Female figurine

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Near Eastern, Palestinian
About 3100–2000 BCE
Clay
13.5 cm
Yale University Art Gallery: The Whiting Palestinian Collection; 1912.440

This female figure comes from the Chalcolithic period in Palestine, otherwise known as the early/middle Bronze Age. This period marked the transition from prehistoric times to early civilization. Artworks from this period typically have heavily abstracted features. Her large head and elongated nose were likely meant to evoke the idea of “life breath.” The patterns of dots likely represent tattoos, which were common among post-pubescent women. Tattoos served a variety of purposes from magic and healing to ornamentation and tribal identity in Bronze Age Palestine.

This figure most likely depicts an average woman, not a fertility goddess because there is little emphasis placed on her breasts and pubic triangle, compared to other representations of fertility goddesses from this time. She might represent a post-partum woman, whose role in society was not primarily to bear children, but to pass down cultural norms and knowledge.  Also, there is no evidence that the Chalcolithic people of Palestine depicted any of their gods or goddess with tattooing.

This label was prepared by intern Frances Middleton, Class of 2012.

Not on view

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Female figurine

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