Idole féminine
Idole féminine

Female idol

It is frequent that on the fringe of the Oxus civilization, realistic human representation – linked to the appearance of cities and the almost “classical” canons – and much more schematic effigies – that subsist from the prehistoric tradition – coexist in the 3rd millennium B.C. These stylized images with simple and geometric shapes are very frequent in ceramic in Turkmenistan (at Altyn-Depe, Gonur, Adji Kui for example), but they also exist in stone on sites in north-east Iran like Tepe-Hissar or Astrabad. In the Astrabad treasure, now vanished but known through a board, were two flat figurines, one in pink marble and the other in white-yellow alabaster. With a similar but smaller shape, an earthenware or glazed steatite pendant [1]was discovered in Susa, where it had been imported from previously quoted regions. A few Tepe-Hissar or Tureng-Tepe ceramic vases belong to the same group.
These schematic idols come down, in most cases, to two reversed triangles that are joined at the waist, to evoke most of a female body. The upper limbs are therefore severely atrophied and the lower limbs are inexistent. The head is often missing, either because it was voluntarily omitted, which seems to be the case for one of the two Astrabad idols, or because it was lost (the hole preserved for its insertion in the torso is visible), which seems to be the case here. When a head was foreseen or preserved, it comes down to a cylinder in Susa, a triangle in Tepe-Hissar, with however indications for the eyes. It seems that these statuettes’ function was to evoke femininity and its reproductive power, but in a very economical way in the stone version, since only the breasts are indicated, whereas, on the terra cotta statuettes in Turkmenistan, the allusion to femininity is reinforced by the indication of the pubic triangle [2].

Published in: Zimmermann 1991, fig. 13, p. 20.

[1Amiet 1996, n° 49, p. 95.

[2General Bibliography: Rostovtzeff 1919, p. 4-27 and pl. III; Schmidt 1937, pl. XLVII and XLVI.