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Figurines of Neolithic Thessaly - Volume Ι



Thessalian figurines may be attributed to nearly all phases of the Neolithic in the area. They do not always follow the pottery sequence related to habitation phases. Their dating is difficult because their use may have exceeded the chronological phase during which they have been modelled. Whatever the case, during the Late Neolithic Thessalian figurines become more and more stylized and they diminish in number until they eventually disappear altogether.

Almost all Thessalian figurines found to date are made of clay or stone (including marble) with a few exceptions made of carved shell. No wooden figurine has ever been found, but this must not lead to conclusions such as the non-use of this material for figurine making. Wood deteriorates quickly, especially underground, and it is very possible that wooden figurines, which have now perished forever, were made as well. On the other hand, the limited use of stone and the even more restricted use of organic raw materials, such as shell or bone, may well be due to the difficulties they present in working, compared to a lump of soft clay. Some golden figurines are rare and unique cases.

The clay used for Thessalian figurines comes from different sites in the area, resulting in a considerable range of colours from white to yellow and red, including a number of intermediate hues. A simple treatment of the clay is indicated by inclusions of stone particles, sand or plant remains. Non-plastics (inorganic tempers) were added to this clay in order to prevent the cracking of the objects when dried and fired. It is difficult to tell with certainty whether these tempers (especially sand) occurred naturally in the clays or were added by figurine makers.

Surface treatment, including decoration, is the final stage in the finishing of a ceramic artifact before firing. Though a great number of figurines were left rough, a considerable proportion were either burnished with a hard, blunt tool or (more frequently) polished with a soft yielding tool, such as apiece of leather, a handful of fleece or even a finger. A sharp colour contrast between the surface and the biscuit, often seen on figurines, may be due to the application of a slip or to mineral pigments (paint) or even to salts in the clay which rise and coat the surface during drying and firing, producing a creamy or white deposit.

Stone figurines, produced more intensively during the final phases of the Thessalian Neolithic, are considerably fewer than clay ones. Various local stones of grey, green, white or other colours were used thought here was a certain preference for white marble. Stone/marble figurines seem to have existed though as early as Early Neolithic, but because of the undeniable difficulty in carving this hard material, simplified or stylized forms were produced, lacking the naturalism generally observed in Neolithic miniature art.

Most of clay figurines were modelled around one or many clay or perishable cores, fired and then given incised, impressed, painted or plastically applied human features. Surface decoration seems to be purely optional, since it is not related to any particular form or function and does not consistently render the same features or patterns. It follows the techniques used in pottery.

The aim of the present volume is primarily to present this precious material than to interpret it and discuss its function(s). The material presented is classified into two main parts, Heads and Bodies, each part distinguished as representational and stylized, according to its prevailing features. The total number if items included are 362, i.e. 120 heads and 242 bodies, including seven items representing just parts of a body, such as a leg or a penis.

Figurines in this volume bear a serial number, followed by their file catalogue number in the Archives of the Research Centre for Antiquities of the Academy of Athens (ORF), as well by their inventory number of the Archaeological Museum of Larissa.Τhe inventory number of the Museum comprises the Greek letters ΜΛ (i.e. Museum of Larissa) and the first two Greek letters of the name of the collection to which each item belonged**. Next comes the name of the site they where were found. For many sites of Eastern Thessalian plain the name of each location is followed by a site number, (ATAE), according to Gallis 1992. (ATAE stands for the initials in Greek of the words Inventory No of the topographical archives of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Larisa). Some of the sites in the Western Thessalian plain are also rendered in the same way.

Measurements are maximal, in centimeters, H height, W width and T thickness. The measurements are followed by a definition of colour according to Munsell Soil Colour Charts and a full description of each item.  


**ΘΕ for Theodoropoulos, ΤΛ for Tloupas, XO for Chouliaras, ΓΚ for Gatziroulis. Surface finds of the Ephorate of Antiquities bear the first letters of the find spots.

Preface | Introduction | Images