Meet the Collection: Byzantine Period

The Byzantine artefacts of the Bridges collection are typical of the wares that were being made in the ceramic workshops of Cyprus during this period, which were made up of predominately glazed ceramics with sgraffito decoration.

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The Byzantine potters began production of sgraffito ware in the thirteenth-century, with the fourteenth-century as their highpoint. The term sgraffito refers to redware pottery, where a sharp instrument has been used to etch decorations into a thin layer of clay slip.

It is clear that the Byzantine potters took care to make sure that these dishes, cups and bowls were aesthetically pleasing.

Historical Background

Following the division of the Roman Empire by Diocletian, Cyprus came under the juristiction of the East. The cities of Cyprus were destroyed by two successive earthquakes in 332 adn 342 AD which marked the end of an era. Most cities were not reoccupied, while Salamis was rebuilt on a smaller scale and renamed Constantia after Constantius II, which became the new capital of the island.

During this time (Fifth- Seventh-centuries AD) the Christianisation of the landscape was marked by the foundation of a number of churches, for example at Polis-Chrysochou adn Ayia Paraskevi.

Pottery in the Byzantine Period

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HC1994.3(17)

Plain pottery was commonly produced during this period for use and trade in particular. However, the pottery most typical of this period is the Sgraffiato ware of whcih the Bridges Collection has several examples. These dishes have incised decorations cratched through a lighter coloured slip, which was applied to the surface before the pots were fired. These lines of incision stand out in the darker colour of the underlying clay. Further decoration was provided by casual brush strokes of green and orange-brown pigment, using copper and iron oxide respectively.

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Look carefully for the scars of the tripod. HC1994.3(13)

Cypriot potters used small clay tripods to separate the pots during firing, the scars of which can be seen on most of the pots in the form of three small spots lacking glaze. They were considered to have been made for domestic use, however many were also found in grave sites.

The main production centres for Sgraffiato ware in Cyprus were Paphos and Lapithos. Lapithos, located at the northern coast of the island, was producing superior quality glazed and decorated ceramics.

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