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Archaeologists from the University of Southampton studying a Neolithic archaeological site in central Greece have helped unearth over 300 clay figurines, one of the highest density for such finds in south-eastern Europe.
The Southampton team, working in collaboration with the Greek Archaeological Service and the British School at Athens, is studying the site of Koutroulou Magoula near the Greek village of Neo Monastiri, around 160 miles from Athens. Koutroulou Magoula was occupied during the Middle Neolithic period (c. 5800 – 5300 BC) by a community of a few hundred people who made architecturally sophisticated houses from stone and mud-bricks. The figurines were found all over the site, with some located on wall foundations. It’s believed the purpose of figurines was not only as aesthetic art, but also to convey and reflect ideas about a community’s culture, society and identity.
“Figurines were thought to typically depict the female form, but our find is not only extraordinary in terms of quantity, but also quite diverse – male, female and non-gender specific ones have been found and several depict a hybrid human-bird figure,” says Professor Yannis Hamilakis, Co-Director of the Koutroulou Magoula Archaeology and Archaeological Ethnography project.
He continues, “We still have a lot of work to do studying the figurines, but they should be able to give us an enormous amount of information about how Neolithic people interpreted the human body, their own gender and social identity and experience.”
“The people would have been farmers who kept domestic animals, used flint or obsidian1 tools and had connections with settlements in the nearby area. The construction of parts of the settlement suggests they worked communally, for example, to construct the concentric ditches surrounding their homes.