image/svg+xml7 VI/1/2015 INTERDISCIPLINARIA ARCHAEOLOGICA NATURAL SCIENCES IN ARCHAEOLOGY homepage: http://www.iansa.eu De-constructing Terracotta Female Figurines: a Chalcolithic Case-study Andrea Pizzeghello a , Massimo Vidale a* , Giuseppe Salemi a , Vincenzo Tinè b , Sergio Di Pilato c a Department of Cultural Heritage: Archaeology, History of Art, Music and Cinema, University of Padua, Italy b Archaeological Superintendency of the Veneto Region, Italy c Pantamedica, Fidene, Italy 1. Introduction The aim of this paper is to confrm that non-destructive, advanced CT scanning techniques can be applied to prehistoric terracotta fgurines, revealing important details of their inner structure resulting from clay manipulation and forming. Furthermore, we show that such an approach, supported by a more traditional micro-stratigraphical interpretation and by archaeological know-how, may grant a complete three-dimensional rendering of their growing structure. From this we can retrace, step by step (or lump by lump), the sequence of fne, perhaps almost unconscious decisions and corrections (Van der Leew 1993) put in play while generating the terracotta images.Why are terracotta female statuettes and their building processes important? Figural art was a crucial component of prehistoric social structures, and the female life cycle was at the core of the survival and reproduction of the household. One can hardly doubt of the artifacts’ prominent symbolic values for representing female bodies; and their fashioning sequences may show – by dynamic, three-dimensional maps – some important cognitive implications. Admittedly, to identify the agency of the artists, and to decide on such a line of evidence whether the fgurines referred to supernatural, or rather to gender, sexuality and reproduction issues will probably remain beyond our power of defnition. However, the old and current studies reviewed in the following section support the idea that by re-enacting the potter’s creative process and by evaluating at the same time the general archaeological context, we can better understand the active roles played by female fgurines in past social systems. 2. A short review of previous research For a long time, clay and terracotta Neolithic/Chalcolithic female statuettes have been generally and generically interpreted as images of goddesses, worshippers or supplicant women (Mellaart 1967; 1975). Since the famous discoveries Volume VI ● Issue 1/2015 ● Pages 7–17 *Corresponding author. E-mail: mass.vidale@gmail.com ARTICLE INFO Article history: Recieved: 8 th August 2014Accepted: 29 th July 2015 Keywords: prehistoric female fgurinesHacilar I CT scanning Chalcolithic modelling techniques ABSTRACT We report the results of detailed imaging studies of the inner structure of a terracotta female fgurine dated to the 6 th millennium BC, most probably from the Lakes region of Turkey, now kept at the Nati- onal Museum of Oriental Art “Giuseppe Tucci”, Rome. The fgurine was investigated with advanced CT scanning, recording 966 transversal sections. Each section was stratigraphically interpreted and digitized, reconstructing in three dimensions the form and mode of application of each lump or slab under the potter’s fngers. A review of the available information on the techniques of construction of prehistoric terracotta fgurines in Eurasia reveals at least two diverging technical templates, here named core and dual forming processes. The structure of the investigated fgurine and its operational sequence reveals a version of the dual technical template, confrming the presence and infuence, at a cognitive level, of organic analogies and a possible map of the female body in the modelling process.
