TYPOLOGY \ OBJECTS \ Figurines \ 557c-intro
1: M. Kelly-Buccellati, September 2002

A Digital Monograph

Human Figurines


     The number of human and bird figurines found in the excavations is not as great as the number and variety of animal figurines. In the corpus of human figurines the number of females is greater than the number of male figures. While this is a standard pattern in many sites, the discovery of a large clay female statuette (A12.30) in a pit located near the Underground Structure (āpi) that has many characteristics in common with smaller female figurines helps to give a more complex context to not only the architectural area of the A12 structure but also may give some evidence toward a specific function for some at least of these female figures. While it is not necessarily the case that the A12.30 statuette was used in the āpi, its find spot in a pit near the āpi cannot have been coincidental. The āpi had been there for generations and in continuous use at the time of the burial of the statuette. I have been of the opinion for some time that the context of the statuette was a favissa. It is now clear that the closest religious structure is the āpi; while their contiguity is not a conclusive factor in the interpretation of each, the suggestion is surely to be kept in mind.

     The human figurines which make up the present typology are all incomplete with, for the most part, torsos preserved. The figurines are broken at the weakest parts: neck, waist, knees. The arms are broken off at the shoulders. Other applied elements such as breasts and necklaces (and counter weight where present) are often missing. In a few cases the arms are missing but some indication of the hands can be found on the front of the torso. However it is rare that hands or even finger patterns are present; one of the exceptions is Z1.230 which has short incised lines at the waist probably indicating fingers.

     Necklaces are frequently applied to female figurines as a rectangular strip with short vertical or diagonal incised lines. One figurine has applied on the necklace small circular pellets which indicate beads Z1.398. Some necklaces completely surround the neck. However in many cases a different manner of hanging is present; that is a counter weight is used to counter balance the weight of the necklace and distribute its weight onto the shoulders instead of the back of the neck. In these cases the necklace itself ends on top of the shoulder, then, from each side of the necklace a thick applied band extends down the back of the figure to about the level of the shoulder blades. At that point the two bands join and continue as one down the back. The best example of this type of counter weight is Z1.231 dated to the Khabur period. In one case (A6q593.1 from feature 195) the counter weight is indicated not by an applied band but by an incised line; it too comes from the shoulders in two lines and joins just below the shoulder blades.

     All the figurines are made by hand with often remaining traces of finger impressions (noted individually in the catalog entries). The plaques are mold made with flat backs which often are scraped or flattened by hand after coming out of the mold. The realistically modeled nude female figurines have an interesting production technique exhibited by A12q19.1. In this piece one leg and one half of the buttock were modeled together but separately from the other leg and buttock. They were only joined at the front edge of the pubic triangle and at the top of the hip. This production technique allowed the buttocks and leg to be subtly modeled, resulting in a very harmonious and accurate rendition of this part of the body.