Chalcolithic Cruciform Type Figurine

SKU CB.2941
Circa

3900 BC to 2500 BC

Dimensions

7.5″ (19.1cm) high x 4.5″ (11.4cm) wide

Medium

Stone

Origin

Near Eastern

Gallery Location

UK


 

Limestone figurine of cruciform type with outstretched arms, head held slightly upwards, wearing a necklace, with a pendant in the form of a miniaturist cruciform figurine of the same type and very similar to the figurine itself. The back of the figurine is completely flat and has been left unfinished and rough. The oval head is rather smaller in proportion to the rest of the body, with a triangular nose between the orbits and an extremely small round mouth. Although some of the anatomical details of this example are rather unusual, it nonetheless falls within the typical iconography of Middle Chalcolithic human depictions. In the Chalcolithic period (3900- 2500 BC) a considerable number of highly stylized human figurines were produced in the island of Cyprus. They were made of soft stone, most commonly of picrolite, a green-greyish fibrous variety of serpentine, and usually had a cruciform appearance. Such cruciform figurines have most probably developed from figurines of the preceding Neolithic period but they now appear more slender than their predecessors. They have a high neck, disproportionately large flattish head slightly tilted back, extended arms, and legs bent at the knees or in a squatting posture. Some of them bear suspension- holes in the upper part of the head and were apparently worn as pendants. In some cases two figures are represented, one perched on top of the other, or in cross-like arrangement, forerunners perhaps of the double deities encountered in many prehistoric Mediterranean cults. Sex is rarely indicated though they sometimes have breasts rendered in relief. The size of the figurines ranges from 5 to 15 cm. In considering all the figurative evidence available from the Chalcolithic Period, attention should be drawn to the fact that although all anthropomorphic figurines are manufactured in a variety of materials and shapes, all of them seem to be related to fertility, child- birth and birthing rituals. In addition the fact the such figurines have been unearthed in both domestic and funerary contexts, simply but clearly demonstrates the decree to which such figurines permeated social life during this period, sharing an impact on the religious beliefs and cultural practices of its members. It is possible that such figurines may have been used as pendants, clearly demonstrated by this example, or as talismanic aids, as to help women overpower the difficulties of pregnancy and the painful agony of childbirth. The symbolic messages transmitted by these figurines emphasises further the role of women in fertility, pregnancy and birth, with women regards as fundamental contributors to social reproduction and survival, in consequence additionally attributing to such figurines a wider symbolic value, related to the fundamental survival and continuation of the community. It may not be entirely a coincidence that the district of Paphos, where many such figurines have been discovered, became in historical times the focus of worship of another fertility goddess, Aphrodite, although the gap in time is admittedly too large to suggest a religious continuity. – (CB.2941)

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