculiar forms in the earlier tombs (eighth to sixth centuries) may be mentioned aski  in the form of birds or oxen (the latter a Mycenaean survival), and a kind of flask with barrel-shaped body, on which the decoration of concentric circles, etc., does not follow the usual horizontal system of classical pottery, but is disposed vertically, in contradiction to all artistic feeling (see Plate XIII.). The circles are often very fine and close, and were produced by holding a brush full of paint close to the surface of the vase as it was turned on the wheel. The drawing of the circles in different planes, without regard to the lines of the vase, was easily effected by placing it in different positions. In the period of Hellenic importations the principal form is the jug with ovoid body and modelled spout, and flat dishes are also common.

Unpainted pottery is almost as common as painted in the Graeco-Phoenician period, and calls for a few words of separate treatment. For the most part it comes under the heading of Domestic Ware, or earthenware vessels similar to those in ordinary use at the present day. They are made of plain, unrefined, usually reddish, clay, without any slip or polish, and include various forms of jugs, bowls, and plates, as well as the large wine-amphorae with pointed bases universally found at all periods. Many lamps and small “cup-and-saucer” double bowls occur in this category. In the earlier tombs of the Transitional period, pottery of a black-slip ware, with reeded body, is frequently found, chiefly in the form of jugs and kraters. Plain black wares, like the Italian bucchero , are also rarely found; as are vessels covered with a fine red slip and polished.

In most of the painted pottery of the Graeco-Phoenician period, especially in its earlier phases, the technical methods are those which we have already described in speaking not only of the “sub-Mycenaean” or Transitional fabrics, but also of the painted white ware of the Bronze-Age tombs. That is to say, that the decoration is in dull colour on a lustreless and (usually) unpolished white or drab ground. The colour, however, is usually not red, as in the earlier stages, but black, red being used chiefly as an accessory or for picked-out details. The latter varies from a pale brick-red to deep purple. The system of decoration is often extremely elaborate, although the range of subjects is limited. Apart from geometrical or conventional patterns, such as the stylised palmette, lotos-flower, stars, or trees, we only find water-fowl, fish, a few quadrupeds such as bulls or deer, and finally human figures. But the last are exceedingly rare, and confined to the white wares, the best example being perhaps the very Oriental design of two warriors driving in a chariot, or the worshippers rendering homage to seated deities on the fine vase from Ormidhia (Fig. 76).


Cypriote Pottery: Graeco-Phoenician Period (British Museum).

The system of geometrical decoration on some of the earlier vases, especially the large jars, is often extremely elaborate, covering every available inch of the surface; the patterns consist of rosettes, panels of lozenge-pattern or chequers, triangles of hatched lines, dotted circles, etc., all combined in parallel bands or friezes, much in the same way as on the Dipylon wares. The disappearance of this elaborate style, together with human figures and figures of animals, is perhaps to be accounted for by the importations of Hellenic wares which began in the sixth century, and relegated the local fabrics to a subordinate position, just as in Greece the early Geometrical fabrics were obscured by the Mycenaean pottery.

Some interesting specimens, forming a late survival of these earlier Geometrical wares, were found at Amathus in 1894. They include one which has a parallel in a vase found at Phocaea by Prof. Ramsay, and originally thought to be Ionic in origin; the decoration consists of a head of Hathor the Egyptian goddess in a panel, with debased geometrical patterns. There can be no doubt now that the fabric is Cypriote, probably of the fifth century, and not without traces of Ionic influence. Another shows a remarkable development in the direction of naturalism, and the subject is unique in Cypriote pottery: men banqueting under a palm-tree.

From Baumeister .

These probably date from the fifth century, the period which seems to be represented by the later Geometrical red wares with concentric circles, now slowly dying out under the influence of Hellenic importations, and exceedingly rare in tombs where Greek vases are found. At the same time a great transformation comes over the contents of the tombs, which themselves begin to increase in size, with a shorter δρόμος, to which a flight of steps leads down. Other tombs—and this is often the case where Greek importations are found, as at Curium—are merely in the form of ramifying passages cut in the earth, without any structural remains. Sixth century and earlier Greek fabrics, such as the Geometrical, Corinthian, or Ionian wares, are very rare; but the imported Dipylon vase found by General Cesnola at Curium is a notable instance. Black-figured vases when found are almost invariably of a late and careless type, characteristic of the last efforts of that style in the fifth century. There is, however, a remarkable exception in the case of a small class of jugs, which are in shape an exact imitation of the globular Cypriote jugs with concentric-circle decoration; the long narrow neck and trefoil mouth, with its incised eyes, are retained, but the decoration is purely Attic, in the style of B.F. vases of 520–500 B.C. These are found at Poli and Amathus, and appear to have been made specially at Athens for importation to Cyprus. Poli (Marion) was for some reason a great centre for Athenian imports in general, and has yielded many fine specimens of Hellenic pottery. Red-figured vases signed by Chachrylion, Hermaios, etc., have been found here, and at Curium a fine R.F. krater with the name of Megakles (καλός); also some fine white-ground specimens at Poli.

By the fourth century, if not earlier, the Geometrical and Hellenic vases are almost entirely replaced by a new class of wares, which may be termed “Graeco-Cypriote,” in contradistinction to the Graeco-Phoenician. The same red clay, covered with a more or less polished red slip, still obtains, but the painted decoration is confined to olive-wreaths in brown or plain bands of colour. We also witness the revival of an old practice, in a partial return to the taste for plastic decoration on vases. In many of the fourth-century tombs are found large pitchers, with a spout modelled in the form of a woman holding a jug, out of which the liquid was intended to pour (Plate XIII.). These are sometimes richly decorated in polychrome, red, blue, green, black, pink, and white; but the colouring is apt to flake off and disappear. The imported wares of the fourth century are confined to plain cups and bowls of glazed black ware with stamped patterns, such as are often found in Greece and Italy. In the Hellenistic period (300–146 B.C.) painted vases are practically unknown, though a few rare specimens have turned up at Curium; and it is not long before they are entirely replaced by the glass vessels and common wine-amphorae of the large and elaborate Roman tombs.