Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Committee Member

Alan H. Simmons

Second Committee Member

Barbara Roth

Third Committee Member

Liam Frink

Fourth Committee Member

Deirdre Clemente

Number of Pages



The aim of this master’s thesis is to explore the iconography of Chalcolithic (c. 3900-2300 cal. BC) Cyprus using ceramic motifs and identify their potential use in revealing differences between the cultural identity present at archaeological sites, as well as the possible causes of such variation. By exploring the existence and origins of subtle differences between the iconographic repertoires of related sites, the study seeks a better understanding of the movement of both ideas and symbols, and how the meaning of symbols developed within the context of a site.

Currently, Cypriot Chalcolithic sites are believed to be largely homogeneous in ideology, culture, and identity (Steel 2004). This study searched for previously unnoticed variations in the iconography (the collection of visual art and symbols) at individual sites that might suggest local variation. It was hypothesized that the most likely source for such difference would be based on distance, with the greatest variation occurring between sites farthest away from each other and the least variation occurring between sites that are closest together. Although the results ultimately did not support this hypothesis, they were, nonetheless, incredibly informative about the relationships between Chalcolithic sites. Besides answering these questions, the study also provides preliminary data for further research into local variation and communication between sites on Cyprus during this time.

The study focuses on the iconography of painted motifs found on Red-on-White ware ceramic female figurines, figural vessels, and decorated bowls belonging to the Chalcolithic period of Cyprus. It analyzes evidence from the sites of Erimi-Pamboula, Lemba-Lakkous, Souskiou-Vathyrkakas, Kissonerga-Mosphilia, and Kissonerga-Mylouthkia. Since unmistakably male figurines are either not found at these sites or lack secure temporal and locational provenance, they are not included in the data sample.

The study operates under the assumption that a relationship exists between differences in symbolic use and differences in cultural practice, and research questions were geared towards identifying such differences in symbolic use between the sites. Data collection included an investigation of the published excavation reports and other publications, as well as an in-person study of a portion of the sample during a two-week trip to multiple Cypriot museums. Two different statistical methods were employed to analyze the degrees of similarity and difference between the iconographies of each site.

Results revealed increased differences in iconographic motif repertoires not between distant sites, but between close neighboring sites instead. These results were contrary to the initial hypothesis, but still suggested important connections between the sites—namely, that inhabitants of sites in close proximity appear to have developed identities that contrasted with their neighbors. The data also revealed interesting similarities in the repertoires of distant sites that support theories of trade and intermarriage between communities. Overall, this pilot study supports the existence of inter-site identity at Chalcolithic communities.


Chalcolithic; Cyprus; feminist archaeology; figurines; iconography; identity


Archaeological Anthropology | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Gender and Sexuality | Islamic World and Near East History | Near and Middle Eastern Studies

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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