Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Sadie Pickup, Marianne Bergeron, Jennifer M. Webb, Cypriote Antiquities in Reading: The Ure Museum at the University of Reading and the Reading Museum (Reading Borough Council). Studies in Mediterranean archaeology, XX: 30; Corpus of Cypriote antiquities, 30. Uppsala: Åströms Förlag, 2015. Pp. vii, 55. ISBN 9789170812019. €24.00.

Reviewed by Ersin Hussein, The University of Warwick (ersin.hussein@warwick.ac.uk)

Version at BMCR home site

The Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, Reading, is home to an impressive collection of antiquities. It is an academic and educational resource that should not be overlooked. The place of Cypriote antiquities within this collection is central, and the way in which Cypriote artefacts are presented (in the gallery and in the catalogue that is being reviewed) is interesting, innovative and very well thought out. One only needs to access The Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology website and read about the history of the museum, browse its database or consider the arrangement of the museum gallery to see this. For scholars of ancient Cypriote culture and society specifically, the collection contains material that will supplement research on a variety of topics. For example, investigations of the Cypriote economy (perhaps through the production and transportation of goods) or Cypriote religion (through exploration of terracotta figurines and votives) driven by the study of artefacts that comprise larger, more prominent Cypriote collections archived in other UK-based or international institutions would do well to consider individual or multiple items from the collection. For the general public the presentation of the collection in the museum will increase any understanding of the status, identity and significance of Cyprus in the Mediterranean. For schools, the collection is an exciting educational resource: access to items grouped by date, material or object type could engage school children of all ages with key lines of enquiry such as the manufacture, circulation, use, and artistic interpretation of objects from antiquity, as well as wider themes such as religion, economy, domestic life, death and burial. Most significantly, for specialist and non-specialist audiences, the collection offers an insight into the impact of prolonged cross-cultural contact across the Mediterranean region in antiquity, with many items showing signs of Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Phoenician influence in ancient Cyprus.

The purpose of this catalogue is straightforward: to present a detailed directory of Cypriote artefacts at The Ure Museum which is inclusive of published and unpublished items.1 In total, 113 items are presented. The catalogue opens with a chronological table (p. v) and then an introduction, written by Amy C. Smith, Curator of the Ure Museum, which provides a brief history of the Cypriote collection (p. vi.). Then follows the catalogue (pp. 1-30), an index of provenanced objects (p. 31), an extensive bibliography (pp. 33-35), and finally an untitled assembly of photographs of all of the items listed in catalogued (pp. 37-55).

In 1913, Ellen Barry, whose husband F.W. Barry served as Quarantine Superintendent and Sanitary Commissioner in Cyprus between 1880 and 1882, donated a collection of Cypriote artefacts to Reading University College.2 Mrs. Barry acquired the collection when she accompanied her husband in Cyprus in the 1880s.3 The collection expanded over the years with donations from the British Museum and the Palmer family among others. The most recent acquisitions were made in 1981 and 2004.

The presentation of each of these items in the catalogue is very well set out, including a title for each item, a succinct description of the artefact and its physical attributes including artistic details, an entry of the present dimensions, an inventory number, and a date of production. Most entries include details of studies or comparative materials for the reader to look up. The inclusion of suggestions for comparative material to explore is essential when considering the material from Cyprus; to omit such detail would promote an insular approach to studying the material from Cyprus held at Reading. This thematic arrangement of the material held by the museum is without doubt the best, and most useful, way of engaging with the displayed and archived artefacts.

On the whole, the presentation of each catalogue entry is well thought out and easy to follow. This is best illustrated by item number 15 (p. 5) which is accompanied by an illustration. Items numbered 59-62 (p. 15) are all accompanied by an image and demonstrate the way in which this catalogue presents multiple items and images beautifully on one page.

There is, however, a small number of items which are not presented so well. This is no doubt due to the page layout which divides the text into two columns on each page, which can lead to the text flowing poorly if the catalogue entry runs over from one page to another. For example, the organisation of the text (catalogue entry) on page 3 is odd. On page 4, a figure corresponding to catalogue entry number 9 is presented. This appears odd, as catalogue number 9 is presented on the previous page. Furthermore, the illustration (for catalogue entry 9) interrupts the text of catalogue item number 10, which is also presented on pages 3-4.

