Odd statues are turning up everywhere lately. Archaeologists in Israel recently announced the discovery of a bizarre “thinker” statue found among various burial offerings, while a mysterious Pagan god statue was caught by a fisherman in Siberia in September. That same month, an unexplained statue commemorating the scene of a fictional 1963 giant octopus attack appeared in Staten Island. Now, an American cultural heritage protection agency has announced the results of their study of a collection of odd clay statues found during a construction project in Arizona. If analysis confirms the date of their origin, they could be the oldest statues of their kind. What sets these statues apart, however, is the fact that they display an unusual simultaneous mix of both male and female sexuality.
The statues measure between 7 and 10 centimeters long (3 to 4 inches) and are made from unfired clay. While many of the statues seem to depict the male phallus, some of the figurines also feature female physiology alongside male traits. Archaeologist Mark Chenault recently published his findings in the Journal of Southwestern Anthropology and History. According to Chenault’s article, the figurines display an usual mix of both female and male physiology:
Although the figurines have human traits, it has been suggested that they also depicted human male genitalia. [...] In those figurines, both male and female traits are displayed in a single object.
In a press release, Chenault states that the figures were most likely used in some sort of sexual rites of passage, possibly for both young males and females:
The appearance of the figurines, with the male/female sexual characteristics, suggested something other than ancestor veneration. I believe that they could have been used for both human fertility and agricultural fertility. However, I think that the sexual characteristics argue more strongly for their use in human puberty or fertility rites.
The sexual figurines were found stored together, indicating they were used for a specific ritualistic purpose. As usual, further study is needed before any definitive conclusions about their use can be drawn.
If their date is confirmed, these figures will date to the early agricultural period roughly 2,000-3,000 years ago, when some of the first settlers began establishing societies in North America.