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May 2024
May 2024

Pygmy and Cranes Astragalos

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A large knucklebone with a red figure depiction of a pygmy warrior fighting a crane with a club and a free flying crane on the other side. 

Dwarfism was an acknowledged reality in ancient Mediterranean societies, and images of pigmies and dwarfs were often depicted in the arts of New Kingdom Egypt and Classical Greece. Several popular Greek myths feature dwarfs; according to the Iliad they were involved in a constant war with the cranes which migrated in winter to their homeland on the southern shores of the earth-encircling river Oceanus. In general, no clear distinction between pygmies and dwarfs was made in Greek literature and art. The words pygmaios and nanos were used interchangeably to describe both African pygmies and indigenous dwarfs, whose physical disproportion was caused by genetic mutation. 

Here the pygmy warrior battles a crane, grabbing it by the neck as he prepares to strike it with a club; the scene is based on an Athenian red figure vase by the Brygos painter from ca. 480–470 B.C., now in the State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg. 

H:5cm, L:8cm,W:4cm

see also : A Bronze Hellenistic Dwarf in the Metropolitan Museum by L. Bartlett Stoner