Object: Jug

C/1953/13/1
Cyprus: Red-On-Black Ware Jug
Middle Bronze Age
Materials: Clay

This object is a handmade jug from Cyprus, which is of a shape usually labeled tankard. The exterior decoration consists of groups of short parallel lines and bands encircling the vase.  This style of decoration was a popular motif for tankards, and is commonly known as horror vacui (literally “fear of open space”).  This decorating technique covered the entire surface of an object with design.  The horror vacui style is late in the Red-on-black period, possibly dating the jug to the Middle Bronze Age (1650 – 1600 B.C.)  The practice of covering entire surfaces with design elements extended into the Geometric period of Greek art.

Cyprus is an island country in the Mediterranean Sea just south of Turkey.  Throughout its history, copper has been extensively exploited bringing wealth to Cyprus.  The island built a large trade industry with the Near East, Egypt and the Aegean during the Early and Middle Bronze Age periods. After 1400 BC, Mycenaeans from Greece reached the island, most likely as merchants.  During the 12th and 11th centuries B.C., several invasions of Achaean Greeks come to settle on the island bringing with them the Greek language, religion, and customs. From this point onward, the island was progressively Hellenized.

The Red-on-black ware, also sometimes called bi-chrome, was representative of Cypriot Bronze Age pottery.  Examples of bi-chrome pottery have been found in the Palestinian region.   The majority of the bi-chrome group is red paint on a black background. The most common vessels found of this type are kraters, jars and jugs. Neutron activation techniques have determined the pottery uncovered in Palestine was imported from eastern Cyprus supporting the idea of an extensive trade industry.

[Debra Taylor]

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