Virtual Vault: Cypriot Drinking Cup

Object Number: 185
Object Title: Ceramic cup
Object Type: cup (drinking vessels)
Material: ceramic (material)

This light brown, buff colored vessel with dark brown geometric designs may seem fairly innocuous at first glance.  However, its production, shape, and decoration are all tied to dramatic shifts in trade and exchange in the Mediterranean during the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1650-1050 BCE).

The Late Bronze Age Mediterranean, particularly the eastern Mediterranean, was characterized by heightened amounts of contact between different regions. The Hittite and Egyptian empires were vying for control of the Levant – the western coast of the Middle East.  Archives excavated at the Egyptian site of El-Amarna (founded by the one and only Akhenaten) and the key trade center of Ugarit (located in modern Syria) have produced a staggering amount of letters exchanged between the rulers in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, the Levant, and, most importantly within this discussion, Cyprus. These correspondences demonstrate a network of “kingly exchange” where rulers send gifts with the expectation of receiving something in return. 

This pan-Mediterranean contact was not just limited to a brotherhood of kings. The Uluburun shipwreck, found off the coast of southern Turkey, provides evidence for the more mundane side of these trade networks. The ship contained hundreds of amphorae, demonstrating its vast storage capacity, as well as other trade goods including drinking vessels and copper ingots originating from the island of Cyprus (Hirshfeld 2008).

So how does this little drinking cup fit into these grand trade networks? The vessel can be identified as a typical White Slip II ware, commonly referred to as a “milk bowl” due to its light, almost-white slip. These bowls or cups were produced in Cyprus during the Late Bronze Age, but their presence is found throughout the Mediterranean, from sites in the Levant like Megiddo (Clark 2018: 75-78), to those in Sardinia like Nuraghe Antigori (Vagnetti 2001: 78), as well as in the North Sinai and Egypt (Bergoffen 1991).  

One of the key commodities during the Late Bronze Age was, as the name of the period might suggest, bronze. Bronze is not a naturally-occuring metal, and instead is produced through combining copper and tin. Cyprus was a key tradestop during the Late Bronze Age due to its copper-rich mines, and letters to the king of Egypt as well as archaeological evidence from shipwrecks provide solid evidence for the high demand of Cypriot copper.

Of course, materials don’t just travel by themselves. Traders and sailors traveled throughout the Mediterranean and brought small objects along with them, including small drinking vessels like the one in our Vault Collection. Cypriot traders could bring these items with them and exchange them for other goods, and it is likely through this that a demand for White Slip II bowls grew and grew. In fact, they seem to have been more popular outside of the island; scholars have argued that external demand, particularly in the Levant, drove the production of milk bowls in Cyprus.

While this little cup with a fun wishbone handle seems like a simple, everyday object, the wider context of the importance of trade and Cyprus during the Late Bronze Age demonstrates that even mass-produced, less valuable artifacts can hold huge importance.

More examples for Cypriot White Slip Wares:

Brooklyn Museum

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art The inhabitants of Cyprus exported bowls with wishbone handles throughout the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries B.C.E. Egyptologists call them milk bowls because of their milky coloration, but they do not know how the bowls were used. DATES ca. 1400-1225 B.C.E.

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Works Cited

Bergoffen, C. J. (1991). Overland trade in Northern Sinai: the evidence of the Late Cypriot pottery. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, 284(1), 59-76.

Clark, B. A. (2018). Trade in Middle and Late Bronze Age Transition at Megiddo: A Study of Imported Cypriot Pottery. Master’s Thesis. University of Haifa.

Hirschfeld, N. (2008). Cypriot pottery. In J. Aruz, K. Benzel, & J. M. Evans (Eds.), Beyond Babylon: Art, trade, and diplomacy in the second millennium B.C. (pp. 321-323). Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

Vagnetti, L. (2001). Some Observations on Late Cypriot Pottery from the Central Mediterranean. In L. Bonfante & V. Karageorghis (Eds.), Italy and Cyprus in Antiquity 1500-450 BC (pp. 77-96). Department of Antiquities Cyprus, Nicosia.

