Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2016.06.35 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2016.06.35

Annie Caubet, Sabine Fourrier, Marguerite Yon, Kition-Bamboula VI: le sanctuaire sous la colline. Travaux de la Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée. Série recherches archéologiques, 67.   Lyon:  Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée, 2015.  Pp. 414; Plans IX.  ISBN 9782356680488.  €44.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Giorgos Papantoniou, University of Bonn (

[Authors and titles are listed below.]

This volume covers the stratigraphic sequence, the architecture and the material culture of the Iron Age sanctuary of Kition-Bamboula, conventionally called ‘of Astarte and Herakles-Melqart’.

In the Introduction Caubet (the excavator of the sanctuary area), Fourrier (the new director of the French mission at Kition), and Yon (the former director) offer a brief historiography of the research conducted at the site of Bamboula, outlining also the contents of the present volume. Sanctuary stratigraphy spans from the early Cypro-Geometric to the early Hellenistic period, but the cultic function of the place can only be confirmed from Cypro-Geometric III, i.e., from the ninth century BC onwards. This fact does not come as a surprise, as this is the case for many Early Iron Age sanctuaries on the island.1 The sanctuary also provides evidence for continuity during the Hellenistic period, when the Ptolemies abolished the polity of Kition, which had sided with the Antigonids during the wars of Alexander’s successors. This volume presents the results of the excavations in ‘chantier B’, where the Cypro-Geometric and Cypro-Archaic phases have been recovered below strata dating to later periods. Although various depositional issues —like the presence of later occupational phases—rendered the identification of these earlier phases of the sanctuary difficult, the problem has here been handled successfully; the character and operation of the sanctuary are contextualized from its foundation in the Cypro-Geometric to its architectural restructuring during the Cypro- Classical period (pp. 16-17). Considering the limited physical evidence currently at our disposal about ritual and cult during the first millennium BC, and especially in the Early Iron Age, in Cyprus, this book is a major addition to the existing archaeological literature.

The first part, written mostly by Fourrier (in collaboration with Caubet and Callot for Chapter 1, and Dardaillon for Chapter 2), presents the architectural phases of the excavated area. Chapter 1 is based on a careful stratigraphic analysis of the evidence. The material and associated strata and contexts from the Bamboula sanctuary are also compared to the respective strata at the sanctuary of Kition-Kathari, excavated and published by Karageorghis and his collaborators. The volume, therefore, provides the ground to move towards a more synthetic and diachronic study of the evolution of the urban center of Kition from the Late Bronze Age to the beginning of the Hellenistic period.

Chapter 2 focuses on the workshops of phase III (Cypro-Archaic I). The links between sanctuaries, elites, and production, especially of copper, during the Late Bronze Age is a debated subject in Cypriot archaeology, even if almost every scholar agrees that some kind of connection existed. Iron Age evidence remains largely unpublished but it is becoming apparent that the main business of the Cypriot polities in that phase was, like in the Bronze Age, also the economy of copper. Like the workshops of the Late Cypriot sanctuary at Kition-Kathari, the Iron Age workshops at Bamboula also deal with textile and metallurgical production, although without direct access to the sanctuary. Comparative evidence, distance from the main sanctuary, votive material and cultic structures found within the Bamboula workshops suggest that a connection with ritual also existed (pp. 101-102). Nonetheless, in this context, it has to be noted that the material related to metallurgy in Bamboula is very scarce and, as in the case of Kathari, it excludes the possibility of large-scale primary production of copper. The presence of Hathor—protectress of the metal industry—in Kition (see below), is another indicator of the connection between metallurgy and religion in the Iron Age.

The second part of the volume is divided into seven chapters on finds and artefacts. Chapter 1, Part A (by Fourrier) investigates Cypriot and Levantine pottery of the Cypro-Geometric and Cypro-Archaic periods, while Part B (by Chirpanlieva) deals with imported Greek pottery from the Cypro-Geometric to the Cypro-Classical period. The Cypriot and Levantine pottery assemblages are studied together, not only because they are found in the same contexts, but also because of their technological, typological and stylistic affinities, which raise various methodological issues (p. 111).

