The seal use of Cyprus in the Bronze Age, II - article ; n°2 ; vol.91, pg 552-577


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Bulletin de correspondance hellénique - Année 1967 - Volume 91 - Numéro 2 - Pages 552-577
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Source : Persée ; Ministère de la jeunesse, de l’éducation nationale et de la recherche, Direction de l’enseignement supérieur, Sous-direction des bibliothèques et de la documentation.



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Victor G. E. Kenna
The seal use of Cyprus in the Bronze Age, II
In: Bulletin de correspondance hellénique. Volume 91, livraison 2, 1967. pp. 552-577.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Kenna Victor G. E. The seal use of Cyprus in the Bronze Age, II. In: Bulletin de correspondance hellénique. Volume 91, livraison
2, 1967. pp. 552-577.
doi : 10.3406/bch.1967.4938 V. Ε. G. KENNA
II. The cylinder seals
If the early stamp seal use of Cyprus, in a fitfull dependence upon
the seal uses of neighbouring countries, showed variations great enough to
provide difficulties in an assessment of its chronology and development,
the cylinder seal use, in part contemporary with it, provides its own special
Three earlier accounts (1) of the cylinder seals of Cyprus provide a star
ting point for any new consideration. The air of scholarly hesitation which
appears to hang over these accounts may be due in part to a lack of chronol
ogical reference: also perhaps to an awareness of a void, which an acquain
tance with the earlier stamp seals of Cyprus would have filled. For it
seems increasingly clear that the formation of what is now recognized as
a Cypriote style on the later cylinders, depends as much upon certain
tendencies which stem from the earlier Cypriote stamps, as glyptic
elements from the Aegean and from Near Eastern cylinders used in the
earlier part of the late Cypriote Bronze Age.
A small proportion of the seemingly rude but indigenous cylinders are
also related to these three sources, viz., the earlier stamps, the Aegean
seal tradition, the adopted Near Eastern cylinders: and since these indi-
(1) See the Descriptive Atlas of the Cesnola Collection of Cypriote Antiquities in the Metro
politan Museum of Art, New York (Boston 1885-1903), that in the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Handbook of the Cesnola Collection of Antiquities from Cyprus, by Sir John Myres (New York
1914), then the more detailed treatment by Professor E. Porada in AJA 1948. The account of
the cylinders in the Handbook benefits from Sir John Myres' great knowledge of the Aegean and
of the Archaeology of Cyprus ; Miss Porada's assessment, affected in some degree by this earlier
treatment, but based upon her close acquaintance with the seals of the ancient Near East, is of
great value. To these pioneer works, should be added that of Prof. O. Masson in BCH 1957,
pp. 6-37, which, while dealing primarily with the script, is almost indispensable to any study of
genous cylinders change little in subject or execution except to decline,
and provide after their sporadic appearance during L. Gyp. I and II, the
bulk of the cylinders found in the Salaminian tombs (1) of the last Phase of
the Cypriote Bronze Age, they appear to be a continuous use. Obviously of
different character and in all probability of different intent, they will be
treated with the other cylinders they so often accompanied.
Cypriote seal use of the Late Bronze Age seems to have been accustomed
to mixtures of seals as votive offerings, for although the possibility of
offerings for different interments must be borne in mind, certainly in the
Agia Paraskevi Tomb, two cylinders, although embodying completely
different traditions, appear to have been near contemporary in manufact
ure. As a fitting commentary upon the use of the milieu into which they
passed, they themselves are products of mixed cultures. The tomb, No. 14,
at Agia Paraskevi, excavated by Max Ohnefalsch-Richter in December
1884 containing Late Cypriote I pottery, has been dated to the mid-sixteenth
century B.C. (2). It also contained earlier pottery which Sjoqvist describes
as Middle Cypriote III — some indeed of Middle Cypriote II. There were
three seals or carved stones. One a fine cylinder of haematite, gold
capped at each end, can by reason of its subject and style be compared
with cylinders engraved in or influenced by the older Babylonian use,
yet with stylistic details come to be associated with north-west Mesopo
tamia (fig. 1, 3, 38).
The other cylinder from the burial is of soft stone, with traces of red
dye, which stone appears to have been engraved with panels containing
hieroglyphs in the Egyptian manner; and by the care with which they are
engraved suggests Syro-Egyptian work of a date towards the beginning
of the 16th century wave of the influence of Egypt in Syria.