Updated date: Lecture by Katina Lillios 11/16

Please join us Wednesday, November 16 at 5:30 pm EST for a lecture by Katina Lillios (The University of Iowa) titled “The Islamic Lives of Iberian Megaliths: Some Initial Explorations” in Rhode Island Hall, Room 108. Reception to follow.

Katina Lillios is an anthropological archaeologist interested in the ways people used material culture, the remains of the dead, and monuments to create, enhance, and challenge sociopolitical difference and inequality. She is intrigued by the ways that social phenomena and cultural values come to be materialized, and how their materiality triggers social action.

Lillios is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Iowa, and holds her degrees from Yale University (Ph.D. and M.A.) and Boston University (B.A.). Her areas of specialty are prehistoric Iberia, and mnemonics in the archaeological record. She has published widely, and is the principal investigator at the Bolores rockshelter in Portugal, and for a study of Portuguese Copper Age tools.

Lecture by Philipp Stockhammer 11/15

Please join us on Tuesday, November 15 at 4 PM for a lecture by Philipp Stockhammer (Ludwig-Maximilians University) titled “Bioarchaeology in the Bronze Age Levant: Novel Insights into Mobility, Food, and Philistines.” The lecture will take place in Rhode Island Hall Room 108 with reception to follow.

Philipp W. Stockhammer is professor for prehistoric archaeology with a focus on the Eastern Mediterranean at Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) Munich and co-director of Max Planck-Harvard Research Center for the Archaeoscience of the Ancient Mediterranean, Jena. His research focuses on the transformative power of intercultural encounters, human-thing-entanglements, social practices and the integration of archaeological and scientific interpretation.

Brown Bag Talks for Fall 2022

Brown Bag talks are held Thursdays from 12:00-12:50pm in RI Hall 108.
These talks are free and open to the public. Information about each talk will be provided below.

Brown paper bag with the JIAAW logo

October 13, 2022:
Daniel Everton (Public Humanities, Brown University)
Re-imagining the Predynastic Man Exhibit at Museo Egizio

October 20, 2022:
Amanda Gaggioli (Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology, Brown University)
Decolonialism and Mediterranean Archaeology: the case for the Aegean prehistory/history divide

November 3, 2022:
John F. Cherry & Liza Davis (Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology, Brown University)
Archaeology in the Potter’s Field at Providence’s North Burial Ground

November 17, 2022:
Christina Hodge (Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, Brown University)
Desanitizing Provenance: Critical Documentation in Museum Collections

December 1, 2022
Breton Langendorfer (History of Art and Architecture, Brown University)
Achaemenid Syntax: Architecture, Metalware, and Modularity


Virtual Exhibit: The Stories Objects Tell

The Stories Objects Tell

March 14, 2022-April 14, 2022

The Stories Objects Tell was an exhibit curated by Kristen Marchetti, with assistance from Erynn Bentley, for Brown University’s Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World. Works included in the show were a response to archaeology in general or to objects in the Institute’s Collection.

The map below displays the location of the works featured in the Joukowsky Institute during the exhibition of The Stories Objects Tell from March 14, 2022 to April 14, 2022. View the exhibit virtually in this article by looking at photos of the works, listed in order of their appearance on the map.

To read the artists’ statements about their work, view the exhibit catalog.

A Slumber Did My Spirit Steal by Yuan Jiang (undergraduate student, Rhode Island School of Design)
string of beads by Hannah Bashkow (undergraduate student, Brown University)
Pine by Jacqueline Qiu (undergraduate student, Rhode Island School of Design)
Landscape by Joshua Koolik (undergraduate student, Brown University)
Archival residues by Chloe Gardner (undergraduate student, Brown University)

Cave di Cusa at Dusk by Arden Shostak (undergraduate student, Rhode Island School of Design)

Three Votive Vessels by Arden Shostak (undergraduate student, Rhode Island School of Design)
Straw Flowers by Jacqueline Qiu (undergraduate student, Rhode Island School of Design)
Iconography in Sculpture & Advertising by Daniel Cody (undergraduate student, Brown University)

