Aïn Ghazal’s sculptures – Neolithic (8th millenium BC)


© R.M.N.

The neolithic (8300 – 6900 BC) is the fruit of a slow evolution. Man began modify nature according to his needs. Man domesticated plants and animals, and man also made progress in its technical knowledge. They learned how to create high temperatures to shape plaster, lime, and clay among other things. This period is also the beginning or art history.

This artifact is the first large sculpture in art history. This is one of the 32 Aïn Ghazal’s sculptures made in the 8th millennium BC (circa 7580). This example is currently in the Louvre museum, lent by the Jordanians. It is 105 cm high, 33 cm wide and 13 cm thick at the buttocks. These sculptures are made of plaster, reed and asphalt.

These sculptures are anthropomorphic, and archeologists have found 15 busts, 15 complete human forms, and 2 heads. All of the busts are between 32 and 45 cm high, and they have no arms, smooth chests, and large bases. Three of the busts are bicephalous. The complete sculptures, with thin arms, are between 85 cm and 1 m high. The profiles are flat and the eyebrows are set back. The eyes are almond shaped and are made with milk of lime which make them lighter. The irises are made of asphalt. There are small mouths and a pinched noses with nostrils. There are no sexual characteristics except on one sculpture. Some parts can be painted, like the eyes, which are underlined, but there are no painting marks on the Louvre sculpture. The manufacture of these sculptures is pretty impressive for that period. Reeds were linked together with ropes and then covered in plaster. This is a technological breakthrough because it requires high temperatures and a medium is waterproof thanks to a clever mix (plaster, lime and marl). The craftsmen made the heads, legs, the fronts of the bust, and the backs of the bust in different parts. Then they assembled all of the parts together and made them dry. Those sculptures were carefully laid down in pits, the face towards the ground. They were probably exposed during ceremonies and might have been wearing masks for those occasion.


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