Collecting ancient Cyprus

One of the many things I discovered during my time at the British Museum (see my earlier post) was the wider significance of objects in our collections here at RAMM.

Among our collection are objects from a temple site at Idalion (Idalium), which was excavated by Sir Robert Hamilton Lang in the late 19th century. Objects from his work seem to have ended up at various museums across the world, including ours here in Exeter. One of my favourites is this hand-made ceramic figure of a charioteer and four horses, known as a ‘quadriga’. It seems to be slightly different to other chariot models of this form – ours is freestanding, whereas most others have a solid base on which the horses and chariot rest.

Cypriot charioteer ad horses figure

Cypriot charioteer ad horses figure

I had never really appreciated just how important this site and excavator were, and it is fascinating to see how our collections fit into a national and international setting. A next step will be to try and discover how these objects ended up in our museum. We know they were donated to us by a Mr Gilbertson, and had previously been in the collection of JC Bowring, a notable local Devon collector and polymath. How the objects came to be in his possession remains a story to be revealed.


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