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Statuette of a woman

© 2008 RMN / Franck Raux

Near Eastern Antiquities
Anatolia

Author(s):
Demange Françoise

This little statue with its full womanly curves is similar to the "mother goddess" figures that were widespread in the Near East in the Neolithic period. The heavy breasts, broad hips, enormous thighs and buttocks evoke not only female fecundity, but also the fertility of the soil. These figurines were probably used during magical fertility rites.

A statuette with fulsome curves

This little figurine represents a naked woman with abundant curves. The head is missing, the shoulders are broad and rounded, the breasts and belly geometrically stylized; the thick arms are close to the torso and the hands are laid on the knees. She is sitting on a sort of stool made of two protuberances that support her huge buttocks. Her slightly parted legs end in points suggesting feet.

A figure from Anatolia

The statuette is made from clay and the surface has been carefully polished. Its exact archaeological origin is unknown, because it was part of a gift to the Louvre. However, its manufacturing technique and style show similarities with figurines of naked women found on many Late Neolithic Anatolian sites, such as Catal Hüyük, Can Hassan III, and Hacilar. A thermoluminescence test has confirmed this dating.

A figurine symbolizing the principles of fertility and fecundity

These statuettes, common in Anatolia and throughout the Near East in Neolithic times, show the importance placed on the female figure, especially her sexual attributes: heavy breasts and belly, broad hips, enormous thighs and buttocks all being features that suggest female fecundity. These symbolic figurines encapsulate a new mode of thought that may be linked to the beginning of agricultural societies. As men went from the status of hunter-gatherers to that of farmers, they were faced with new problems; moreover, although women had always been the guarantee of the survival of the human group, they now symbolized the fertility of the earth on which the group depended for food. These figurines were probably used during magical rites to ensure fecundity, the source of all life, but it may be premature to see them as the first representations of a supreme god, a mother goddess who was the center of a cult.

Bibliography

Demange Françoise, in Déesses : Imatges femenines de la Mediterrània de la prehistòria al món romà, Ajuntament de Barcelona, 2000, p. 136, cat. n 5.

Technical description

  • Statuette of a woman

    Mid-6th millennium BC

  • Smooth clay

    H. 6.60 cm; W. 5.70 cm; D. 4.30 cm

  • Acquired in 1975

    AO 26090

  • Near Eastern Antiquities

    Richelieu wing
    Ground floor
    Anatolian civilizations, from the earliest times to the 1st millennium BC
    Room 5, temporarily closed to the public, works no
    Display case 1: From the Neolithic to the Early Bronze period

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