Painted Vase from Elche
clay, 3rd century B.C.
A bird of prey spreads its wings across this Iberian vase—an image that commonly appears on pottery produced in Elche. The winged creature is reminiscent of bichrome jugs from the earlier “orientalizing” Tartessian period (c. 700–550 B.C.), when the indigenous inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula absorbed artistic influences from the eastern Mediterranean, particularly Greece and Phoenicia. But what is the meaning of the images painted upon this vase? No one knows exactly. Perhaps the ferocious bird of prey was known from Iberian legend or myth. Like so much Iberian art, the symbolism here eludes us.