The third engraved stone in tomb 14 is for Cyprus of great rarity. It
is a three sided prism bead of grey steatite, engraved on each of its three
faces with a framed diagonal pattern (3). Shape, subject and style suggest
that this is of Cretan origin, and of the Middle Minoan Age, which can be
dated with fair certainty to the begininng of the 17th century B.C. Thus
in a tomb datable to the beginning of the Late Cypriote I period, mid
16th century B.C., are votive seals, of which the earlier are Mesopotamian
(1) This was the term used by Cesnola. See, however, Ohnefalsch-Richter, Kypros, die
Bibel und Homer, p. 289, also quoted by Ward, Cylinder Seals of Western Asia, p. 346.
(2) Ohnefalsch-Richter, op. cit. p. 37, fig. 34, pi. CLXXI 14. John L. Myres, A Catalogue
of the Cyprus Museum, 46 and Nos. 180, 252, 255, 260, 266, J. du Plat Taylor and J. Seton-
Williams, Classification of Pottery in the Cyprus Museum, p. 8., E. Sjôqvist, Problems of the Late
Cypriote Bronze Age, 17, note 2, pp. 34-35 sq. under Base Ring I and dealing with L. Cyp. la
(p. 102) : « Ohnefalsch-Richter excavated in 1884, a tomb at Agia Paraskevi near Nicosia, which
must be partly dated to our epoch ... ». Among a majority of middle Cypriote pottery, some of
which must belong to M. Cyp. II, there are three Base Ring I vases. One is a double juglet (Type
6), the second a jug of Type I, and the third the rather unusual bowl of Type 3 (p. 34).
(3) Originally thought to be a cylinder of some kind. 554 V. Ε. G. KENNA
and Cretan in origin, with one cylinder of slightly later date. The presence
of three stones of foreign manufacture in an important tomb, suggests
that they were thought more appropriate as votive gifts than any Cypriote
stones in current use, which perhaps were also few in number.
In one case, however, that of the cylinder from Mesopotamia, the
motif was all but naturalized by the addition of four quantities in such
spaces as could contain them (fig. 2). Between the heads of Shala and
Marduk, a symbol of the sun has been engraved, between Marduk and
Shamash, a lion crowned and ithyphallic, whose importunity has obscured
Shamash's saw of Judgement. Behind Shamash and facing the panel of
cuneiform script, indeed, holding one of the containing lines as a staff, is
a Cypriote Bull man. While above him, to complete, as it were, a sum
mary of the main Cypriote glyptic quantities, is a bird.
This cylinder of fine haematite and comparable work; greatly treasured
indeed, as the gold and caps show, has an importance far beyond its original
value, because of its Cypriote additions, which at least contemporary
with the deposition of the offerings, must rank as one of the earliest examples
of those beings, which in their later and finer development mark the epitome
of Cypriote cylinder seal use.
This incidence of seals of foreign origin in the Agia Paraskevi Tomb
is in accord with a number of fine cylinder seals from Near Eastern sources
found in other tombs. Those in the British Museum from the Enkomi
excavations of 1897 (Walters, Catalogue of the Engraved Gems 1926) (1) are
very instructive, BMCG. No. 108, of haematite in the style of the 1st
dynasty of Babylon, Enkomi Tomb 57, has been damaged, the head of the
male deity having been removed. Similar damage on another cylinder
discovered during the excavations of Enkomi town in an 11th century
level suggests a degree of intention, for in the case of this fine Mitannian
Cylinder of haematite (Enkomi No. 228) (2), the removal of the winged disc
has been assisted by a smooth chisel, traces of whose use are visible at the
extremity of the wings. The surface fracture on the cylinder from Enkomi
Tomb 57, where the head of the god has been, has also been neatly accomp
lished ; nor is there any other damage to the cylinder.
The complex of Enkomi tomb 84 and 84 a produced another fine
haematite cylinder of Syrian or North West Mesopotamian origin, (Walters
109), a poorer faience cylinder, (Walters 141) of a type associated with
some of the sealings found at Nuzi (3), but perhaps more related in origin
with the many faience cylinders found at Ras Shamra, with which No. 84
(1) For brevity, henceforward referred to as Walters with his Catalogue number. In the
forthcoming new catalogue of the Greek and Roman Department of the British Museum, new
acquisitions and a more exact chronology will displace these older numbers. A concordance
will, however, render identification possible.
(2) I am greatly indebted to Dr. Dikaios for his generous permission in allowing me to quote
this and other cylinders from the recent excavations at Enkomi during the course of this article.
Fig. 1. — Cypr. Mus. N. 76. Original engraving. Fig. 2. — Cypr. Mus. N. 76. Cypriot additions.
