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Work Female figurine from the Halaf period

Department of Near Eastern Antiquities: Mesopotamia

Figurines of women in the style of Halaf

© 1998 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Near Eastern Antiquities

Pouysségur Patrick

Modeled from clay and painted, this female figurine with exaggerated curves is typical of the Neolithic culture of Halaf. The figurine is depicted naked, sitting with arms folded around her breasts in a pose suggestive of childbirth.

The Halaf culture

The culture commonly known as Halaf (circa 6000-5100 BC), which succeeded those of Hassuna and Samarra, originated in Syria and northern Mesopotamia. It had specific architectural traditions, in particular the development of a circular housing pattern. Small Halaf villages derived their livelihood from growing grain and raising livestock. But the hallmark of this culture was the production of painted pottery of remarkable quality both for its varied and often daring forms and for the richness of its polychrome decoration, which was both geometrical and realistic.

A fertility symbol

This female figurine, characteristic of the Halaf period, is depicted sitting naked with her arms folded around her breasts in a position that is suggestive of childbirth. There are stripes of brown paint on the body. While the head is roughly modeled, and hands and feet are lacking, the female attributes - hips and breasts - are strongly accentuated. The heightening of these features clearly suggests the representation of a fertility principle in the form of a female "mother goddess" figure. As the guarantee of the regular renewal of life, she had a key role to play in a society based on the production of natural resources.

Technical description

  • Figurines of women in the style of Halaf

    C. 6000-5100 BC

    Mesopotamia or northern Syria

  • Hand-modelled and painted terracotta

    H. 8.20 cm; W. 5 cm; D. 5.40 cm

  • Acquired in 1961 , 1961

    AO 21095, AO 21096

  • Near Eastern Antiquities

    Richelieu wing
    Ground floor
    Ancient Mesopotamia, from the earliest times to the 3rd millennium BC
    Room 236
    Display case 1: Mesopotamian Prehistory. From the Jarmo to the Ubaid period

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