Chapter 2 (by Caubet) deals mainly with the terracotta figurines dating from the Cypro-Geometric to the early Cypro- Classical period, as well as with some Hellenistic figurines found in the same deposits. Almost all the figurines are of local production, and mostly from the Kition workshops. Most depict the so-called ‘goddess with upraised arms’ and horse-back rider types, while the corpus also includes figurines of the Dea gravida, naked ‘Astarte’, Kamelarga and Ptah Patek types. It is worth noting the limited presence of bull figurines and terracotta masks. Also, the recovery of Hathoric stelai figurines at Bamboula is remarkable in the corpus of Cypriot terracottas, and should be connected somehow to the cults related to Hathoric capital stelai, which are also present in their limestone form at Bamboula (see pp. 243, 312-15 with further references).

Chapter 3 (by Caubet) covers the small objects, such as textile and weaving equipment, composite ceramics of the cup-and-saucer type, lamps, wall brackets, metal, ivory and faience objects.

Chapter 4 (by Caubet) presents the stone objects and architectural elements from the area, e.g., one bathtub, basins, parts of the canalization system, lids and plaques, altars, anchors and pierced stones, jewelry and amulets. Some of them relate to infrastructure and industrial activities, and others to cultic activities. Among the many suggestions by the author about the function of anchors or pierced stones in a ritual context, I single out the possible use of these artefacts for tethering the animals intended for sacrifice (p. 285), as is the case in the Amathous sanctuary.

Chapter 5 (by Yon) focuses on the limestone sculpture from the area. The author catalogues the sculptural elements uncovered by the French mission (consisting mainly of human figures sometimes accompanied by an animal images, and a small magic stele with Horus most probably imported from Hellenistic Egypt). She includes in her discussion analogous finds from previous explorations at the site, particularly those of the Swedish Cyprus Expedition, as well as comparative examples from Cyprus and from external Mediterranean contexts. This synthetic study allows the author to integrate the excavated material from Bamboula within its archaeological and socio-historical contexts. Of particular importance is the presence of the ‘Master of the Lions’ that merges with the iconography of Herakles/Melqart at the site, since it provides iconographic connotations directly related to the royal ideology of the Kitian dynasty.

Chapter 6, Part A (by Amadasi Guzzo) covers the inscriptions in the Phoenician alphabet from the area, while Part B (by Fourrier in collaboration with Olivier) discusses one Cypro-Syllabic inscription and various simple graffiti, marks and stamps that are probably related to a system of recording. The majority of the texts concern economic or administrative activities and, as expected, most of the recorded inscriptions are written in Phoenician.

Chapter 7 (by Gardeisen, in collaboration with Petit and Piques) offers a detailed stratigraphic analysis of the faunal remains, which despite their limited presence at the site, present some variety of species. With the exception of ritual banquets, where meat was consumed, and in contrast to the evidence from Kition-Kathari, none of this faunal material could have been directly linked to ritual actions. An interesting fact is the absence of pork; this is an observation repeatedly noted in many Cypro-Archaic sanctuaries.

In the Conclusions the three main authors of the volume reiterate the results of their fieldwork, positioning the sanctuary in its local and Cypriot context, considering all historiographic, archaeological and socio-historical parameters. The most important contribution of the French mission has been the clear division of stratigraphic units, distinguishing the individual chronological phases of the sanctuary thus correcting the chronological sequence that had been suggested by the Swedish Cyprus Expedition. The authors also re-address ritual and cult, taking into account the totality of evidence and, where possible, the relation between architectural features and finds. The nature of the cult and the extant iconography are also discussed in relation to Kitian religious and political identities, but also to political geography. The sanctuary seems to have been dedicated to a female Astarte-like deity (see also p. 304), paired with a Herakles-Melqart-like god, whose image was central in the political ideology of Kition. In addition, the Hellenistic magical Horus stele, as well as the architectural features and the presence of water in the sanctuary, indicate that some healing rituals were also in place.

