BMCR 2020.03.41

Terrakotten aus Pergamon: Tonfiguren und -objekte aus der Wohnstadt am Südhang der Akropolis und von weiteren Fundorten

, Terrakotten aus Pergamon: Tonfiguren und -objekte aus der Wohnstadt am Südhang der Akropolis und von weiteren Fundorten. Pergamenische Forschungen, 17. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2018. xxv, 365 p., 54 p. of plates. ISBN 9783110598131. €129,95.

This volume is the seventeenth monograph of the series Pergamenische Forschungen, edited by Wolfang Radt on behalf of the German Archaeological Institute. The book emerged from Sven Kielau’s dissertation, defended in 2008 at the University of Münster. It is a continuation of the publication of Eva Töpperwein, Hellenistische Terrakotten von Pergamon,which appeared as the third volume of Pergamenische Forschungen in 1976.[1] This earlier volume included 621 pieces selected from thousands of mostly undocumented terracottas from Pergamon found in the Asklepieion, the Demeter Sanctuary, and houses on the Acropolis, as well as from other sites, such as Poyracık, Musala Mezarlık, and Mamurt Kale in order to study their typology, style, and chronology. The modest aim of Töpperwein was to prepare a path for later, better documented studies on Pergamene terracottas. Sven Kielau has taken up this task after more than forty years.

The subtitle, Tonfiguren und -objekte aus der Wohnstadt, suggests that the volume focuses on functional aspects of terracottas in domestic settings. The reader, however, is warned already in the preface (XIII) not to have great expectations in this regard since the original context of use cannot be evidenced for any of the terracottas included in the study.

The book is structured in seven chapters. A list of abbreviations and bibliography is strangely numbered as chapter 1 (XVII-XXV). The book begins with Chapter 2, which includes an obligatory introduction subdivided into two parts: very short remarks on material and work method (1-2) and extended discussions on archaeological contexts (2-11). The reader learns from this chapter that the study is based on 5400 terracotta fragments from which 1030 pieces were selected according to their definability or assignability. Apart from one single piece, no chemical analyses were carried out to determine the provenience of clay. All fragments were found at the excavation of the residential area carried out by Wolfgang Radt (1973-1993). This area is located at the southern slope of the Acropolis of Pergamon, directly above the sanctuary of Demeter, the Heraion, and the Gymnasium complex. In this entangled zone of steep and stepped streets, peristyle houses, smaller prostas and pastas houses, a Dionysiac club, the so-called Podiensaal, and a heroon, were also shops and workshops. The terracotta finds from the Podiensaal and the so-called Bau Z, the latter most probably the residence of an urban priest of Dionysos, are not included in Kielau’s study, but are published separately by others.[2] None of the terracottas involved in the study can be contextualised to a certain room due to successive building phases in this area during the Byzantine period. Very few of these terracottas date to the archaic and classical period, while the overwhelming majority belong to the Hellenistic and Roman eras. The material is classified traditionally by assigning individual fragments to known figure types and comparing their style and iconography with the other terracottas from Pergamon, as well as from Myrina and other coroplastic centers in Asia Minor and Greece.

Chapter 3 (13-28) revaluates all terracottas previously known from Pergamon with particular attention to datable contexts in order to establish a chronological framework for the classification of new finds from the city excavation. Chapter 4 (29-57) reconsiders the chronology of the terracottas found in other locations in Pergamon, but also includes the finds from Myrina, Athens, and Priene.

The backbone of the book is Chapter 5 which presents the repertoire of the terracottas from the Stadtgrabung subdivided into no fewer than 40 (!) headings, according to subject matter and typological classification, which feature lengthy descriptions, sometimes supplemented with additional information in brackets. Female figures are most common, and Cybele is the deity represented most often, followed by Aphrodite, Athena, Artemis, Dionysos, Eros, Asclepios, and Heracles. The so-called grotesques figures, infants, animals, protomes, masks, and herms form smaller groups. Examples with signatures, symbols and moulds indicate local workshops.[3]

This volume illustrates how difficult it is to classify and contextualise these masses of fragments in order to answer comprehensive questions of the Pergamene coroplastic. The material is presented in great detail, is well illustrated, and fully referenced. Yet, the book is not easy to use, because the reader becomes lost in details. What is clear is that all terracottas stem from secondary contexts and therefore cannot be recontextualised to understand their purpose of use and to establish their chronology. This may be disappointing to those who expect more concise results from the well-documented “Stadtgrabung” of Pergamon. Nevertheless, Sven Kielau provides some new insights into the coroplastic of Pergamon. The author extends the known repertoire with new types and corrects dates assigned in previous research. Significant in this sense is a closed votive context from a cave sanctuary at the east slope of the acropolis, the publication of which is forthcoming by Benjamin Engels.[4] Kielau repeatedly refers to this unpublished context in order to show that the 1st century BC did not mark a decline of Pergamene coroplastic, as Töpperwein suggested. Kielau also argues convincingly that a group of Aphrodite statuettes belongs to the 1st/2ndnd century AD as indicated by their Flavian/Trajanic coiffure, and not to the Late Hellenistic period as suggested by the previous research. The links of the Pergamene coroplastic to Myrina and Smyrna already argued by Töpperwein can be confirmed by the means of some new examples from the “Stadtgrabung.” Surprising is a new link to Corinth observed by Kielau on two female heads.[5]

This book fulfils its aim to create a basis for discussion and future research on the coroplastic of Pergamon. It is hoped that the author will pursue his detailed studies on Pergamene terracottas with better stratified new finds.


[1] E. Töpperwein, Terrakotten von Pergamon, Pergamenische Forschungen 3 (Berlin 1976). For an overview of the terracottas from Pergamon, see also A. Schwarzmeier, “Tonfiguren aus Pergamon,” in: R. Grüßinger et al. (eds.) Pergamon. Panorama der antike Metropole. Begleitbuch zur Ausstellung (Berlin 2011) 371-375.

[2] H. Schwarzer, Das Gebäude mit dem Podiensaal in der Stadtgrabung von Pergamon. Studien zu sakralen Banketträumen mit Liegepodien in der Antike, Altertümer von Pergamon XV 4 (Berlin – New York 2008); S. Japp & H. Schwarzer, “Figürliche Terrakotten aus zwei dionysischen Kultgebäuden in Pergamon,” in: A. Muller – E. Laflı (eds.), Figurines de terre cuite en Méditerranée grecque et romaine. 2 – Iconographie et contextes (Villeneuve d’Ascq 2015) 249-265.

[3] Two moulds of a statue of Men were previously published in an article by Kielau, “Zwei Tonmatritzen für den Mondgott aus dem Bereich der Stadtgrabung Pergamons,” in: H. Schwarzer – H. Nieswandt (ed.), “Man kann es sich nicht prächtig genug vorstellen: Festschrift für Dieter Salzmann (Marsberg/Padberg 2016) 315-325.

[4] F. Pirson – G. Ateş – B. Engels, “Die neu entdeckten Felsheiligtümer am Osthang von Pergamon – ein innerstädtisches Kultzentrum für Meter-Kybele?, in: K. Sporn – S. Ladstätter –  M. Kerschner (eds.), Natur – Kult – Raum. Akten des internationalen Kolloquiums-Universität Salzburg, 20.–22. Jänner 2012 (Vienna 2015) 281-301.

[5] These results were also published in a separate article: S. Kielau, “Terracottas from Pergamon´s Residential Area: Comments regarding Chronology and Relations to other Sites,” in: G. Papantoniou et al. (ed.), Hellenistic and Roman Terracottas (Leiden/Boston 2019) 272-285.