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Phoenician Pottery figure of a woman, Circa 600 BC

Conservation:  Missing hands
Material:  Terracotta
Dimensions:  16,5 x 6,5 cm
Provenance:  Archaeological Gallery, Israel, 2014. Export authorization from the Israel Antiquities Authority No. 526524 with date 07/08/2014
Exhibited:  Ifergan Collection, Málaga (2018-2020)


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This figure is a female representation pointing out the main elements such as the breasts and the bulging belly. She is giving birth, as we can see in the bulge of her belly, in the inclination of her neck due to the effort, and in the delivery chair in which she is sitting. At the moment of delivery, women entrust themselves to the goddess, who is also sometimes represented by the bulging belly, in order to protect the birth. This is a schematic representation in terracotta of the goddess Astarte, defined as the Phoenician-Canaanite assimilation of the Mesopotamian goddess Inanna, called Ishtar by the Akkadians, Assyrians and Babylonians, and Astarot by the Israelites. Her image represents the cult of fertility, and as such, the mother-nature giver of life. However, in time her cult would be modified, acquiring the character of a warrior goddess.

The Phoenician religion was polytheistic, that is, its followers believed in the existence of multiple gods, organized in a hierarchy according to their powers. It is possible that this piece is a representation of the Canaanite goddess of fertility, Astarte, conceived either as a funerary deposit, or to be placed as a votive image in the sanctuary, and/or simply as a domestic talisman that promised its owner fertility.

Normally the way of representing their deities was, as has tended to be described, as “tolerant aniconic”, since, with few examples, following the Semitic religious tradition, they normally chose that both the cult images and those deposited in the temples should be betilos (upright stone that evokes the image of the divinity), or at least be very simple (unrealistic and figurative) as far as aesthetic conception is concerned. This would explain why this terracotta figure has been conceived in a rigid, hieratic way, almost without expression and movement, as if its carving had not been completed, since it represents or does not represent a goddess, after all, they were figures that had a direct relationship with the deity, and as such, this respect and figurative absence should be maintained. However, we must also take into account the influence of what they are going to drink from, on the one hand, Egyptian art in the first place, and later, from Greek art.

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