Eye Idol

SKU PH.0180

2700 BC to 2300 BC


4.33″ high (11 cm)





Gallery Location

S Korea


In 1937, archaeological excavations in Northern Syria at the site of Tell Brak uncovered evidence of the “Eye Temple,” named after the hundreds of small eye idols found fixed into the mortar of the temple itself. Located off a tributary of the Euphrates River, Tell Brak was one of the first large cities in Mesopotamia that would later serve as an administration center for the Akkadian Empire. However, even during the Chalcolithic era, the region of Northern Syria was an extremely important center for trade, linking the civilizations of Babylon with the mountainous areas of modern-day Turkey. Little is known about eye idols and their name derives solely from their appearance. Shaped like a weight surmounted by two eyes, much scholarly conjecture has been proposed about their meanings. These so- called “Eye Idols” are seen by some scholars most likely as votive figurines of worshipers, a type of votive object which developed over time throughout Mesopotamia into a large number of figurative idols, all of them notable for their accentuated eyes. It is noted that the state of open eyes on a religious idol symbolized devotion to the gods. Thus these stone eye idols might have been some of the earliest devotional objects from the Near East. Other scholars believe that their function might have been more practical. It is believed that some of the larger idols with drilled holes in them may have served as tools used in making threads out of wool, by twisting threads of wool or linen into chord. Passing the thread into each hole, and in twisting two (or three) of them together, one could make a nicer and stronger type of thread, eventually in twisting two or three different colours of wool threads one would also produce more colourful textiles. According to the opinion of some archaeologists, it is also possible that the round features assumed to be eyes on a human face may actually be breasts, with the part which is considered as the face could in fact represent a human torso.

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