Pillar figure

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Near Eastern, Syrian
4th millennium BCE
Basalt
19.5 x 27.5 cm
Yale University Art Gallery: Gift of Ambassador and Mrs. William L. Eagleton, Jr., B.A. 1948; 1986.100.2

Pillar statues, such as this one, were found primarily in the Golan area, which is part of modern day Syria. They are made of basalt, which is a material common to this area and require a large amount of skilled labor to produce. These statues most likely depict tutelary household gods. They were found mainly in the parts of courtyards where the harvests were stored, indicating that these statues might have been protectors of crops. Some of the statues found resemble animals suggesting that they were responsible for protection of animal husbandry.

The majority of the statues, like this one, are abstracted human faces with dominant noses. Some have suggested that these figures resemble birds. Occasionally the nose is the only facial feature. Prominent noses have been found on a wide variety of cultic objects from this area.  Often these noses appear like a beak, but the rest of the face and body imply a human. Emphasis on the nose likely indicates its special importance in Bronze Age Palestine. Some scholars think the nose was viewed as “the seat of the breath of life.”* The nose and crops seem to be connected in these statues because are both essential to life. The top of the statue has a shallow bowl where offertory libations could be placed. The top of the statue is rougher and somewhat eroded, possibly from the libations. The circular shape of the altar may also have some cultic significance, perhaps connected to fertility.

This text was prepared by intern Frances Middleton, Class of 2011.

Not on view

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