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Work Statuette of a seated god
Department of Near Eastern Antiquities: Levant
© 1985 RMN / Pierre et Maurice Chuzeville
Near Eastern Antiquities
Bronze figurines are found in most Bronze Age urban sites in the Near East, especially those on the Levant coast. This statuette, one of the finest examples of seated gods from this period, was purchased in the Homs region of Syria. It probably came from the city of Katna, which maintained a flourishing trade with the coast.
A statuette of a seated god
Decorated with four rows of horns, the headdress of this statuette indicates that it depicted a high-ranking god in the pantheon. The conical headdress is similar to that worn by the basalt god brought back from Jabbul, southeast of Aleppo, and now in the Louvre (ao10831). The god had inlaid eyes in another material, and his beard is indicated by a sinuous chiseled plane cutting across the temples, cheeks, and chin. He is wearing a long tunic or coat trimmed with heavy braid, ending in a fringed border lying on his knees. In the Bronze Age, this type of garment was often found on bronze statuettes in the Levant, particularly those from Ugarit (Louvre, ao19397). It can also be seen on Syrian cylinder seals made in the Middle Bronze Age (18th-17th century BC). The feet are carefully chiseled and fitted with two studs, which - with the four round feet of the backless seat - would have been used to fit the statuette into a wooden or stone base, or into miniature stone altars. At Byblos, Lebanon, where many figurines have been unearthed in temple deposits, stone bases were found in the courtyard of the Temple of the Obelisks. The god must have been holding something in his right hand, while his left is laid on the braid of his garment.
Bronze figurines of gods
Bronze statuettes are found in most Bronze Age urban sites in the Near East. They are mainly found on the coast of the Levant, but some have been found further inland. They appear towards the end of the third millennium BC and mostly date from the second half of the 2nd millennium BC. These figurines were placed in temples and no doubt dedicated to the gods. Some were completely or partly covered with a thin leaf of gold or silver inserted in grooves made on the figure.
Although the details vary widely, the statues can be divided into types. Most are shown wearing a high Egyptian crown or a horned tiara, in a dynamic walking pose, sometimes with an arm lifted to brandish a weapon (statuette of the god Baal from Ugarit, Louvre, ao11598). Several of the Byblos statues are standing on an animal, probably a bull. Armed female figures are extremely rare. They are usually standing or sitting, some holding a child in their arms, others with their arms by their sides or under their breasts. Some statuettes depict gods or goddesses draped in long robes, standing or sitting on a seat with a footrest, with one hand stretched out in a gesture interpreted as a blessing (Ugarit statues, Louvre, ao19397 and ao19407; Byblos statuette, Beirut, Antiquities Department).
The Katna site
This statuette may come from Katna (present-day Al-Mashrafah), a very important site that carried on a flourishing trade with the sea coast via the Homs Gap, which linked the sea to the interior. This city in the region of the Orontes, was excavated in 1926 by Robert du Mesnit du Buisson. New research is currently being undertaken on the site.
BibliographyAmiet Pierre (sous la dir. de), Au Pays de Baal et d'Astarté : 10 000 ans d'art en Syrie, Exposition, Paris, musée du Petit Palais, 26 octobre 1983-8 janvier 1984, Paris, Éditions du musée du Petit Palais, 1983, p. 131, n 165.
Dussaud René, "L'Art syrien du deuxième millénaire avant notre ère", in Syria, t. VII, 1926, p. 339.
Negbi Ora, Canaanite Gods in Metal. An Archeological Study of Ancient Syro-Palestinian Figurines, Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv university, Institute of archaeology, 1976, pp. 46-59, pl. 35.
Pharaonen und Fremde. Dynastien im Dunkel, Exposition, Vienne, Musées de la ville de Vienne, 8 septembre-23 octobre 1994, Vienne, Wienkultur, 1994, cat. n 60.
Spycket Agnès, La Statuaire du Proche-Orient ancien, Leyde-Köln, E. J. Brill, Handbuch der Orientalistik, Kunst und Archäelogie, Band 1, 1981, p. 285, n 272, pl. 182.
Seeden Helga, "Peace Figurines from the Levant", in Archéologie au Levant. Recueil à la mémoire de Roger Saidah, Lyon, Maison de l'Orient, Collection de la Maison de l'Orient méditerranéen ancien, coll. "Série archéologique", n 12, 1982, pp. 107-121.
Middle Bronze Age, c. 1600 BC
Tell el-Mishrife (ancient Qatna), Syria?
Acquired in 1902
Display case 3: Qatna and Inner Syria, 2nd millenium BC
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