This Mycenaean figurine head has a maximum preserved height of 21mm, a maximum preserved width of 15mm, and a maximum preserved depth of 20mm. The head was originally part of either a Mycenaean phi or psi-type figurine and was likely produced sometime between 1420 and 1190 BCE.
The fabric and decoration of this fragment are common for the series. They clay used in the production of these figurines closely resembles that of contemporary Mycenaean pottery. It is pale pink with a cream-colored surface, and the slip with which the details are added is a dark reddish-brown. These added details include small dotted eyes, a vertical line for the nose (most of which has chipped away), and “hair” on the top of the head. Additionally, the slip line continues around the jaw and chin and may represent an attempt to delineate the face. Finally, in addition to the facial features, there are five small dots (~2mm in diameter) added in slip at the base of the neck where the fragment is attached to the wooden block.
The function of these figurines is not fully understood. They are especially common finds in tombs – in particular those of children, and they are also commonly found at shrines and in household contexts. In the past it has been suggested that these figurines may have served some role similar to Egyptian ushabtiu (i.e. an attendant for the deceased), but this is unlikely. Rather, these pieces probably represent goddesses. In its original intact state, this figurine would have worn a two piece garment consisting of a ‘jacket’ and tight skirt. If this head was part of a phi-type figurine, its arms would have been resting at its sides, giving it the shape of the Greek letter phi. If it was instead part of a psi-type figurine, its arms would have been raised, giving it the shape of a Greek psi. -Jon Gress