Furthermore, the following illustrations are included without a measurement provided beside the object: item numbers 24 and 25 (p. 8); number 33 (on p. 11); number 66 (p. 17); number 72 (p. 18); number 90 (p. 23); number 94 (p. 24); number 95 (p. 25); number 100 (p. 26); numbers 101, 102, and 104 (p. 27); numbers 105, 106, and 107 (p. 28); number 110 and 112 (p. 29).

Photographed images of all 113 items are also included at the end of the catalogue (pp. 37-55). No scale is provided with the images but each item is either photographed once or at various angles. The quality of these images is not consistent. For example, item numbers 1, 5 and 6 (p. 37) are blurry.

The contents page divides the material included in this catalogue into two sections - Bronze Age and Iron Age - which would imply that the catalogue solely contains details about artefacts from ca. 2450 BC to ca. 320 BC. While a chronological table is included (p. v), the dates provided for each period are estimates and the labels assigned to each historical period could be confusing to a non-Cypriot specialist wishing to consult comparative material. While clear labels can be read for the Early, Middle and Late Bronze Ages (ca. 2450- 1050 BC), the same cannot be said for the Cypriot Iron Age, as the label "Iron Age" does not feature in the chronological table. A recent article by Maria Iacovou brilliantly highlights the uneven treatment of the Cypriot Iron Age while drawing attention to some of the difficulties in dating the period.4 Iacovou suggests that data for the Cypriot Iron Age should include the point up until "the people of Cyprus lived not in a unified island state but in autonomous polities that vied with each other for territorial pre-eminence."5 In other words, it lasted until the annexation and eventual unification of the island by Ptolemy Soter I. Iacovou's study is a helpful guide to any specialist or non-specialist researcher dealing with material from this period.6

As mentioned above, the contents page sets out the organisation of the catalogue into two main sections, headed by the titles "The Bronze Age" and "The Iron Age", with subheadings dividing the objects by material. The confusion lies in the fact that section 2.2 includes eighteen lamps from the Roman period dated between the first and sixth centuries AD.7 This is confusing, as items from this period do not fall within what is commonly known as the Cypriot Iron Age. For this reason, I am unsure why the material is arranged into two sections which imply that the material presented dates from the Bronze and Iron Ages. The catalogue could have an explanation clarifying why the material has been grouped and presented in such a way.

The collection of Cypriote Antiquities at the Ure Museum is varied and useful for scholars, schools, and the general public to engage with. The contribution of the catalogue is noteworthy. Not only does it present previously unpublished material but also collates artefacts from the Cypriot Bronze Ages up to the Late Roman Period useful for the study of the culture and society of ancient Cyprus, and ultimately the ancient Mediterranean.


1.   Items which have not been previously published are introduced with a well-placed summary about terracottas in the collection on p. 21.
2.   A fuller profile of Mrs Barry is provided on p. 5. The items donated by Mrs Barry, listed in this catalogue, total 31.
3.   This was a key period for archaeological excavations led by British archaeologists. For example, the findings of the British Museum lead team reflect this. Cf. Hogarth, D.G., M.R. James, R. Elsey Smith, and E.A. Gardner (1888) "Excavations in Cyprus, 1887-88. Paphos, Leontari, Amargetti", The Journal of Hellenic Studies 9 (1888), pp. 147-271.
4.   Cf. Iacovou, M. (2008) "Cultural and Political Configurations in Iron Age Cyprus: The Sequel to a Protohistoric Episode", American Journal of Archaeology 112. 4 (2008), pp. 625-657.
5.   Iacovou (2008), p. 651.
6.   The approximate dates given for the historical periods in the chronological table on p. v are not unusual, but must be taken only as estimates. For example, many chronological tables outline the Roman period of Cyprus' history as beginning in either 50 BC or 30 BC. Cyprus was annexed from Alexandria by Rome in 58 BC, the island was then returned to Ptolemaic rule in 48/7 BC, and finally the island came under the complete control of Rome with the defeat of Cleopatra VII and Mark Antony by Octavian in 30 BC. For the annexation of Cyprus by Rome see: Appian Bell. Civ. 2.23; Cass. Dio. 38.30.5; Cicero Sest. 62, 63, 60-61; Cicero Dom. 20, 52-53; Plutarch Cato. Min. 36 and 38. For the return of Cyprus to the Ptolemies: Cass. Dio 42.35.5-6; Plutarch Antonius 36 and 54.
7.   Items 63-80 on pp. 16-21.

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