National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Laura Gagné

Affiliation: Carleton University

Laura Gagné is a Professor at the University of Ottawa’s Department of Classics and Religious Studies, and holds degrees in Ancient Studies (Ph.D.) from the University of Toronto; Honours in Classics (M.A.) from Queen’s University; Honours in Classics (B.A.) from the University of Ottawa. She is a recipient of the Elizabeth Alfoldi-Rosenbaum Memorial Award. Her areas of specialization include ceramic technology, archaeology, and Cypriot/Greek prehistory. Her publications include “Apprenticeship and Learning in the Prehistoric Potter’s Workshop” in Pottery. History, Preparation and Uses (L. Doyle, ed., 2019), and “Rantidi Forest Excavations. The Sanctuary of Lingrin tou Dhigeni in its Sacred Landscape” (with G.B. Bazemore, in preparation for Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology.  Professor Gagné is president of the AIA Ottawa Society.


The contribution of children and novices to the potters’ workshop is understudied in Cypriot archaeology. While pottery-making is best learned during childhood, most scholars do not consider the work of children to have value for study. Crudely made, misshapen little objects end up in the storage room of the museum, while the more “beautiful” objects made by experienced potters are put on display. By examining the “ugly” objects, it is possible to understand many things about how labour was organized in ancient pottery workshops and how children learned how to become proficient potters.

Hand-made pottery facilitates the assessment of the potter’s motor skills in forming vessels, while painted decoration reveals the painter’s ability to plan designs as well as to control tools.  Some potters began to learn their craft at a very young age, perhaps through playing with the raw materials or making toys.  Other potters may have been adults when they started to work with clay and handle paint brushes.  Novices were assimilated into the community of potters by more experienced teachers who sometimes assisted them with more difficult tasks and who may have offered models or verbal instructions to them while they worked.  This lecture looks at the evidence for under-developed motor control and cognitive abilities through vessel construction and brush control as well as planning of decoration to try to determine whether some of the vessels found on Cyprus were made by children.

The Sanctuary at Lingrin tou Digheni near Kouklia in Cyprus was dedicated to a male oracular god known in a single inscription from the site as “the God Who Speaks”. Survey and excavation work at the site have turned up thousands of fragments of terracotta statues, several of them life-sized, that were dedicated to the unknown deity.  They are made of a coarse local fabric and slipped or painted perhaps in imitation of limestone statues. They were mainly hand-made, although a few may have been formed in a mould and then finished by hand. Terracotta statues also appear at other Cypro-Archaic sites which may be part of a larger cultic tradition. The statues and figurines found at Lingrin tou Digheni are overwhelming male, as is expected in a sanctuary dedicated to a male deity.

Unfortunately, the site has suffered much since it went out of use at some time in the Archaic period and the statues are badly broken and scattered about the site. In this lecture, I will discuss the statues and figurines we have found on the hilltop of Lingrin tou Digheni and try to place them within the wider context of Cypro-Archaic extra-urban sanctuaries.

In 1910, the German excavator Robert Zahn was shown an area near the site of the Sanctuary of Aphrodite in Palaepaphos where some inscriptions bearing the undeciphered Cypro-syllabic script had been found. His investigations on the hilltop around an area of looted tombs turned up several more inscriptions as well as many fragments of statues, some of them life-size and larger. He believed that the site represented a minor sanctuary that he did not believe was associated with the sanctuary of Aphrodite at Palaepaphos, but we have reason to believe it may have been.

The Sanctuary at Lingrin tou Digheni in the Rantidi Forest was visible from the more prominent sanctuary of Paphian Aphrodite and may have been part of the same sacred landscape. An inscription from the site refers to the deity as “the God Who Speaks” and although we do not know the identity of this god, he clearly had oracular powers similar to those of the god Apollo. The association between Aphrodite and Apollo on Cyprus during the Archaic Period is known from other sites such as Idalion, another Archaic period site that had large and small terracotta statues. The god at Idalion was referred to as “Lord”, which is “Adon” in Phoenician, giving rise to the stories of Aphrodite and Adonis. Could this pair also have been worshiped at Palaepaphos? This lecture explores this possibility.

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