The authors rightly consider the development of the sanctuary—and Kition per se—within the context of the longue durée, rejecting obscure theories about the organization of space by Iron Age Phoenician settlers arriving from the Levant (p. 378). As they clearly state (p. 380 and note 23), Kition-Bamboula cannot be isolated from the other sanctuaries of the Cypriot Iron Age, and should be viewed within the context of the long and complexdevelopment of Cypriot ritual architecture. At the same time, however—when they refer to ‘une foundation colonial de Tyr’ (p. 13) or to ‘cultes phéniciens’ of the fifth and fourth centuries BC (p. 17)— they seem to accommodate some of the traditional approaches, which continue to fuel the complex debate on the so-called colonial episodes, which have led to the “Mycenaeanization” and the ‘Phoenicianization’ narratives of Cyprus. The Greek imports during the Cypro-Classical period should, indeed, be placed within the context of the economic orientations of the Cypriot kings towards the west from the later phase of the Cypro-Archaic period. It remains, however, an open question whether Kition has more numerous Greek imports than other Cypriot cities, or whether the number of imports from the Greek mainland is directly, or primarily, related to the establishment of Phoenician economic networks (pp. 181-83). One should also consider Iacovou’s recent reevaluation of the evidence, which has led her to suggest that Kition did not become a formal territorial polity until the Semitic dynasty of Kition had succeeded in taking over Idalion and its territory in the fifth century BC.2 The multiplication of the ‘peri-urban’ sanctuaries of Kition during the Cypro-Classical period, and the affinities that the Bamboula sanctuary presents with that of Apollo-Reshef at Idalion (p. 388-89) seem to corroborate this interpretation.

The surviving evidence from the sanctuary may be sparse and problematic, but it is enough to integrate Bamboula diachronically into the historical context of the city. We are pleading for more publications of Iron Age sanctuaries like this new one at Kition-Bamboula, since most of them have suffered from the antiquarian approaches and publications of early explorations on the island. In order to formulate further comparative analyses, we will need to consider more sanctuaries with adequately published stratigraphic contexts, such as Amathous, Athienou-Malloura, and Marion-Peristeries. Architectural analysis of these sites along with the study of the finds within their stratigraphic context and in relation to other artefacts will provide a more solid ground for the understanding of Iron Age ritual and cult.

Table of Contents

Avant-propos (Marguerite Yon)
Introduction (Annie Caubet, Sabine Fourrier et Marguerite Yon)
Première partie. Les vestiges architecturaux
Chapitre 1. Les phases d’occupation (Sabine Fourrier avec la collaboration d’Annie Caubet et Olivier Callot)
Chapitre 2. Les ateliers de la phase III (Sabine Fourrier avec la collaboration d’Ella Dardaillon)
Deuxième partie. Le mobilier
Chapitre 1. La céramique
A. La céramique chypriote et levantine d’époque géométrique et archaïque (Sabine Fourrier)
B. La céramique grecque importée (Iva Chirpanlieva)
Chapitre 2. Les figurines de terre cuite (Annie Caubet)
Chapitre 3. Les petits objets (Annie Caubet)
Chapitre 4. Les industries de la pierre (Annie Caubet)
Chapitre 5. Les sculptures de pierre (Marguerite Yon)
Chapitre 6. Le matériel inscrit
A. Les inscriptions phéniciennes (Maria Giulia Amadasi Guzzo)
B. Autres inscriptions et marques diverses (Sabine Fourrier avec la collaboration de Jean-Pierre Olivier)
Chapitre 7. La faune (Fouilles 1981-1989) (Armelle Gardeisen avec la collaboration de Lluis Garcia Petit et Gaël Piques)
Conclusion (Annie Caubet, Sabine Fourrier et Marguerite Yon)
Index de l’inventaire : concordance


1.   For a collection of the evidence and a first attempt to contextualize and interpret the Early Iron Age sacred landscapes, see Papantoniou, G. “Cypriot Sanctuaries and Religion in the Early Iron Age: Views from Before and After”, in M. Iacovou , ed., Cyprus and the Aegean in the Early Iron Age—The Legacy of Nicolas Coldstream, (Nicosia 2012) 285-319.
2.   Iacovou, M. “Historically Elusive and Internally Fragile Island Polities: The Intricacies of Cyprus’s Political Geography in the Iron Age”. Bulletin of the American School of Oriental Research 370 (2013.)15-47.

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