Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
Cradling a small animal in its arm, this male figure stands solidly with both bare feet on a square base. A roughly rectangular peg extends below the base, perhaps a tang for attachment. The splayed fingers of the proportionally large left hand clasp the animal to his breast, obscuring most of the creature, although it is probably a sheep. The proper right arm extends forward from the body, its hand clenched into a fist with a hole running vertically through it for insertion of a separate object. The back of the figurine is completely flat except for a deep vertical groove, which might have secured a metal foil overlay. The piece is characterized by its oversized head, broad shoulders, and short legs. A wrapped kilt, with evidence of a vertical fringe on the left side, is bordered along the bottom by a wide decorated band. The figure, probably to be identified as a worshipper bearing a sacrificial offering, sports a short beard and a squared headdress set far back on the head. The beard and hair are rendered by faint incisions, while a triangularly hatched band sets the headdress off from the hair. The headdress itself bears an incised design, now extremely faint, that was drawn by G. M. A. Hanfmann and D. Hansen in 1956 (1).
A precise date and location for the manufacture of this piece are difficult to determine. Hanfmann and Hansen favor a date in the early first millennium BCE, linking it to reliefs from the north Syrian sites of Tell Halaf and Zincirli, while distinguishing it from the “polished and unified” style of the second millennium BCE (2). However, the early part of the second millennium, which corresponds to the Middle Bronze Age (c. 2000-1600 BCE), is characterized by bronze figures with flat bodies and large heads, many of which wear flattened angular headdresses (3). Of a rather different nature, but perhaps with some stylistic affinities, is the series of lead figurines produced during the first half of the second millennium in central Anatolia at sites such as Kültepe (ancient Kanesh) (4). The Harvard piece also displays some formal connections to a group of bronzes excavated at the northern Iraqi site of Nuzi (present-day Yorgan Tepe, an expedition jointly sponsored by Harvard University in the 1930s) (5). The three bronze figurines from Nuzi (associated with a single glazed terracotta figurine) present a similar flattening of the body surmounted by a large head modeled in the round (6). The Nuzi examples, which wear long robes and fold their arms against their chests, date to the time of Nuzi’s importance within the Mitannian state during the fifteenth and fourteenth centuries BCE.
1. G. M. A. Hanfmann and P. Hansen, “Hittite Bronzes and Other Near Eastern Figurines in the Fogg Art Museum of Harvard University,” Türk Arkeoloji Dergisi 6.2 (1956): fig. 13.c.
2. Ibid., 50-51.
3. A particularly close comparison appears in O. Negbi, Canaanite Gods in Metal: An Archaeological Study of Ancient Syro-Palestinian Figurines (Tel Aviv, 1976) no. 54, pl. 8 (no provenance, but said to come from the Orontes River Valley region). Negbi groups this figure with one excavated at Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit); see ibid., no. 59, figs. 16 and 124. Neither of these has a beard, and both wear silver torcs.
4. See for example, K. Emre, Anatolian Lead Figurines and Their Stone Moulds, Türk Tarih Kurumu Yayinlarindan 6.14 (Ankara, 1971) pl. V.5-7.
5. R. F. S. Starr, Nuzi: Report on the Excavations at Yorgan Tepa near Kirkuk, Iraq (Cambridge, MA, 1939) pls. 101.G and 102.C-D.
6. See 1931.141 for the glazed terracotta figurine and 1931.156 for a bronze figurine from Nuzi in the Harvard collection.