Bronze Age Cypriot Miniature Ingots - Significance and Value(s)
Supervision: Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Krause
During Late Bronze Age Cyprus based its wellness and economy on industry and trade of copper in form of oxhide ingots. Late Cypriot society had a shared material culture, where oxhide iconography played an important role. The representation of oxhide ingots on seals, stands and figurines reflected the ideology of the ruling elite, which recognised oxhide ingot as a basic symbol.
After the crisis, which occurred in the Eastern Mediterranean between the end of 13th and the beginning of 12th century BC, oxhide ingots appeared also as miniatures. Sixteen miniature oxhide ingots have been found in all Mediterranean, of which six were Cypriot: they were made for 99% of copper, which is purer than the metal used to produce standard oxhide ingots. Their length varied between 5 and and 11 cm, a considerable reduction of standard oxhide ingots (long an average of 50-80cm). These miniatures have been traditionally interpreted as votive objects, and this remains the most rated hypothesis. A religious/votive quality could be suggested by the discovery of two bronze statuettes, the Ingot God and the Bomford figurine, both standing upon an oxhide ingot. Also the Cypro-Minoan inscriptions on six Cypriot examples could hint a religious value: some scholars interpreted them as invocation to some unknown deity; unfortunately the script still remains illegible and the hypothesis cannot be verified. However, since not all of these miniature ingots came from a clear religious/votive context, they were also interpreted as weights, but this theory has been rejected by further metrological studies. Nevertheless the union of high quality metal, affordable only to some people, and inscriptions, understandable by a limited public, could help us to interpret these artifacts as prestige goods.
My research will focus on miniaturization, trying to understand the reasons under this process, and on the meaning and role that miniature oxhide ingots had inside the Late Bronze Age Cypriot society.