image/svg+xmlIANSA 2015 ● VI/1 ● 7–17Andrea Pizzeghello, Massimo Vidale, Giuseppe Salemi, Vincenzo Tinè, Sergio Di Pilato: De-constructing Terracotta Female Figurines: a Chalcolithic Case-study 8 at Hacilar (Mellaart 1970, 170), they have also been linked to the popular concept of an archaic Mother Goddess and to conjectural fertility cults by pristine matriarchal societies (Gimbutas 1991, contra Ucko 1968; 1996; Meskell 1995; 1998; Tringham, Conkey 1998; Clark 2007b). In contrast with generalistic and ideological interpretations, inspired by the paradigm of a presumed (and never ascertained) similarity of these fgurines across no less than three or four millennia, new critical approaches have focused on their active roles in the dialectic construction of personhood and social and gender identities through stereotypical body characterizations of the human body. For example, in Chalcolithic Cyprus a well-preserved ritual hoard suggested that fgurines “...were clutched in the hand, probably during childbirth, while the ceramic fgurines served a didactic purpose, perhaps as part of puberty rites” (Bolger 1996, 368). The idea is interesting, but impossible to verify. Voigt (2007, 165) states that Hacilar female images might refect the life cycle of women and their changing social roles through time, from young girls to mature individuals. A similar template was recognized in the Neolithic statuettes’ corpus of Crete and the Aegean (Mina 2008, 123; see also fnal comments in Nanoglou 2010, 222), while at Chatalhöyük, where “...many of the human fgurines are suggestive of aging bodies rather than young and reproductive types” (Nakamura, Meskell 2009, 219), bodily excess and obesity might hint to resource abundance, and metaphorically to mature age, accumulated experience and knowledge, personal success and social respect. In short, female fgurines are now reconsidered for studying “women” and their active roles in prehistoric societies (Knapp, Meskell 1997; Lesure 2010), rather than “the woman,” as a more qualifed focus of research. Besides reference to the life cycle of females, some prehistoric fgurines were interpreted at the same time as feminine as well as phallomorphs (Lamberg-Karlovsky, Meadow 1970; Bar-Yosef 1980; Özdogan 2003; Clark 2007a, 19; Nakamura, Meskell 2009, 212, 222–223). These speculations emphasize one of the many aspects of gender ambiguity that can be empirically perceived in this intriguing class of artefacts (Kuijt, Chesson 2005; see also Nanoglou 2010).Among others, Lesure (2002, 587) has called for a “...greater level of sophistication to fgurine analysis by emphasizing diversity among the images and attempting to elucidate the meanings and uses of fgurines in particular times and places.” Meaning, however, will remain elusive, as it “...continually arises from acts of engagement and articulation. This relationality is precisely what constitutes the fgurine as a process rather than simply a thing...The fgurine does not only sustain, but demands multiple viewpoints...it anchors a dynamic network of encounters with and between individuals and coproduces various and often concomitant perceptions, experiences, and knowledges” (Nakamura, Meskell 2009, 210; see also for discussion Clark 2007a, 15).If Nakamura’s and Meskell’s fgurines demand multiple viewpoints, we need to investigate outside as well as inside fgurines. Spatial and relational contexts outside the fgurines have appeared crucial since Ucko (1968). Many authors, in fact, have stressed the need of moving, beyond iconography and the traditional ways of evaluating symbols, to a holistic hypothesis of fgurines in their dynamic, relational framework with the rest of the involved archaeological record. This approach focuses on terracotta female fgurines as “social ceramics” (Starnini 2014). While in this light the semeiotics of archaeological meaning becomes a crucial issue, particularly when dealing with old excavations (Louhivouri 2010), a growing concern for contextual evaluation has introduced new spheres of information. These include not only the material terms of site formation processes (e.g. Abay 2003; Perlés 2004, 255–272; Clark 2009, 253–254), but also correlations with pervasive cultural templates (Langin-Hooper 2014). Among these studies, particularly inspiring are those exploring the links of female fgurines with Neolithic mortuary practices (Kujit, Chesson 2005, 175–176; Nakamura, Meskell 2009). In this paper, we rather propose an in-depth, within the fgurine investigation, following Nakamura and Meskell’s paradigm of fgurines as processes. The artefact itself is viewed in a composite and stratifed archaeological context, whose interpretation proceeds (at least in part) independently from the rest of the site. 3. Female fgurines as processes: use and construction Investigating within the fgurine means to observe, in greater detail and from new points of view, its materiality. In some rare cases, material modifcations of the ceramic bodies provide a direct key to the fgurines’ active roles and to social interaction