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Introduction to Neolithic Figurine Art






The earliest (Natufian- 9th mill) figures of this region were stone or unbaked clay, naturalistic representations of animals, found in or around graves. Human figures have no genitalia even in the unique case of a representation of sexual intercourse. Bone pendants with two lobes possibly render male genitalia. These figurines are often unbaked and sometimes bear traces of red ochre.

Although some figurines found in PPNA (Pre-pottery Neolithic A- 8th mill) levels presage the future emphasis of the buttocks, a well defined female schematic female type will appear only from the 7th mill on (Pre-pottery Neolithic B).

Characteristic of the PPNB (Pre-pottery Neolithic B- late 8th and 7th mill) is the introduction of male figures (and male symbolisms), which coexist with female and animal ones. Pebbles in niches, schematic cone-headed figurines of both sexes with big round eyes made of unbaked clay as well as stick-like standing figurines with round flat faces bearing large clay pellets for the eyes and nose are also characteristic of the period. In some cases headless figures of natural size have been used as supports for plastered skulls. However, big intact figures (with a head) seem to have been used as real statues, while a group of about thirty statues (35 to 90 cm) with impressive coloured decoration and possibly inlayed hair have been found in a pit. It is unknown whether humans or gods were represented by those particular figurines, but the characteristic series of naturalistic stone masks from the South (Hebron and Nahal Hemar) were probably apotropaic and made for ritual use: They had round hollow eyes, a protruding nose and a half-open mouth with incised teeth. Side holes were made for their attachment, while traces of a dark sticky substance were witnesses of inlaid hair. A stone necklace from Jericho seems to be a miniature model of such a mask.

From the Early Ceramic Neolithic period (first half of the 6th mill) onwards clay figurines displayed influences from the Hassuna material, hence the modelling of conical or atrophic heads and the virtually breastless bodies. Nevertheless, most of the figurines were anthropomorphic pebbles reminding of the Natufian material.

A distinctive type of the Middle Neolithic levels (mid-5th mill) was the ‘Terrible Mother’, in which the intentional high degree of exaggeration (based on specific rules) resulted in ugly disfigurement creating an apparently demonic character.

Animal representations had secondary importance and followed the Aceramic tradition.

Chalcolithic figurine art of Jordan, of unknown origin, has been influenced by its neighbouring cultures in various periods (i.e. Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, but also Syria/Palestine and possibly the Aegean).

Introduction | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 |
Chapter 4: Α.
- Β. - C. - D. - Ε. - F. | Chapter 5