CWA Letters – Janurary 2022

Your views and observations...

Hala Sultan Tekke

Re: the fascinating article ‘Life and death in a Cypriot Bronze Age society’ in CWA 108. For me, one of the marvels of archaeology is the opportunity to visit, and to imagine, other minds. I was disappointed to find the marvellous bird-headed figurine (c.1350 BC), illustrated in CWA 108, summarily dismissed with the words as ‘no doubt…allude(s) to fertility and maternity’. Such a write off! The figurine is strongly reminiscent of a Cypriot scops owl (Otus cyprius). It has very pronounced pupils just like the scops owl and possesses a curved beak. The shape of the figurine is reminiscent of an owl in repose – wide then narrowing, and the ‘bikini bottom’ suggests feathers – as do the marks on the arms. The pronounced roundness of the centre trunk may even have represented the egg, an impression sharpened by the shape of the short skirt. The headdress / ears with earrings suggests an owl’s facial ruff.

IMAGE: Peter M Fischer and Teresa Bürge.

This figurine could represent an owl goddess in the form of a female priestess. It merges human attributes (legs, arms, neck – and adornment – short skirt, earrings) with those of a scops owl. If so, then we can start to imagine our way into the minds of Cypriot Bronze Age people, who cast an owl goddess partly in human form. They may well have valued the care that owls demonstrate towards their young (as two figurines have or may have held young). 

Cathy Farnworth and Katinka Peter
Warleggan, Cornwall, UK

Ancient Egyptian cancel culture

Re: Forum in CWA 107. There is always more than one side to a story. When Akhenaten became Pharaoh, bringing with him the ‘only one God’ theology, he closed down the other Egyptian temples, throwing hundreds of priests and fellow temple workers out of work for 17 years, forbidding the worship of all gods save the Aten, in a country used to the worship of multiple gods for thousands of years. What goes around comes around being the usual case, when he died, they came roaring back and returned the compliment. Seeing only one side of a story seems to help us avoid acknowledging a difficult truth regarding an unhappy trait of our species. Luckily, we still have the remains of a fascinating period to view and contemplate. Standing looking at the empty landscape of Tel Amarna is a remarkable experience and perhaps an esoteric warning to the people of the present era.

Elaine Knight
Warwick, New York, USA

Altai rock art

PHOTO: Gail Mackiernan.

I read the article on Altai rock art (CWA 106) with great interest. In June 2018, I and some colleagues were on a zoological expedition, visiting – among other sites – the Barig Mountains near Bayankongor, Mongolia. Our Mongolian guide took us to an archaeological site where one of Mongolia’s famous ‘deer stones’ was situated. This stone was upright, but surrounded by fallen smaller stones. The photo of me and the stone (above) gives an idea of its size (I am about 1.6m in height). There was also a partially fallen stone circle nearby (below). I am a biologist, not an archaeologist, but was struck by the deer engraving as it reminded me of similar Scythian motifs (bottom). Our guide, also a biologist, said the deer pictured were reindeer, not red deer, and that this reflected a colder steppe climate when the deer stone was thought to have been erected in the Bronze Age. My understanding is that little is known about either the peoples who erected these stones, or why, but studies such as those of Richard Kortum are shedding light on the prehistory of this fascinating country. I await further developments with much anticipation!

PHOTO: Gail Mackiernan.
Wikimedia Commons, Wmpearl.

Dr Gail B Mackiernan
Silver Spring, Maryland, USA

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