The Plaster Figurines of Khirbet es-Samrā Cemetery in Jordan

In: Hellenistic and Roman Terracottas
Author: Abdalla Nabulsi

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Abstract

A substantial number of plaster objects, mainly figurines, were retrieved during excavations in the Byzantine cemetery of Khirbet es-Samrā, in northern Jordan. Most objects were plaques classified in three main types: geometric, zoomorphic and anthropomorphic. The report provides a general description of each type and an overview of parallel finds elsewhere, including those made of other materials. The report deals with problems related to the restoration of the largely fragmentary objects and their dating, which, based on archaeological evidence and radiocarbon dating, was roughly estimated to be between the fifth and seventh century AD. The objects were suggested to have reached the area through trade routes, but the iconographic evidence was not sufficient and local production remains possible. Though some were objects of daily use, the available evidence tends to associate them with local funerary customs in which mirrors were particularly prevalent. The diversity of the plaster objects seems not strictly religiously motivated but rather market oriented. Further studies in different directions are needed to answer still open questions.

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