Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


9 January 2014

Musico-cultural amalgamations in the Eastern Mediterranean: A percussive view from the Aegean

Katherina Kolotourou in Papadopoulos, A. (ed), Recent research and perspectives on the Late Bronze Age eastern Mediterranean, Talanta XLIV (2012) [2013]: 206-226.


The earliest allusions to the performance of tympana (frame drums) in the Aegean are found on Crete: on the well known 8th century BC bronze votive sheet from the Idaean Cave, often referred to as ‘tympanon’ in scholarship, and on two late 7th century BC female terracotta figurines from Praisos. The iconography of both sets of objects demonstrates a multiplicity of musical references from the Assyrian and Neo-Hittite kingdoms of Anatolia to the Cypro-Levantine experiences of drumming. Both Cretan artefacts, however, exploit in an unparalleled manner a visual and notional conflation between a shield and a tympanon, evoking a culture-specific theogonic and initiatory framework for the regenerating and protective qualities of tympanon-playing. Focusing on one of the most striking examples of musico-cultural amalgamation in the Aegean, this paper argues that the process of incorporating foreign musical elements into one’s culture is closely related with internal social negotiations and dynamics, and proposes a shift in the way we qualify musical exchanges.


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