One of the ways archaeologists and anthropologists learn about the motivations and psychologies of ancient cultures is through studying their artifacts. Artistic or ceremonial depictions of human beings reveal the sometimes hidden desires and perspectives of the individuals or societies which created them. While the study of Neolithic and Paleolithic sculpture has revealed much about ancient cultures, a new figure put on display at the National Archaeological Museum of Greece has archaeologists and historians scratching their heads in mystery at the strange statue.
The statue stands 36 centimeters (14 inches) tall and is carved out of a single piece of granite, an unusual choice of material given the tools and technology available at the time. Researchers estimate the statue to be close to 7000 years old.
Researchers are still at a loss to explain how such a granite figure could have been carved during this time period. Most tools which date to the same time period are much too soft to be able to cut granite with the level of precision seen in this odd statue.
According to Katya Manteli, an archaeologist with the National Archaeological Museum, the granite figure doesn’t quite fit with the usually gendered or sexualized figures from the Neolithic period:
It could depict a human-like figure with a bird-like face, or a bird-like entity which has nothing to do with man but with the ideology and symbolism of the Neolithic society. Yes, it could be a pregnant figure but there are no breasts, used in Neolithic times to depict the female body. On the other hand it lacks male organs so it is presented as an asexual figure. There are enigmatic aspects to it which make it charming.
While some theories about the statue’s origin seem to suggest that it might be unfinished, the high level of polish likely indicates that this is indeed a finished figure. It makes one wonder what the civilizations of the future will make of the human effigies they discover in the ruins of our undoubtedly doomed societies. If our action figures and dolls are any indication, they will likely think we were some sort of muscle-bound, warlike supermen and proportionately-distorted, hypersexualized, and materialistic uberwomen.