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Ancient Cyprus
in the Ashmolean Museum
  Highlights of the Collection: Aphrodite, Female Figurines and Cyprus
  Aphrodite, Female Figurines and Cyprus: The Late Bronze Age, Fertility Deities and Copper

During the Late Bronze Age, circa 1650-1050 BC, evidence for ritual activity on Cyprus increases substantially and an association of the island's production of copper with the fertility deity becomes evident. Copper was Cyprus's main export at this time and was shipped across the Mediterranean world in the form of ingots shaped as ox hides. It is not known why they were shaped like ox-hides although one of the suggestions has been that it was simply a shape that enabled ease of transport. Each ingot represented about 29 kilograms of copper. At Enkomi, around 1150 BC, there was a monumental sanctuary where an ingot god, thought to be a protector of the island's copper industry was worshipped. The Ashmolean has on display a nude female statuette on an ingot base and it is probable that it came from Enkomi. It has been suggested that this familiar fertility goddess image, with the prominent breasts and jewellery, combined with the ingot base, is the consort of the ingot god. She could have been a local fertility goddess, perhaps combined with an ancient Near Eastern fertility deity, Astarte (this figurine has sometimes been referred to as 'Astarte-on-the-ingot'). The association of the local goddess of fertility with metalwork may further explain the appearance of the cult of Aphrodite on the island. Homer explains in the Odyssey that Aphrodite was married to the god of metallurgy, Hephaistos. For the Cypriots, the economic prosperity of the island was very closely linked with the health and strength of its people. The Greek poets have alternative names for Aphrodite and one of these is 'Kypris', which derives from the Greek name for Cyprus.

Bronze figurine of "Astarte-on-the-ingot (AN1971.888)
  Bronze Figurine of
purchased (AN1971.888)
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