A BO NE PLAQUETTE IN THE SHAPE OF SILENUS' HE AD
AT THE NATIONAL MUSEUM IN WARSAW
The Gallery of Ancient Art in the National Museum in Warsaw has a plaquette of bone
representing Sileuus' head in profile. It was excavated in 1957 by tlie Polish Archaeological
Mission at Mirmeki in the Crimea and published by professor K. Michałowski, and subse-
quently by Professor Marie-Louise Bernhard1.
Compared to other historical objects of that type from areas on the Black Sea, the Silenus'
head in our museum is remarkable for its artistic value and is now one of the chief objects
of interest in our collection.
The plaquette represents Silenus' head in Iow relief, and in profile turned to the right
with a wreath of ivy leaves and corymbs. The characteristic features of the face are the
flashy short nose with distended nostrils, and fuli lips surrounded by stylized whiskers and
a beard. The eyebrow is raised, and the eye is partly covered by the upper eyelid. At the
outer corner of the eye there is a smali round hole. The ear is represented merely in outline.
Under the beard there is a smali, smooth surface delimited by a half-oval cut. On the back
of the placruette some fiat incisions are visible, and the surface is unpolished showing the porous
structure of the bone.2
Placpiettes of this type, known up to this day, are of various artistic value. We do not
know for what use they were made. The fact that they are similar in shape to each other
seems to suggest that they had the same function3. The analogy which is of most interest
to us is found in a placruette excavated in 1934 also in Mirmeki. Its shape is identical to
that of our placjuette, but it is essentially different in style and in the expression of the
On this second placpiette Silenus' head is also in profile, but turned to the left. The
face is smooth and calm, the details are not carefully worked, while the opposite is true
of our placraette, where Silenus is given a fully sarcastic expression. Due to numerous
deep incisions our object is much more decorative and has a much clearer expression. The
plaquette from Tiritaki5 is in a similar style to the Mirmeki placruette excavated in 1934.
It is damaged: the nose and part of the whiskers and beard are missing, but the bent of
1. K. Michałowski, ,,Nouvelles de Myrmekion", BCH, LXXXII, 1958, 1, p. 352, Ul. 3; M. L. Bernhard, Pamiętnik
Wystawy Zabytków z Wykopalisk w Mirmeki w 1957 ro/cu, Warszawa, 1959, p. 114, pl. 7,1.
2. 0,072 m high, 0,041 m wide.
3. Cf. the analogous placpiettes: M. Kohylina, ,,K isoutcheniou goroda Fanagorii", VDJ, 2/3, 1938, p. 343, ill. 3; V. F.
Gaidoukevitch, E. I. Levi, E. O. Prusuvskaia,,,Raskopki sieviernoi i zapadnoi tchasti Mirmeki", MVA, 4, p. 112, ill. 3;
T. H. Knipovtich, L. M. SIavin, „Raskopki iougo-zapadnoi tchasti Tiritaki", MV A, 4, p. 44, ill. 63; H. A. Thompson,
,,Activities in the Athenian Agora", Hesperia, XXVII, 1958, pi. 46c.
4. Cf. V. F. Gaidoukevitch, E. J. Levi, E. O. Prusuvskaia, op. cit.
5. Cf. T. H. Knipovitch, L. M. Slavin, op. cit.