When excavating in Jordan, an international team from the Kharaysin archaeological team research project discovered dozens of strange Neolithic figures who were in burials about 10 thousand years old.
An article about this discovery is published in Antiquity magazine. Figurines are found which date from the middle of the ninth millennium BC. This era is known as the Early Neolithic. At that time, iconography was just beginning to spread in the Middle East. New research will help to understand how it developed.
The burials mentioned above are located on the archaeological site of Haraisin in the Zarka River Valley. A group of archaeologists from Spain, France and the UK worked there. It was led by Dr. Juan José Ibáñez.
“We were digging burial grounds, a cemetery,” Ibáñez said. “We know very well the tools that were made in that period.”
Discovered artifacts look like flint tools of ancient people. However, most of these items were found in burials, which is not typical of flint tools. Scientists have suggested that artifacts were sacred. That is, they were deliberately laid in the graves along with the deceased during funeral rituals.
The artifacts were carefully analyzed. As a result, the researchers saw them as “human forms.” The upper pair of recesses is a narrowing to indicate the neck, and the lower one to indicate the waist. A similar “violin-shaped contour” was previously observed in two figures of the same period, found in Haraisin and made of fired clay. This indicates that artifacts are Neolithic figurines. Who exactly did they represent?
“When one of the team members first suggested that artifacts are figurines depicting people, we were skeptical,” says Ibáñez. However, the team has since been convinced that these are images of people, although rude. “They made two notches on one side, one probably representing the neck and the other representing the thigh.”
There is a version that these were primitive images of deities. In subsequent periods of time, the practice of making anthropomorphic figures of deities became widespread. For example, in Europe during the excavations, “Venus” figures were found more than once, whose age was estimated at thousands of years.
Perhaps the statuettes found in Jordan were the result of the first attempts to create divine sculptures. By the way, all the Neolithic figurines found by this mission have various shapes and sizes.
In their article, the authors write that artifacts could be cult objects, including “vehicles of magic,” which were used in rituals. But they pay attention to the fact that some of the finds were made not in the graves, but in ordinary pits.
It is possible that these figurines were for some reason thrown away. For example, they could be thrown out after the rite is completed. Or they were simply rejected. There is one more explanation – the figures could be used as children’s toys or as visual exhibits when teaching rituals.
The discovery also proves that “psychological and social shifts” occurred in people upon transition to a sedentary lifestyle and farming. In particular, they probably had ideas about the afterlife.