Advent Calendar Day 18

A ceramic sculpture of three male heads


Toy figurine showing three warriors on a chariot in an abstract shape

This curious terracotta figurine from Cyprus, with the heads of three bearded men mounted on a box-shaped body, reminded us of the Three Wise Men of the Nativity story.

The figurine is in fact a simpler version of more elaborate terracotta chariot groups, which were produced in ancient Cyprus mainly during the Archaic period (750–480 BC). Those depict three separate warrior figurines in a chariot with four horses harnessed in front of it and usually served as votive gifts to the gods in sanctuaries, or as tomb gifts to the dead.

This more abstract version was created to be used as a toy. It had movable wheels attached to its sides through a probably wooden or ceramic peg or axis (not preserved) and could be towed by a string attached through the hole in the front. It would have been given to a child, much like toys are still traditionally given to children at Christmas or even used as Christmas tree decorations. You can see it on display in our Ancient Cyprus gallery.

The Three Wise Men, or Three Kings, visited Jesus after his birth bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They feature in traditional accounts of the Nativity story, and are an important part of the Christmas tradition.

Toy figurine showing three warriors on a chariot in an abstract shape
750–480 BC