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Book: Animal Iconography in the Archaeological Record

Chapter: Bird-shaped Vessels of Bronze Age Cyprus as Three-dimensional Objects

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.38879


Cyprus is home to nearly 400 bird species and is annually visited by millions of birds during great spring and autumn migrations. This paper discusses the presence of birds in Cypriot prehistoric anthropogenic culture, using Bronze Age bird-shaped vessels (mostly askoi) as a case study, representing a rich variety of the island’s avifauna, from numerous ducks and pigeons to rare examples of partridge, vulture, and owl. They include vessels of simple forms, generally resembling waterfowl (ducks?), along with carefully modelled objects, which allow precise species identification. When identification is possible it often reveals species and subspecies which are still characteristic to Cyprus, or now endangered. A careful study of this vessel assemblage and their context (when possible) provide insights into the practical and symbolic role played by birds in the lives of the prehistoric inhabitants of Cyprus. Another aspect of these objects which is going to be discussed is their three-dimensionality. These are objects which were meant to be manipulated, touched, and seen from different angles. They also had the practical function of pouring liquids.

Chapter Contributors

  • Katarzyna Zeman-Wisniewska ( - kzeman) 'Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University, Warsaw'