Otwarty dostęp

Amulets, Gaming Pieces, Toys or Offerings? Thoughts on Animal Figurines and Funerary Practices in the Late Bronze Age Aegean


The assemblage of four cones (ivory, stone) and an astragalus marked with dots from Katsambas in Crete is so far the best evidence of gaming pieces uncovered in an Aegean tomb of the Late Bronze Age. A small faience animal associated with the same burial, that of a child, attracted however little attention, and raises the question whether it may be added as a possible game piece to this set. Although this holed piece was certainly used as a personal ornament or amulet, this paper gives the opportunity to review the functions of small faience, stone and ivory animal figurines in the Aegean, especially the couchant ones. It also introduces the notion of chance and fate linked to playing on the basis of cross-cultural comparisons in the Eastern Mediterranean. Additionally, the hypothesis that small standing terracotta quadrupeds may have initially served as toys before having functioned as votive or funerary offerings in Aegean cult places and tombs is further explored. Special interest is shown on Mycenaean funerary assemblages from Prosymna in the Argolid and Perati in Attica featuring small terracotta animals and cone shells, inasmuch as these objects may be seen as potential toys and gaming pieces.