(ORDO NEWS) — Ancient figurines are 2 to 5 centimeters in size and have an elongated shape.
Archaeologists have unearthed a series of strange Neolithic figurines dated to around 10,000 years ago while excavating several burial structures. The results of a study detailing the find were published in the journal Antiquity.
According to experts, humanoid figurines became common in the early Neolithic, between 10,000 and 9,000 years ago, although their meaning and function are not fully understood.
Previously, the most common was mainly animal painting, with rare exceptions, such as the Paleolithic figurines of Venus, representing a female figure.
A team led by scientists from the CSIC Institute of Mila and Fountains for Research in the Humanities (IMF) discovered humanoid flint figurines thought to have been used for Neolithic burial rituals.
The newly found figurines are a variety of figurines that have never been seen by experts before. Therefore, their existence can shed light on the origin of funeral rituals, communal consciousness and ceremonies of commemoration of the dead.
The figurines, which number several dozen, are between 9,000 and 10,000 years old and were found at the Kharaysin site in Jordan. The find has two innovations.
One of them is the material from which the figurines were made: flint flakes and plates, which is usually associated with the manufacture of everyday tools. All ancient figurines previously discovered by specialists were made of clay or, less often, of bone.
The second novelty is the funerary symbolic function that they apparently had. And the fact is that most of them were found in a burial, in a Neolithic cemetery with traces of rituals.
The site where most of them were found contains the seven original tombs. Juan José Ibáñez, a CSIC scientist, explains that “there are indications that some of the tombs were opened some time after burial, and the bones were removed, processed and reburied.”
So, in one case, a skull was removed from the grave. Another body was removed from another location and buried again at that location.
This type of ritual was not uncommon in the Neolithic. The Kharaysin figurines were placed around the human remains. All this suggests that they had a “funeral significance and that they were used in commemoration rituals,” according to the researcher.
This, according to scientists, is the most plausible explanation. Figures ranging in size from 2 to 5 centimeters have an elongated shape.
All of them have two notches on each side, top and bottom, which correspond to the shape of the neck and waist.
“When we analyzed the shape, it became clear that these notches were not used for the rope attachment system, as we found no active cutting areas at the opposite end of the flint object,” explains Ferrand Borrell, a CSIC scientist at the IMF.
“This and other details led them to exclude the use of these items as tools.” After scientists ruled out that these objects were tools, one idea arose: what if these strange objects were actually designed to depict human silhouettes. At first, this idea was perceived “skeptically”.
But the emergence of clues, such as different sizes and morphologies and, above all, the similarity of their form with Neolithic human sculptures found at the nearby site of Ain Ghazal, confirmed that they represent human figures.
“The variety of shapes is intriguing. The set has two types of contours, one more uneven and one thinner. Some figures are larger than others, some are symmetrical, others asymmetrical, and some even look attractive.” Did the creators of the figurines think about specific people? scientists ask. ”
In any case, everything indicates that “the first farmers used these figurines to express beliefs and feelings, as well as to show their affection for the deceased,” the authors of the study say.
“Our research shows that early farmers performed rituals of remembrance around cemeteries, where not only graves were opened, human bones were manipulated, but flint figurines depicting the dead were made and placed.”
This behavior suggests that the beliefs associated with the relationship with the deceased were widely shared by all members of the community who participated in commemoration rituals.
The depiction of the human form in objects of the prehistoric period and especially in the Neolithic is a mysterious element for archeology.
In the Paleolithic, between 35,000 and 15,000 years ago, figurines of Venus appeared depicting the female body.
But the statuettes of Venus are an exception in an iconography dominated by animal figures, as seen, for example, in the cave of Altamira.
The reason for the paucity of human images remains a mystery. Only in the Neolithic, a revolutionary period with the advent of agriculture and cattle breeding, did the image of the human body become familiar. The reason for these artistic and cultural changes is unclear.
For this reason, such studies are of great interest to the scientific community. The study involved scientists from the Pontifical Faculty of San Esteban de Salamanca under the leadership of CSIC, the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, specialists from the University of Cantabria, the Autonomous University of Barcelona and the University of Burgos, as well as the Paul Valery University (France) and Durham University (UK).
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