Representations of Fish on Ancient Cypriot Vases

Stephanie Leader, “Representations of Fish on Ancient Cypriot Vases”
Mentor: Derek Counts, Art History

In the summer of 2019, I had the privilege to study abroad and excavate on the island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean as part of the Athienou Archaeological Project (AAP) fieldschool, sponsored by Davidson College. AAP provided an opportunity to learn excavation methods, visit archaeological and historical sites, and learn about the history of the island and establish an understanding of the art and culture upon which to base my research. My capstone project for the fieldschool was an independent research paper looking at images of fish on Cypriot vases. My interest started at the Cyprus Archaeological Museum where I noticed representations of fish on a variety of Cypriot vases. Using a selection of five vases as a case study, my project traced the presence of this artistic motif from the late Bronze Age (ca. 1600-1400 BCE) to the Archaic period (ca. 750-475 BCE). Mycenaean imported vases show some of the first depictions of marine life on Cyprus and my research suggests that such motifs were common and continued for the next 1000 years. I was able to conclude that Cypriot depictions of fish likely began with Mycenaean imports, but as often is the case in Cyprus, these images were gradually changed and made into a uniquely Cypriot design.

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