Fig. 3. — Cypr. Mus. Ν. 76. Cylinder as it is now.
Fig. 4. — BMCG No. 117. With additional Script sign.
Fig. 5. — BMCG No. 115. Fig. 6. — Berlin VA. 522. Fig. 7. — BMCG No. 144 556 V. Ε. G. KENNA
Tomb 8, from Agia Paraskevi should be compared, and a white faience
scarab bearing the name of the Goddess Ma-at probably of the XVIII
dynasty (1). No additions or subtractions were attempted to Walters 109,
nor indeed to Walters 147, which would have been fraught with danger;
but as though in compensation for this clutch of foreign styles, a cylinder
of steatite, (Walters No. 114), which must be one of the earlier indigenous
Cypriote cylinders, was added. Its motif, a votary with attendant animals
and the sacred tree, while basically connected with an Aegean tradition,
bears no formal relationship with it (fig. 9).
Two others found with pottery of a similar date in Enkomi Tomb 2,
Nos. 67 and 68 (Swedish excavations), help to complete the picture indi
cated by Tomb 84/84 a. No. 67, a cylinder of faience, combines, as Profes
sor Porada aptly points out (2), two Near Eastern motifs, that of a feast
with music and a presentation scene, within a Cypriote recension.
Two cylinders which exemplify this stage are from the British Museum
and from the Metropolitan Museum, New York, respectively. By style
and use of Cypriote script on Walters No. 123, this cylinder must be one
of the earlier attempts to employ Near Eastern motifs for a
Cypriote owner. Unfortunately in the case of this cylinder there is no
record of stratification, but it is from the Enkomi excavations of Murray,
and the lapis lazuli of which it is made has been discoloured to a brownish
green by water. That the Cypriote signs are not a later addition upon
a cylinder of Near Eastern manufacture, is seen by a close correspondence
in style and technique between first, the signs and the ancillary forms,
the libra, sword, bucranium, bird and aniconic idol; and then, these
with the divine figures themselves: and also under strong magnification,
there are no perceptible differences in surface discolouration or abrasions.
Entirely Cypriote in· conception and execution the engraving shows that
they and the idol were conceived as part of the motif from the beginning
of the work. While this cylinder gives an illustration of the first stage
of a fusion between ancient Mesopotamian style and Cypriote, MMNY.
Myres No. 4311 (3), gives a fusion between Aegean and Cypriote styles.
Myres is of the opinion that the script is an early form of Cypriote,
which approximates to Cypro-Minoan. Certainly it is a perfect commentary
on the treatment and positioning of the figures, which in their solidity are
related to earlier Cypriote stamp seal use and to work on the earlier cylinders,
No. 68, Tomb 2 Enkomi (4), as also to the later No. 28 of the Bronze Age
(1) Two scarabs bearing this name were discovered during the 1897 excavations at Enkomi,
BMCG 1897, 4-1.465 and 1897, 4-1.762 respectively. Differences between them in shape, style, See' execution and degree of wear are instructive. Excavations in Cyprus, PI. Nos. 465 Murray,
and 762.
(2) Porada in AJA 1948, p. 181, No. 18.
(3) J. Myres, Handbook of the Cesnola Collection No. 4311, Masson BCH 1957, pp. 10 seq.
fig· 4.
(4) Gjerstad, The Swedish Cyprus Expedition I (henceforward referred to as SCE), PI.
Fig. 8. — BMCG. Walters 126. Fig. 9. — BMCG. Walters 114.
Fig. 10. — KBH I, fig. 69. Fig. 11. — KBH I, fig. 70. Fig. 12. — KBH I, fig. 59.
Fig. 13. — BMCG. Walters 137. Fig. 14. — BMCG. Walters 143.
Fig. 15. — Ashmolean Museum, 1933. 1096. Fig. 16. — Cypr. Mus. N. 64. 558 V. Ε. G. KENNA
Sanctuary of Agios Jakovos (1). Related to the earlier magnificent
Cypro-Aegean work on the Colville cylinder (2) (also with Gypro-Minoan
script), and the later Walters No. 122, further work of Aegean character
and Cypriote solidity can also be seen in cylinder No. 273, Tomb 11
Enkomi (3) (Swedish excavation). And in this connection, before the
mention of other experimental fusions of style, the presence in Tomb 11
of a purely indigenous Cypriote cylinder related both to Walters 114 (fig. 9)
Tomb 84/84 a and Walters 129 Tomb 67, now regarded with some justif
ication as a non-sphragistic type points to another phase of development
which, contemporaneous with glyptic proper, possesses special characterist
ics. It is of interest that Walters No. 129 was found with the magnificent
Cypriote-Mycenean gold finger ring with the engraved double bezel (4).
