3000 BC to 2500 BC
6″ (15.2cm) high x 5″ (12.7cm) wide
This wonderful marble idol is designed with a degree of stylization characteristic of the design of idols created in virtually every early civilization of the Ancient Near East. As a result, the body has been treated as a uniform disc-shape form in which indications of the arms and legs have been purposefully suppressed. Two tall and elegant columnar-like necks, separated from that body by a neck-line, rise up to display two separately made, triangularly-shaped heads which are conjoined at their sides. The features of these heads are minimally defined by linear adjuncts in-filled with darker material in order to indicate the hair, forehead, and eyes. The five striations in the far corner of the head on the right may be indications of a beard in order to suggest that this idol is to be understood as a god. Accepting this suggestion enables one to identify the figure to the left as his goddess- consort.
Their shared, disc-shaped body is ornamented in linear style, again in-filled in places with darker material, with a dominating X-shaped crisscrossed bandoleer-like set of straps, each divided by a central rib, the resulting zones decorated with obliquely sloping lines. The upper straps of the bandoleer are joined by a slightly convex third band, decorated in two superimposed rows recalling a kind of checker- board pattern. There is an additional ornament at the neck of each figure which one is tempted to identify as a necklace, consisting of a horizontal, ladder-like pattern. The edges of the bandoleers and of this ladder-like pattern are further enhanced by a series of incised dotted circles.
This figure is of particular importance because of the appearance within the disc-shaped body of a smaller, but virtually, similarly designed idol composed obliquely across the surface so that its head rests over what would be the shoulder of the god. One is justified in regarding this representation as that of a child, not only by virtue of its smaller scale, but also as comparison with other idols of this type reveals.
This remarkable idol was created in Western Anatolia, in an area which roughly corresponds to the present-day border between the modern nation states of Turkey and Iraq, and was probably found at the site of Kültepe, modern Kanish, where there is a mound, or tell, which was inhabited by the autochthonous peoples of the Anatolian plateau as early as the fourth millennium BC. By the time of the Chalcolithic, or Bronze Age, these inhabitants developed a remarkable civilization characterized by spacious buildings and practiced a religions dominated by such disc-shaped idols. These idols appear to be the direct descendants of earlier idols with two heads emerging from a single body. Such a composition has a long tradition in the Anatolian plateau, as demonstrated by an example in white marble, now in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara which is from the famous site of Çatal-höyük and is dated to the Neolithic Period between the seventh and sixth millennium BC.
Double-headed, disc-shaped idols from Kültepe are in the collections of the Musée du Louvre in Paris and in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara, but these are less well preserved than the example under discussion. There is at least one other such idol, identified as a goddess by virtue of the depiction of her pubic mound, who has only one head but is represented with a double-headed miniature idol in the center of her disc-shaped body. A second example, also in Ankara, shows a double-headed, disc-shaped idol, with a miniature idol on the body. Here, however, the faint indication of the pubic triangle is not accompanied by indications of hair, the forehead, and beard on the face, thereby reinforcing the interpretation of the idol under discussion as that of a divine triad of a god, consort-goddess, and their divine off-spring.
Although writing was not used by the ancients of the period in which this unusual idol under discussion was created, one can suggest, on the basis of cultural analogies, that it represents a divine triad. Perhaps their identities are to be compared to those of the later Western Semitic deities of Baal and Anat or perhaps one can regard them as the precursors of the Hittite deities Teshub, the storm god, Hepat, his consort the sun-goddess identified with Arinna, her son, Telepinu, god of vegetation.
Whatever their identifications, this marble idol created at Kültepe in Bronze Age Anatolia is one of the finest of its type and is significant for its uncommon depiction of a divine triad.
Dr Robert Steven Bianchi
Ekrem Akurgal, Ancient Civilizations and Ruins of Turkey (Istanbul 1985), pages 318-322, for a discussion of the site of Kültepe and its importance in the history of the Ancient Near East, and particularly page 321 with figure 159 for a discussion of this site and the idols associated with it.
Pierre Amiet, Art of the Ancient Near East [translated by John Shepley and Claude Choquet) (New York, 1980), page 389, figure 455, for the example in the Musée du Louvre in Paris, which has losses to the disc-shaped body and to the triangular heads and is generally discolored by darkening and not as pristine white as the example under discussion. This page also contains illustrations of other works of art associated with Kültepe.
Joan Aruz [editor], Art of the First Civilizations (New York 2003), page 275, catalogue number 180, for a recent assessment of the type.
Ferit Edgü [editor], The Council of Europe XVIIIth European Art Exhibition: The Anatolian Civilisations. Istanbul May 22-October 30, 1983, Volume I: Prehistoric/Hittite.Early Iron Age (Istanbul 1983), pages 120-121, for four similar idols, two in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara and two in the local museum at Kayseri in the vicinity of Kültepe, none of which is as fine as the example under discussion.
Raci Temizer, Museum of Anatolian Civilizations (Ankara 1975), page 19, figure 20, for the double-headed marble idol from Çatal-höyük; and page 55, figure 77, for a less-fine double- headed, disc-shaped idol of this type in which the necks are broken off from the body and in which the body is abraded with some losses.Login to view price