in ancient societies. In northern Baluchistan, for example, female fgurines dating from the 7 th millennium BC, associated with snakes (painted or modelled), may have had magic functions, as some, while in a plastic state, were pierced with multiple holes (Jarrige 2007–2008). At Malta, a Neolithic clay fgure of a pregnant woman contained multiple insertions of shell and bone fakes in particular anatomical parts, and another statuette of a female in the same conditions was found with possible images of fetuses in various stages of development. Both images are interpreted as items of sorcery (Rich 2008). Evident wear patterns on the surface seems to indicate intensive handling (Nishiaki 2007, 121; Bolger 1996, 368). Other forms of manipulation are embedded in the structure of composite fgurines. In Neolithic Chatalhöyük, headless fgurines with dowel holes for removable heads, including skeletal ones, and a higher number of heads made for attachment were linked to the peculiar post-burial treatment of human remains and to the ritual manipulation of skulls in Neolithic times (Meskell 2008). This shows how another important processual aspect of fgurines, like of many other ceramic artefacts, lies at the root of their “life” cycle. i.e. , manufacturing technology. There is little doubt that the cultural roles of anthropomorphic
image/svg+xmlIANSA 2015 ● VI/1 ● 7–17Andrea Pizzeghello, Massimo Vidale, Giuseppe Salemi, Vincenzo Tinè, Sergio Di Pilato: De-constructing Terracotta Female Figurines: a Chalcolithic Case-study 9 fgurines, like the rest of material culture, should be described in terms of behavioural chains, activities, material interactions, technical choices, performance and adaptation (Lemonnier 1993; Miller 1998; Skibo, Schiffer 2008). In fact “…stages of manufacture ( chaîne opératoire ) are another locus for symbolic discourse and negotiation of gender identities... Symbolic meaning generated by fgurines may also have been expressed through prohibition on the involvement of certain gender and age categories in their production, the pyrotechnical aspects of manufacture and symbolic associations with fre, ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ activities and things, and through the parallel treatment of the clay and physical body as in the application of decoration.” (Mina 2008, 116–117; see also Dobres 2009, 2000; Dobres, Robb 2000). Nonetheless, such important research perspectives originally belong to the sphere of systemic contexts and only indirectly to the heuristic and harder realm of paleotechnological indicators.So far, in fact, with few exceptions, the manufacturing technology of Neolithic and Chalcolithic clay female fgurines has received marginal attention. For example, in Neolithic Greece their manufacturing was described as follows: “...the different parts of the body were made separately, often around a clay or stone pellet, and pegged or stuck together without much care. Consequently, they frequently broke apart. If they were initially conceived as short-lived artefacts, the high frequency of ‘split-legs’, for instance, need not be invested with special social signifcance” (Perlés 2004, 263).While the described conditions might ft this and other particular cases, a preliminary review of the published information hints at a more complex attention to detail. Here, we discuss two different technical approaches so far recognized in the literature on the prehistoric clay female fgurines of Eurasia. These two approaches are respectively labeled core and dual forming techniques. 4. Constructing fgurines: core forming We recognize two diverging technical and cognitive approaches in the construction of clay and terracotta prehistoric fgurines, respectively named core forming and dual forming techniques. In core forming, the sequence started from an inner core on which other plastic elements (legs, arms, head) were gradually added. In this process the basic cognitive model is radial symmetry, the limbs being applied as radial appendages to the solid core. The Neolithic Greek fgurines mentioned by Perlés were evidently made in this way. Similarly, in a Neolithic female fgurine from Tell Seker al-Aheimar, Northeast Syria, about 7000 cal. BC, “...The broken surface shows that the body was constructed with different lumps of clay, using a fask-shaped lump as the core. A few layers of mud plaster are also visible” (Nishiaki 2007, 121). This description hints at a concentric slab- construction process starting from a simply formed single core. In another Neolithic fragmentary clay fgurine found in Poland, the stretched legs are described as made of a single lump (Debiec, Dzbynski 2006). A variant of this core-concentric building technique was recently identifed in a 6 th millennium fragmentary female image of the early Neolithic Körös culture, Hungary (Kreiter et al. 2014). Some have argued that core forming techniques in Neolithic and early Chalcolithic Eurasia might have had important symbolic implications in terms of creation, as the innermost lump served as a corpus to which