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Work Ubaid female figurine

Department of Near Eastern Antiquities: Mesopotamia

Fragmentary figurines of women

© 2004 RMN / Franck Raux

Near Eastern Antiquities

Pouysségur Patrick

This stylized terracotta figurine is a relic of the Ubaidian culture. It is in the tradition of neolithic representations of the female form.

Ubaidian culture

The neolithic Ubaidian culture, named after the site where it was first rediscovered, developed from circa 7000 BC in the great alluvial plains of southern Mesopotamia. It progressively extended north during the course of the fifth millennium BC, replacing the Halafian culture. While Ubaidian ceramics are not comparable in quality to those produced by earlier civilizations in northern Mesopotamia, the Ubaidian culture did produce great advances in architecture, reflecting a major development in terms of social organization. From the Ubaidian III period (5300-4700 BC), tripartite buildings with large central halls built over a terrace began to appear. These buildings, as the materials found on site indicate, were meeting halls where banquets would be held. The construction of these prestigious buildings, each bigger than the last, could only be the result of the whole community working together under the guidance of an acknowledged leader. The rise of village communities was thus accompanied by the development of marks of social differentiation and hierarchization which were destined to become ever more significant as time passed.

Female figurines: a long tradition

This figurine, of which the head is missing, was found in the oldest archeological strata at the site of Telloh in Lower Mesopotamia. The nude body is picked out with lines of black paint. The bust is painted totally black. Ubaidian clay figurines were modeled by hand, then baked before the touches of paint were added. They are part of a long tradition common to neolithic cultures. While other symbolic subjects, such as bulls, do exist, female figures predominate during this period. They represent the fertility principle, whose protective power was considered vital by societies based on an agricultural economy.

Technical description

  • Fragmentary figurines of women

    Obeid period, c. 4700-4200 BC

    Tello (ancient Girsu)

  • Terracotta

    H. 3.50 cm; W. 5.70 cm; D. 1.90 cm

  • A. Parrot excavations, 1931-32

    AO 15327, AO 15329, AO 15325, AO 14442a

  • 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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