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Artefact – Model sailing ship with crew

April 6, 2014

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This artefact is a model sailing ship with its crew. It was discovered in Kalokhorio and dates to approximately the 7th/6th century BC. This item was a sanctuary offering and suggests that seafaring was important to the people of Cyprus. Given its location and natural resources Cyprus would have been an important trading island for the Mediterranean. With access to an abundant supply of wood the cities of Cyprus would have had the ability to develop a large scale naval fleet. The control of the seas would not have just been important to Cyprus but other nations as well, such as the Minoans and Phoenicians. Nations that had the power to dominate the seas whether by military might or for commercial purposes are referred to by the term Thalassocracy.

Votive offerings of model ships may have been made for many reasons; in order to praise the gods for a victory during a sea battle, for a safe voyage or by merchants to protect trade routes. However, without any epigraphic evidence it is difficult to establish what the intention of this offering was. The crew do not appear to be warriors as there are no weapons and so this might be the offering from a merchant.

It is interesting to note that ship dedications came in all shapes and sizes, the photo below is the display of ship sanctuary offerings at the Cyprus Museum. Carlson (2009:361) observes that sometimes whole ships were set up in a sanctuary as dedications. Though a much older study, Deane (1922:486) also notes the observations of Couchoud and Svoronos who believe that Antigonus Gonatas built a house in which a ship was dedicated as an offering after a naval victory against Ptolemy in 250 BC. I believe that evidence suggest as this suggests that ship offerings were important to the Greeks. This is likely due to their dependency on the sea for travel, trade and military purposes.

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Bibliogrpahy

Carlson, D. Seeing the Sea: Ships’ Eyes in Classical Greece, Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Vol. 78, No. 3 (2009), pp. 347-365. Available from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25622699 [Accessed: 04 April 2014]

Deane, S. Archaeological Discussions, American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 26, No. 4 (Oct. – Dec., 1922), pp. 477-515. Available from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/497957 [Accessed: 04 April 2014]

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