Mycenaean Phi-Figurine (Φ) c.1450-1050 B.C.



This Phi type of figurine dates back to 1450-1050 BC. It was found in Mycenaean Greece and was characteristically made up of terracotta and ceramic. These figurines were found in settlement areas, tombs, and shrines. Their names stemmed from the kind of shape they took and the resemblance they had to three Greek letters. These are phi, tau and psi. As much as their functions remain unknown, it is believed that their objective reflected the circumstance in which they were found. The phi figurine is not a new phenomenon in Greece mainland. Most of them were found in Aegean period (Olsen 380).

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Differences and Similarities

The Phi figurine has characteristic similar features and shape to that of man. Like other figurines, its arms are separated from the body. However, while in other figurines the hands are held in front of the breasts, in the phi figurine they are not. The Phi, which was directly fashioned from the naturalistic, can be divided into three types according to the French classification. They include Phi A that has an upper body part represented by a disc, has a thick stem, and a low waist. The second one is Phi B, which has an applied plait and a columnar stem. The third on is the Proto-Phi which was formed in the LH 111A, and has arms that tend to curve round the sides of its torso. Even though they are molded with plastic in comparison to other Phi, they are attached to their body (Olsen 386).

Despite these differences, all the three types of Phi consistently have plastic submitted breasts. The transactional type of Phi was formed from the naturalistic towards the closing stages of LHIIIA. Its upper body is rhomboid in shape and short in comparison to other Phi, and its arms are folded across its upper body. The Tau developed from the transactional type of Phi, which formation occurred towards the closing stages of LHIIIA and progressed to LHIIIB according to historical accounts. Its shallow upper body strikes one as being in the form of a flattened ball and its stem is thick (Olsen 389).

The Psi can be divided into three different groups, which were fashioned at the onset of LHIIIB and progressed to LHIIIC. These subgroups include Hollow Psi, which as suggested by its name, has arms hoisted like an overturned crescent and a hollow stem. The second one is the Columnar Psi whose arms are held vertically as it happens with a deep crescent; it also has a concrete columnar stem and a standard waistline. The third one is the High waisted Phi that has peculiar shallower crescent arms, a columnar stem, and a high waistline (Olsen 392).


Despite these disparities, all types of Psi consist of religious headdresses referred to as polos similar to that which is portrayed on the sarcophagus of the Agia Triada. An applied plate also runs across all Phis. A disparity from the ordinary types of Tau, Proto-phi, and Phi figurines do exist and is referred to as the kourotrophos. It is an ordinary female but with a constant obsession of a child on its left breast. A parasol often protects the child. Even though there are two more types of Psi figurines with children, it is not natural to anticipate a Psi carrying a child in this manner.


Works Cited

Olsen, Barbara A.  Wommen,Children and the Family in the Angean Bronze Age: Differences in Minoan and Mycenaen Constructions of Gender. World Archaeology, 29 (3). (2010): 380-392.

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