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Mycenaean Female Figurines of ‘Phi’ and ‘Psi’ Type

Mycenaean Female Figurines of 'Phi' and 'Psi' Type - Benaki Museum, Athens - Joy of Museums

Mycenaean Female Figurines of ‘Phi’ and ‘Psi’ Type

‘Phi’ and ‘Psi’ Type Mycenaean figurines date back to 1450-1100 BC in Mycenaean Greece. Made of terracotta, they were found in tombs, children’s graves, shrines and settlement areas. They got their names from their shape and a resemblance to the Greek letters of psi (ψ) and phi (Φ). These Mycenaean Terracotta Female Figures are modelled with breasts, facial features are wearing enveloping garments.

The functions of these Mycenaean Female Figurines are unknown, although it has been suggested that their purpose changed with the context in which they were found. suggested uses were as children’s toys, votive figurines or grave offerings. Mycenaean figurines like these have been discovered together with Mycenaean pottery and seem to have played a significant role in the history of Mycenaean culture and religion. Over five hundred figurines have been excavated from ancient sites such as cemeteries, settlements and shrines.

Mycenaean Greece

Mycenaean Greece was the last phase of the Bronze Age  (1600–1100 BC.) in Greece and represents the first advanced civilisation in mainland Greece, with its palatial states, urban organisation, works of art and writing system. The most prominent site was Mycenae, after which the culture of this era is named. Mycenaean Greece was dominated by an elite warrior society and consisted of a network of palace states that developed rigid hierarchical, political, social and economic systems.

Mycenaean Religion

Written Mycenaean records mention various priests and priestesses who were responsible for shrines and temples. Priestesses were prominent figures in society, and the role of Mycenaean women in religious festivities was also important. A universal Mycenaean religion is reflected in archaeological evidence with the Mycenaean Terracotta Female Figures that have been found all over Late Bronze Age Greece.

Reflections

  • Do the wavy lines on these figurines resemble folds of drapery on a priestess?
  • Figurines of goddess or priestess are widely distributed across Bronze Age Greece. What does this tell us about the role of women in Mycenaean Religion?
  • What do these figurines tell us about the fashion during Bronze Age Greece?
  • Do the differently shaped types of figurines represent different goddess types and priestess types?

Mycenaean Terracotta Female Figures

  • Title:             Mycenaean Female Figurines of ‘Phi’ and ‘Psi’ Type
  • Date:            ca. 1400–1200 B.C.
  • Culture:        Late Helladic
  • Geography:  Greece
  • Medium:      Terracotta
  • Dimensions: H: 4 1/4 – 4 1/8 in (10.8 – 10.5 cm)
  • Museum:      Benaki Museum, Athens

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“They put the wolf to guard the sheep.”
– Greek Proverb

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Photo Credit: 1) JOM