Mil­len­nia-old enigma goes on dis­play at Na­tional Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Mu­seum

Kathimerini English - - Focus -

A bird-like stat­uette dat­ing back 7,000 years has mys­ti­fied ar­chae­ol­o­gists in Greece who still do not know ex­actly what it is, or where it came from.

The “7,000-year-old enigma,” as it has been dubbed by the Na­tional Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Mu­seum in Athens, has been put on dis­play un­til March 26 after be­ing brought from the mu­seum’s store­rooms.

It is the lat­est item to be pre­sented un­der the ti­tle “The Un­seen Mu­seum” – a ref­er­ence to the roughly 200,000 an­tiq­ui­ties from stat­ues to gold jew­elry and ev­ery­day ob­jects in store and not on daily dis­play.

Carved out of gran­ite, the 36-cen­time­ter “enigma” stat­uette of the late Ne- olithic era has a pointed nose and long neck lead­ing to a markedly round belly, flat back and cylin­dri­cal stumpy legs.

“It could de­pict a hu­man-like fig­ure with a bird-like face, or a bird-like en­tity which has noth­ing to do with man but with the ideology and sym­bol­ism of the Ne­olithic so­ci­ety,” Katya Man­teli, an ar­chae­ol­o­gist with the mu­seum, told Reuters.

Ex­perts also can­not be sure of its prove­nance, as it be­longs to a per­sonal col­lec­tion. They as­sume only that it is from one of the north­ern Greek re­gions of Thes­saly or Mace­do­nia.

Un­like most Ne­olithic fig­urines made of soft stone, it is carved out of hard rock even though metal tools were not avail­able at the time.

And while it is too short for a life-size de­pic­tion of the hu­man fig­ure, it is big­ger than most Ne­olithic stat­ues, which are rarely found over 35 cm tall.

“Re­gard­ing tech­nique and size, it is among the rare and unique works of the Ne­olithic pe­riod in Greece,” Man­teli said.

More puz­zling still is the lack of clear in­di­ca­tion of sex. Is it due to tech­ni­cal sculpt­ing lim­i­ta­tions? Or did the sculp­tor in­tend to cre­ate an asex­ual fig­ure. Ar­chae­ol­o­gists be­lieve the fact that the stat­uette is pol­ished sug­gests the fig­ure is in its fi­nal form, although they main­tain that if the sculp­tor had the ap­pro­pri­ate tools it would have taken a more spe­cific form.

“Yes, it could be a preg­nant fig­ure but there are no breasts, used in Ne­olithic times to de­pict the fe­male body. On the other hand it lacks male or­gans so it is pre­sented as an asex­ual fig­ure,” Man­teli said. “There are enig­matic as­pects to it which make it charm­ing.”

Vis­i­tors look at a 7,000-year-old Ne­olithic stat­uette on tem­po­rary dis­play.

The ar­ti­fact has been brought out of the mu­seum’s store­rooms.

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