For a fusion of Cypriote and Mitannian elements, the cylinder from
Enkomi (5) gives clear evidence. Its faience is much decayed, but it'
must have been greatly valued in antiquity since its gold caps are among
the finest extant. Enough of the engraving, however, remains to show
the chief of the motif; a central false spiralform band divides pairs of ibex face
to face in the upper register from lions in like position in the lower. The
virtual joining of the ibex heads recalls a similar joining of the bulls on the
square stone stamp seal from Paphos (6). Cyprus Museum N. 33, a
cylinder of black marble gives another instance (fig. 39). Here, divided by
a band of false 'S' Spirals are two griffins heads, with a jug and a love symbol
above, with flying birds and an ibex below. Walters No. 117 gives an
instance of Syrian and Cypriote elements combined. Except for Walters
123, Cyprus Museum 1956/VII.27/1 and Walters 121 from Enkomi Tomb
66, of blue faience which includes Mitannian elements, attempts at fusion
of Cypriote and Mesopotamian elements are comparatively rare. No
doubt the fusion of Syrian or Mitannian styles with those of Cyprus proved
more congenial, since there were in all three glyptic traditions elements
related in some degree with the Aegean and with each other.
Then in sequence should follow, Walters 122, with a similar use of the
libra sign as on Walters 123, joined to the Aegean by a Cypriote styled
bucranian and a Cypriote version of the Ta-urt genius (7) — a more tradi
tional version of which is seen on a contemporary conoid in Berlin (8),
(1) SCE I 357, 576 PI. CL Mo. 10: AJA 1948, 189 Nos. 74 and 76.
(2) BCH 91, 1967, p. 251 sq.
(3) SCE I PI. CL. 13: I AJA 1948, p. 198, p. 198, No. 38, Hennessy, Stephania, p. 41.
(4) Murray, Excavation in Cyprus, pi. IV n° 351, BMCal. Rings No. 8.
(5)Op. cit. PL X, No. 426, BMCal. Jewellery No. 661.
(6) Cyprus Museum 1948//XI-11/12: BCH 91, 1967, fig. I, 5 a.
(7) For the adaptation of the Ta-urt figure, see Evans, Palace of Minos I, 200, fig. 148 which
appears to mark its inception into Crete from Egypt to its development through the Phaestos
flattened cylinder from Kaly via Messara, Κρητ. Χρον. 1 963, pp. 333-334, figs. 1 5 and 1 6, to Glyptic
use in LM I times e.g. in the Vapheio deposit, CMS I 231, 232.
(8) Furtwaengler, Beschreibung No. 53. THE SEAL USE OF CYPRUS IN THE BRONZE AGE, II 559
Beschreibung 53, and a more perfect version on the Enkomi cylinder seal
discovered by Schaefïer (1), which must by reason of its strong Cretan
elements be earlier. On this cylinder, the master of animals is attended
by two lions in their traditional Aegean position, only the upper frieze
of flying birds and a winged griffin betray a Near Eastern arrangement,
stressed by a man's head in profile underneath the belly of one lion, matched
by the protome of a bird inverted under the belly of the other.
The spacing (2) of the figures on Walters' No. 122 relates this cylinder
to No. 125 (fig. 17) whose rampant goats proclaim its Cypriote character. The
engraving of the female devotees on 125 lead on to a more perfect rendering
of them on Walters No. 124, on which the tree of life bears the love fruit.
No. 124 (fig. 41), both by style and technique belongs to the same workshop
as a magnificent cylinder recently discovered by Karageorghis at Kitium
1963, 9/16 in the lower burial: and with this cylinder seal, Cypriote seal
engraving is moving to its zenith.
