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An Ideal Female Head Uncovered in the North-South Colonnaded Street of Perge
Located 4 km. inland from the Mediterranean Sea in the Aksu district of Antalya, Perge expanded southward during the Hellenistic period. Excavations were initiated in 1946 and have continued uninterrupted since 1960. Figural sculpture and reliefs uncovered have already shown with the unity of their style that Perge was a centre of sculpture.

The lower city of Perge is divided into insulae with two main streets: Ja running north to south and Jb east to west. The female head presented in this article was uncovered in 2010, 1.88 m. north-west of the first postament of the west gallery north of junction O where these two main streets cross each other.

The head originally belonged to a life-sized statue made of fine crystal and milk-white marble. It is housed at the Antalya Museum (inv. nr. 2011/600) and measures 0.35 m. high, 0,17 m. wide and 0,26 m. deep. It was broken off below the neck. The right side of the chin and nose are broken and missing. Its calcified face and hair have slight deterioration. The hair tied on top of the head also has some breaks.

The head is depicted turned leftward and bent slightly forward. There is a high forehead above the oval face, roughly forming a triangle. The almond eyes have thick upper lids. Traces of drill work are discernible at the lachrymal channels. The irises and pupils do not show any work on them. Thin eyebrows follow a sharp arc. The muscle between the eyes and the upper eyelids is slightly worked. Thin lips bordering the small mouth are rendered ajar. The distance between the lip and the jaw is wide, and the chin protrudes slightly.

The right profile of the head is different from the left side. This is especially clear on the ears. The helix of the right ear is quite triangular, and the distinct earlobe recalls a flat circle. The helix of the left ear, on the other hand, is semi-circular, and the earlobe is not accentuated. Ear holes are rendered by drill work. The canal of the right ear is especially more distinct than the left one and deeper.

The wavy hair is separated in the middle and borders the forehead in a triangle. Two locks of hair on the right profile and one on the left side were combed back behind the ears and made into a bun on the nape of the neck. Two locks on top of the middle separation were pulled back and tied. The difference in the workmanship of the left and right sides is clearly discernible on the hair as well. On the right side locks extending backward are rendered with relatively deep channels while those on the left side are shallow and the locks are rough. On the right there are two locks at the nape, and the one in front of the ear is left free. However, on the left side there is one at the nape and one before the ear. The knot on top of the head recalls a bowknot, whose backside is left rough. Two locks in the middle of the tie are pulled back and should have been fastened at the back; they are separated with a deep groove.

The work’s back side was executed roughly, and right under the bun at the back of the nape is a neck support. These indicate that the original statue was placed in a niche. The difference observed in the workmanship between the right and left sides may be ascribed to the main direction of the head.

This head from Perge may be compared with many examples with regards to hairstyle. The bowknot style is frequently observed on Aphrodite statues and heads in Anatolia and the Mediterranean. The most significant analogy for posture and hairstyle is the Dresden head, whose original is dated to the Hellenistic period. The Aphrodite of Capitoline type in the New York Metropolitan Museum and the Barlett head of about 330 B.C. in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts have a hairstyle similar to Perge head. The Perge head also has many parallels in Pamphylia. Three heads of Aphrodite and a female head uncovered at Side closely parallel the Perge head with respect to hairstyle. The female head presented in this article is also closely parallel to two other heads of women uncovered at the South Baths in Perge with respect to hairstyle.

Publications on the parallel examples agree that this hairstyle appeared in the 4th century B.C. and became popular in the Hellenistic period. Based on this hairstyle, the Perge head presented here should be identified as Aphrodite.

Available evidence does not allow us to attribute this head to any statue type of Aphrodite. In addition, its find-spot at the colonnaded street, not linked with any particular building, makes it difficult to propose an interpretation.

Near the find-spot were uncovered between 2005 and 2010 four truncated pediment fragments with Triton depictions, which are ascribed to a fountain by the excavators. It is not clear whether or not this head belongs to such a structure.

The Perge head may be identified as a 1st century A.D. copy of an originally Hellenistic work because of its lack of eye details, limited use of drill (ears, eyes and hair), hairstyle and analogies. This work dates to a relatively “early” phase of Perge.

Araş. Gör. Dr. Özgür Turak,
İstanbul Üniversitesi, Edebiyat Fakültesi,
Arkeoloji Bölümü, Klasik Arkeoloji Anabilim Dalı,
Ordu Cad., 196, 34134 Beyazıt - İstanbul
E-posta: ozgurturak@gmail.com

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