• r2-229-10
    Small head of a woman (?), Private Collection. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)
  • r2-229-20
    Small head of a woman (?), Private Collection, back. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)
  • r2-229-30
    Small head of a woman (?), Private Collection, right profile. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)
  • r2-229-40
    Small head of a woman (?), Private Collection, left profile. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

Small Head of a Woman?

Date
5th or 4th Millennium BC, Neolithic
Museum
Private Collection
Museum Inventory No.
Sardis or Museum Inv. No.
Uninv. R2, Cat. 229
Material
Serpentine, Stone
Object Type
Sculpture
Sculpture Type
Human Figure
Site
Sardis
Findspot
Found before 1957, allegedly in a dry torrent bed at Sardis. By 1975: in Ruth Ellen Patton Totten Collection.
Description

The head is broken from a figurine; enough of the neck remains to show that the head was turned to the proper r. and upward. There is a triangular crease in the center of the forehead. The eyes are asymmetrical, the r. one oval, the I. longer and slightly arched. A raised rectangle stands for the l. ear; none is visible on the r. The abraded cheeks and chin are nearly rectangular. The short cushion-like hair is divided in front by a line of dots linked together and made with a needle-like tool. The outlines of the eyes, mouth, hair, and chin are made with a rather thin tool. The traces of tooling are compatible with the use of implements of hard stone but not with those of copper or abrasives. No traces of abrasion are visible. The surface polish could have been produced by rubbing the piece with leather or textile. Projecting features are worn down by handling which might indicate a ritual function for the piece, perhaps as a talisman. The condition of the head precludes modern origin (C. Frondel). The powerful neck combined with the hooked nose, slashed mouth, "blind" eyes, and short haircap above the tilted face add up to a masterpiece of brutish power.

As M.J. Mellink was the first to see, this is the head and facial type of Neolithic and earlier Chalcolithic sculptures. Parallels occur in Anatolia, Greece, Mesopotamia, and Cyprus. Although geographically close, the late Neolithic sculptures from Hacilar (Mellink-Filip, Fruhe Stufen, figs. 18-20) do not seem to be in quite the same style. At Hacilar and Can Hasan the cap-like hair is worn by women. Despite its "Renaissance condottiere" profile, this piece may represent a goddess and possibly be from a hitherto unknown early West Anatolian school of the 5th or 4th millennium B.C. As serpentine does not appear to be a local material, the piece may have been imported.

Condition

Black serpentine, with inclusions of antigorite, very soft stone (Mobs scale 2.5) according to C. Frondel, Harvard University.

Broken off unevenly across neck; break goes up to chin at proper l.

Dimensions
H. 0.04; W. at neck, front to back 0.02.
Comments
See Also
Bibliography
Published: Hanfmann, Sardis und Lydien, 511, fig. 4, “related to Hittite." For parallels see Mellink-Filip, Fruhe Stufen, figs. 30, 52, 81, Can Hasan, Samarra, Tell Brak, Khirokitia; Mellaart, Earliest Civilizations, fig. 77, Çatal Hüyük; Theocharis, Neolithic Greece, 18-22, 40, 46, 204, and esp. 223, Greece. A recent geological map shows serpentinites in the region of Akhisar and to the N, E. İzdar in Campbell, Geology and History, 506, map.
Author
NHR