Tesserae by Laura Romig (undergraduate student, Brown University)

Untitled by Laurel Bestock (faculty, Brown University)
In the Garden by Jacqueline Qiu (undergraduate student, Rhode Island School of Design)
Medusa’s Story by Anne Wang (undergraduate student, Brown University)
Patterns Reimagined by Emily Atanasoff (undergraduate student, Rhode Island School of Design)
Antikythera Shipwreck by Joe McKendry (faculty, Rhode Island School of Design)
Untitled by Sofia Berger (graduate student, Rhode Island School of Design)
Untitled by Sofia Berger (graduate student, Rhode Island School of Design)

Untitled by Sofia Berger (graduate student, Rhode Island School of Design)

Mapping the Hellenistic by John Lin (undergraduate student, Brown University)
For Cavafy by Itzhak Fant (undergraduate student, Rhode Island School of Design)
Sculpture Otherwise by Katia Rozenberg (undergraduate student, Brown University)
Set of Instruments by Peter Yeadon (faculty, Rhode Island School of Design)
Vessel by Peter Yeadon (faculty, Rhode Island School of Design)
Postwar Sandbox PTSD Therapy by Julius Cavira (graduate student, Rhode Island School of Design)
naturally by Jiayin Lu (undergraduate student, Rhode Island School of Design)
Death of the American Mall by Laurel Bestock (faculty, Brown University)
Olympians by Itzhak Fant (undergraduate student, Rhode Island School of Design)
Pudica by Cicek Beeby (faculty, Brown University)
A Collection: Magic Futures, Broken Pasts; Broken Futures, Magic Pasts by Jon Lausten (staff, Brown University)
A Collection: Magic Futures, Broken Pasts; Broken Futures, Magic Pasts by Jon Lausten (staff, Brown University)
Encountering Art Together by Rachel Lee (undergraduate student, Rhode Island School of Design)
Imagination by Anne Wang (undergraduate student, Brown University)
Ostia by Tomas Manto (undergraduate student, Rhode Island School of Design)
Smoke Break by David Pinto (undergraduate student, Brown University)
Peace Relic #86 by Mason Hunt (undergraduate student, Rhode Island School of Design)
Figurine #1 by Florian Okwu (undergraduate student, Rhode Island School of Design)
The humanity questions by Yichu Wang (undergraduate student, Rhode Island School of Design)
Fossils by Quinn Erickson (undergraduate student, Brown University)
Rake by Catharina Dobal (undergraduate student, Brown University)
Untitled (Greebled Urn) by Scott Lerner (graduate student, Rhode Island School of Design)
Untitled (Greebled Cup) by Scott Lerner (graduate student, Rhode Island School of Design)
Untitled (Greebled Candlestick) by Scott Lerner (graduate student, Rhode Island School of Design)
Διόνυσος by Giuseppe Presti (undergraduate student, Brown University)
6:30 by Danyang Song (graduate student, Rhode Island School of Design)
nest by Nickolas Roblee-Strauss (undergraduate student, Brown University)
Polychromatic Ahistory by Jack Tufts (graduate student, Rhode Island School of Design)
Polychromatic Ahistory by Jack Tufts (graduate student, Rhode Island School of Design)

Exhibit Opening: The Stories Objects Tell

On March 14th, 2022, the Joukowsky Institute hosted an exhibit opening for The Stories Objects Tell. We invited the artists who submitted work to the show as well as all members of the Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design communities. The event began at 4 PM, and it was a pleasure to see many show participants, visitors, and people affiliated with the Joukowsky Institute in attendance.

Peter van Dommelen, Director of the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, began the event by welcoming attendants and introducing the exhibit. After Peter gave an opening speech, I spoke about my inspiration for the show and my gratitude to the artists. We then transitioned to allow the guests to tour Rhode Island Hall and view the artworks installed throughout the building. Visitors wandered through the first, second, and third floors of the Institute, following an exhibit map to locate artwork in the show. 