Near contemporary with the earlier of these experimental movements
towards the finest Cypriote glyptic, is one class of cylinder, completely
Cypriote in execution, yet largely inclining towards the Aegean for its
subject matter. Although obviously not in the main stream the of glyptic
development it is related and seems to have made its own contribution
to the later fine Cypriote style. Four examples are outstanding because
of their vigour and individuality. Walters Nos. 144 (fig. 42) and 142 (fig. 49)
from Enkomi Tomb 37 of early Late Cypriote II date, studies of griffins
confronting other animals, and in the case of the latter gold capped; their
chronology is matched by Walters No. 136 of a similar type from Maroni
Tomb I. Another from Klavdia, Tomb 5, Walters No. 115 (fig. 5 et 40,
without pottery record) which by the solidity of its work, the appearance
of the winged naked goddess but with an Aegean snake frame, a stalking
griffin (3) and a cult snake, gives it, if only by the characteristic poise of
its running ibex regardant, a Cypriote origin. In some ways this cylinder
from Tomb 5 Klavdia, is the most important of this class, since it offers
a direct link with the finest Cypriote cylinder group and points to
certain characteristics in these cylinders which place them securely within
the Cypriote repertoire.
The same naked winged goddess of Walters No. 115 from Klavdia is
seen on Walters No. 116, with a fine aniconic idol — perhaps showing by
tendrils its affinity with the sacred tree — both adored respectively by
ministrants and rampant lions (fig. 43). This cylinder of haematite lying as
it does within the main stream of Cypriote development, also confirms its
origin by the inclusion of two signs, one partly destroyed by
(1) Cyprus 13, 14, 661. Schaeffer, Missions en Chypre, pp. 112, 113, figs. 48, 49.
(2) A study of the spacing of figures on Mesopotamian, Syrian and Cypriote cylinders is
of considerable value.
(3) For a similar treatment, although the griffin is vertically displaced, see a lentoid formerly
in the Mond Collection. CMS VIII No. 146. V. Ε. G. KENNA 560
fracture, the other above it, the Cypriote version of the double axe. Of
the ministrants one is the bullman, here winged and holding, as is custo
mary, an animal by one of its limbs: in this case, since the bullman is fully
occupied in the worship of the winged goddess, he holds the tail of the
lion ( 1 ). The other personage, a female divinity with a horned crown appears
on BM.WAA.89313 throned and receiving the homage of a lion and a
bullman, while adjacent are a script sign and a rosette. Equal in impor
tance with her is the sacred tree, beautifully styled and radiant, supported
by two ibex and attended by a griffin and a human-headed sphinx.
Walters No. 116 and BM.WAA.89313 appear to be near contemporary.
The divine lady with the horned crown also appears on another cylinder
from Ras Shamra (2). Here, in reduced circumstances, for with a twin
sister she is partly divested and holds a captive doe, as in apposition the
Bull men, also without their priestly garments, support the Sun and Moon
symbol over the tree-idol. The importance of this cylinder from Ras
Shamra, is that on analogy with other cylinder seals of similar theme, it
appears to be both later and derived. The gratuitous inclusion of the
centred circle also suggests this, and perhaps a Syrian coastal origin. If
this be so, although Ras Shamra has produced very fine cylinder seals, the
fine class of cylinders under consideration and particularly its more sophis
ticated examples towards which most of the Cypriote work moves, and of
which Walters No. Ill (fig. 22 et 45) from Hala Sultan Tekké (3) is perhaps
the outstanding example, does not derive from Asia Minor. Of this deve
lopment, which is not simple, evidence of two other preliminary stages is
seen in No. 28 from the Bronze Age Sanctuary of Agios Jakovos (4)
(Gjerstad, Cyprus Expedition, PI. LXVII) and from the same publication
No. 273 from Tomb 11 Enkomi already considered in other connections.
While No. 28 emphasizes the tree of life, in this case springing from a
bucranium, and the winged goddess, here with an aniconic face, the trea
tment of the attendant quadruped is as naturalistic as that of the sacred
tree, while that of the attendant griffin, here inverted, matches that of
the goddess. These two cylinders appear to be collateral extensions of the
major development of the fine haematite -cylinder seals of Bronze Age
Cyprus, as Baltimore WAG 42.423 (5), with its row of female divinities
and idols, and the Louvre A 995 (6) of the hunt in the chariot (fig. 26),
are examples of other collateral extensions.
Other striking cylinders of ibex and helmeted heads in profile or with
rosettes and articulated ingots, by the antithetic positioning of the animals,
(1) See also Cyprus Museum N. 36, fig. 30.
(2) Frankfort, Cylinder Seals, PI. XLV f.
(3) The old provenience for Walters 111 — Maroni in his catalogue, is found by investigation
to be mistaken. The proveniance for this piece should be Hala Sultan Tekké.
(4) See p. 558, n. 1.
(5) Iraq VI 1939, PI. VIII 61, AJA 1948, p. 188 Ν 68.
(6) Delaporte, Cal. Cul Louvre II A 995. Gontenau, La Glyptique Syro-Hittite No. 208.