Object: Fragmentary figurine

C/1987/7/1
Fragmentary Phi figurine
Mycenaean
Mycenae: Greece
ca. 1400–1300 BCE
Materials: Ceramic

This object is a fragmentary female terracotta figurine from Mycenaean Greece. This type of figurine was particularly common in the late fourteenth and early thirteenth centuries BCE. They typically come in three variations the “tau,” “psi” and  “phi” figurines, each named for the Greek letters they resemble. Each type shows simple female figures, perhaps meant to be goddesses, wearing long dresses, with necklaces, long hair and sometimes wearing a headdress. They have been found in large numbers throughout mainland Greece in sanctuaries and tombs, which suggests they served as votive offerings or ritual items.

Similar, intact, figurines can be found in the Louvre, the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Wilcox Classical Museum at the University of Kansas, the Archaeological Museum at Delphi, and many others.

The Mycenaean civilization thrived on mainland Greece from ca. 1600 to 1200 BCE. It was a period of prosperity during which the fortified cities of Mycenae, Tiryns, Thebes, and Athens were built and according to legend, was also when the Trojan War took place. However, by the late thirteenth century BCE a vast majority of the Mycenaean cities had been destroyed by unknown forces and Greece entered a period called the “Greek Dark Age.”

The following video discusses the city of Mycenae, where this figure was found, and the Mycenaean civilization. [Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

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Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

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