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Introduction to Neolithic Figurine Art






The first signs of figurine art attested in the Zagros mountains (8th and early 7th mill) were often schematic pieces of unbaked clay.

The houses and habitation debris of Aceramic Jarmo (middle of 7th mill and forward) produced numerous zoomorphic and anthropomorphic figurines, either schematic or highly naturalistic, the majority of which seem to be sitting female or sexless figures, sometimes bearing impressed decoration . The same is true of Aceramic Alikosh and Tepe Sarab, where two beautiful, intact female sitting figurines with no facial features, elongated necks and protruding breasts and buttocks were unearthed.

The early material of Umm Dabaghiyah (first half of 6th mill) consistsed mostly of clay sitting females, possibly dressed. However, the main characteristic of this culture were the relief animal or human female representations on pots, harbingers of the painted or animal effigy vases of later times.

The Hassuna culture, well represented by the material of Yarim Tepe I, has produced small, standing, mostly sexless figurines, probably dressed, which seem to have an elaborate coiffure or elongated headdress. They have a narrow waist, protruding breasts and voluminous lower body, often bearing incised linear decoration. There was at least one case of possible cult symbolism.

In the early stages of the Samarra culture (Tell es-Sawwan I, II) all stone figurines were grave offerings in cemeteries while clay ones came from houses or debris. Most of them are alabaster or hollow clay females in various poses, i.e. standing, squatting, sitting with one leg extended. An intact sitting male is an exceptional finding. Clay examples are headless, probably intentionally so. The uniqueness of the material lies in the expressive eyes made of inlaid shells and outlined in black. Αn alabaster figurine in a wall niche, along with the underlying cemetery, possibly gives to the building a sacred character. The classical Middle Samarra period (Tell es-Sawwan III, Choga Mami) produced exceptional clay female figurines with elaborate hairstyles, inlaid stones in the nose and ears, painted garments and tattoos. It is interesting that the painted clay figurines of Choga Mami presented analogies with those of the Ubaidan culture in that they were mostly standing, had large buttocks and feet, hands joined on the belly and rather conical head and hair, plus a relief necklace on all of them.

Most of the figurine material of the Halaf culture (Tell Arpachiyah, Yarim Tepe II etc.-5th mill) recovered from habitation debris, with the exception of some painted clay figurines which were grave offerings. Tell Arpachiyah IV (Late Halaf- second half of 5th mill) produced either animal and schematic human forms or very lovely sitting females of unbaked clay, the legs folded against the body and the hands joined under the breasts (recalling the pose of parturition), without facial features but with carefully painted rendering of the garments. The existence of sacred places and cult offerings seems very possible in the culture of Halaf.

The material from the more or less contemporary Tepe Sabz (Late 6th and Early 5th mill) culture of Southern Mesopotamia is restricted to T-type or cylindrical figurines.

The sites of the Northern Ubaid culture (Late 6th mill) yield either a sitting type (a. with arm-stumps, facial features and garments shown by painted crossed lines, and b. with arms folded under the breasts and legs bent against the body) or a standing type with optional representation of garments (a. with arms and no facial features, and b. with no arms and joined legs).

Southern Ubaid figurines either were dressed males but most often females with a reptile-head, long legs distinguished by an incision, holding a baby; or were sexless/female, standing, with joined legs and wing-like arms, their only facial feature being a beak-nose. They have been unearthed in settlements but exceptionally sometimes they had been found in graves as well.

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