the feshy skeletal parts were gradually added (Hourmouziadis 1973, 40; Nanoglou 2008, 318; Clark 2009, 240). They may have even been shaped as a hidden spiral-like organ – perhaps a womb, recently interpreted as a symbol of a possible “...transubstantiation of divinities” (Pavel et al. 2013, 332).In some cases, the construction technique of the fgurines, in particular those starting from a core, was related to post-fruition dynamics and to a possible deliberate fragmentation. In some Vinča Culture sites in Serbia, such as Opovo and Selevac (Tringham, Conkey 1998), but recently also in Italy in the early Neolithic site of Favella (Tiné 2009), broken statuettes were found in pit-structures fll along with fred daub fragments, the only evidence of vanished dwelling structures. Both at Opovo and Favella each pit contained a fragment of a statuette, with a systematic redundancy ascribed to specifc ritual performances linked to house de-functionalization and burning (Tringham 2005). It has been argued that fragmentation was determined to accompany the fate of housing structures, with a deliberate process, well- documented in the Balkans and as early as in the Korös culture in Hungary, where statuettes were built in parts to be intentionally dismembered (Makkay 1998). In other settings this model was related to a specifc process of fragmentation and burial of worship objects (Chapman, Gaydarska 2007). Thus, by applying separate parts to the core, people would have forecasted an easier (and anatomically correct) fragmentation and subsequent intra-site dispersal. 5. Dual forming techniques For dual forming, in contrast, the torso and more generally the body is made by joining two elongated slabs or lumps along a central axis of symmetry, while the rest is applied in bi-lateral or concentric patterns. O. Muscarella (1971: Fig. 5) observed exactly this process on a fractured Hacilar female fgurine that turned out authentic when tested with thermo-luminescence. Its identifcation, however, has a longer and geographically widespread history. In 1959, Bass had described this technique in some Neolithic fragmentary fgurines found at Thespiai, Greece, based upon a careful scrutiny of the fracture surfaces. The best preserved specimen was “...formed of long, oval pellets of clay, pressed together and covered with the thick coating of clay which forms the surface. Two pellets, side by side, made up the chest, and four were used in the stomach. Legs, buttocks, arm and head were made of separate cores and attached before the fnal coating. The separate lumps of clay
image/svg+xmlIANSA 2015 ● VI/1 ● 7–17Andrea Pizzeghello, Massimo Vidale, Giuseppe Salemi, Vincenzo Tinè, Sergio Di Pilato: De-constructing Terracotta Female Figurines: a Chalcolithic Case-study 10 did not coalesce, accounting for the break down the middle of the torso, which leaves half the pellets and gives a clear cross section of the interior anatomy.” (Bass 1959, 344, Pl. 74, 1).The fractures of an early Neolithic terracotta fgurine from Austria (5650–5100 BC, 14 C cal.) similarly revealed that the upper torso was made of two vertically joined slabs, perhaps applied upon a larger cylindrical lower body (Sauter et al. 2002, Figures 1 and 2). A scout view of a CT scanning of a late Neolithic female fgurine from Shaar Hagolan (Israel) reveals a torso made precisely in the same way (Applbaum, Applbaum 2005, 240), as do the surface cracks on the late Neolithic clay fgurines of Ulucak Höyük (ca. 6000–5700 cal. BC) (Abay 2003, Figure 7, bottom left). The same construction technique was recently identifed beyond any possible doubt through the CAT scan of a female fgurine of the Chalcolithic Cucuteni culture of Romania (Pavel et al. 2013).The construction of the Bronze age female fgurines of the Indus civilization was judged to be “... very different from that of some ancient Near Eastern fgurines in which a head, arms, and legs were attached to a violin-shaped torso or ‘core’... the faces were pinched out from the two joined vertical rolls of clay rather than being attached and the legs are continuations of two rolls of clay rather than separate pieces applied to a ‘core’...” (Clark 2009, 246). The same author proposed that such a forming technique might symbolically represent creation by the integration of two opposite halves (see also Dales 1991). On the other hand, the same dual construction technique has been independently observed in radiography in an animal fgurine from the 3 rd millennium site of Shahr-i Sokhta at the Iranian portion of the Sistan basin (Bollati et al. 2009).Thus, in Eurasian protohistory dual techniques may be as old as core-forming ones, and there are no simple geographic boundaries describing their relative spread. Cultural and symbolic implications of the different cognitive approaches are an open line of inquiry. It is worth noting that dual building techniques might be linked to modes of fragmentation enhancing “non-potential breakages” (especially at the middle of the trunk) observed in some Balkan Neolithic contexts (Chapman 2000).