During the remainder of the opening, artists and visitors chatted about the work and ventured throughout the Institute to view the exhibit. Several of the artists discussed the meaning and inspiration of their artwork in greater detail, and it was very exciting to learn all of the ways that the study of archaeology shaped and kindled their visions. 

Peter later told me that the exhibit opening was the first large, in-person event at the Joukowsky Institute since the beginning of the pandemic. It was very exciting to hear this and to see so many members of the Brown and RISD communities together in one space. As a senior at Brown, it has been sad to see the ongoing pandemic limit opportunities for community and connection on campus over the past few years. Despite the many months of isolation that COVID engendered, I am thrilled to have spent my last few months at Brown engaging with peers, professors, and staff in a celebration of art and community.

The atrium
The Common Room
Pudica by Cicek Beeby, Death of the American Shopping Mall by Laurel Bestock, and A Collection: Magic Futures, Broken Pasts; Broken Futures, Magic Pasts by Jon Lausten
Postwar Sandbox PTSD Therapy by Julius Cavira
Sculpture Otherwise by Katia Rozenberg

Open Collection Hours

Leading up to the exhibit, The Stories Objects Tell, the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology hosted Open Collection Hours on Thursdays and Fridays in February and early March, allowing visitors from Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design to view the Institute’s Collection in person. Although the Collection is accessible online, Open Collection Hours allowed visitors to view and handle ancient objects in person. 

The main impetus behind hosting the Hours was to allow those interested in submitting to The Stories Objects Tell to see the ancient artifacts at the building. The exhibit called for work inspired by archaeology and objects in the Collection, so we offered in-person visits as a source of inspiration to the artists. However, anyone was welcome to visit, and we enjoyed meeting with numerous faculty, staff, students, and members of the public.

The Collection of objects at the Joukowsky Institute includes a remarkable range of ancient ceramic vessels, lamps, figurines, lithics, sherds, and more. Although it is a teaching collection used for archaeological research and Brown University courses, the majority of the Collection is not on display but is stored in a locked vault in the basement of the Institute for security and collections care purposes. Part of my goal in organizing The Stories Objects Tell was to increase awareness on campus about the Collection and opportunities for the community to take courses, conduct research, attend events, and otherwise learn about the ancient world at the Joukowsky Institute. In initiating and hosting Open Collection Hours, it was our hope that students and other members of the Brown community could draw, sculpt, write, discuss, research, and discover these special objects created so many centuries ago. 

During the Hours, I gave tours of the vault with Erynn Bentley, a PhD student in Archaeology and the Ancient World. It was very exciting to meet a number of visitors from Brown and RISD and learn about their various connections to art and archaeology. Some were interested in submitting work to the exhibit, and others were simply curious to see the remarkable Collection of ancient artifacts right here on College Hill. All of the visitors wished to know the stories behind the objects, including their original purposes, places of creation, and journeys to Providence, Rhode Island. 

I met with two sculptors while hosting tours, one of whom worked at List Art Center and another who taught as a professor at Rhode Island School of Design. It was amazing to meet established artists who were inspired by the interesting shapes, textures, and materials of the objects in the Collection. Two other visitors did not study art but were excited to see a new space on campus after reading about the hours in [email protected] One student who made jewelry was especially excited to see the necklaces in the vault, and she ended up submitting a handmade necklace to The Stories Objects Tell

Erynn shared that the visitors with whom she met were very curious about her research at the Institute. Interestingly, she noted that many learned about the Open Collection Hours by word of mouth from those who had viewed the Collection already. Erynn also described the benefits of allowing visitors to “make their own connections with the knowledge they have.” One visitor spoke Arabic and could translate some of the calligraphy on objects from the Minassian collection, and others discussed their experiences visiting Egypt, Israel, and other locations where the objects in the Collection originated.

The Open Collection Hours were a highlight of my time at the Joukowsky Institute, and it was a privilege to explore the Collection with my peers and other community members.