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Work Gold band with sphinxes and stylized tree

Department of Near Eastern Antiquities: Levant

Pectoral decorated with a sphinx and a stylised tree

© Musée du Louvre/A. Reppas

Near Eastern Antiquities
Levant

Author(s):
Iselin Claire

In Late Bronze Age Cyprus (1600-1050 BC), the dead were often adorned with jewelry of fine sheet gold with repoussé decoration sewn onto cloth through small holes in the gold and then placed on the hair, the face, or the chest. This broad gold band is decorated with a pair of winged sphinxes facing a stylized tree, showing both Aegean and Levantine influences.

An "international" art

This thin sheet of beaten gold has repoussé decoration. Within a central rectangular panel are two winged sphinxes with elongated bodies, angular wings, and tails curled upwards; in their hair, they wear aigrettes like those depicted in paintings from Crete or Thera. The sphinxes are symmetrically arranged on either side of a stylized tree composed of a fleuron and a palmette with curling fronds. The whole is surrounded by a border of raised dots, within which, on the long sides, are circles of the same. The symmetrical winged sphinxes on either side of an ornamental plant element are a motif of Near Eastern inspiration, also found in Mycenaean Greece and through the 1st millennium. This type of composition is often found in the decorative arts of the Levant, on ivories, cylinder seals, and goldwork. The Louvre has a ring from Enkomi with a winged sphinx, for example. The stylized sapling or tree found in the middle of these symmetrical compositions certainly has a symbolic significance, and is sometimes called a "sacred tree" or "tree of life."

Funerary jewelry

The gold is pierced at the middle of the short sides. From the same tomb at Enkomi comes another, elliptical band with decoration from the same die, which must have been of wood. These two pectorals, found at chest level on the remains in Tomb 2, particularly well-provided with funerary equipment, were probably sewn to pieces of fabric through the holes. Bands of this kind found in the Enkomi tombs adorned the forehead, hair, or chest of the deceased. The rosettes and spiral motifs of the decoration are part of the Near Eastern repertoire adopted in the Mediterranean.

Enkomi, a prosperous port

In the late 2nd millennium, Enkomi was a prosperous port that owed its wealth to the development of the copper mines and the growth of maritime trade. Founded in the 2nd millennium, this city, with its dense urban fabric, was surrounded by stone ramparts. Family tombs were dug beneath the houses, as in the Levant. Their plentiful funerary equipment, consisting of cosmetics jars in ivory, faience, or Egyptian alabaster, jewelry, and imported Mycenaean and Levantine pottery, testifies to Cyprus's involvement with the international art of the Late Bronze Age.

Bibliography

Caubet Annie, Karageorghis Vasos, Yon Marguerite (sous la dir. de),
Les Antiquités de Chypre : âge du bronze, musée du Louvre, département des Antiquités orientales, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1981, coll. "Notes et documents des musées de France, 2", p. 53, CKY89.
Caubet Annie, Hermary Antoine, Karageorghis Vasos (sous la dir. de),
Art antique de Chypre au musée du Louvre : du chalcolithique à l'époque romaine, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1992, Athènes, Kapon, 1992, p. 64, n 60.
L'Acrobate au taureau, les découvertes de Tell el-Dab´a, Égypte et l'archéologie de la Méditerranée orientale : 1800-1400 av. J.-C.,
Actes du colloque organisé au musée du Louvre par le Service culturel
le 3 décembre 1994 sous la direction d'Annie Caubet, Paris,
La Documentation française, musée du Louvre, 1999, (Conférences et colloques), p. 25, fig. 14.
Schaeffer Claude, Enkomi-Alasia : nouvelles missions en Chypre,
1946-1950, avec une note préliminaire de René Dussaud et des contributions de H. J. Plenderleith et O. Masson, Paris, Klincksieck,1952, Publications de la mission archéologique française et de la mission du gouvernement de Chypre à Enkomi, t. I, pp. 127-128.
Schaeffer Claude, "La coupe en argent incrustée d'or d'Enkomi-Alasia", Syria, n 30, Paris, Geuthner, 1953, pp. 51-64.

Technical description

  • Pectoral decorated with a sphinx and a stylised tree

    Late Bronze Age II (1400-1230 BC)

    Tomb 2, Enkomi

  • Repoussé gold leaf

  • C. Schaeffer excavations, 1949

    AM 2164

  • Near Eastern Antiquities

    Sully wing
    Ground floor
    Levant
    Room A
    Display case 7: The Iron Age: luxury items

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