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unearthed Bailey cocHrane zambelli

unearthed: a comparative study of JoÂŻmon doguÂŻ and Neolithic figurines

Douglass Bailey Andrew Cochrane Jean Zambelli


Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts University of East Anglia, Norwich Arts and Humanities Research Council San Francisco State University

The tradition of sculpture and painting encountered in Old Europe was transmitted from the Palaeolithic era. In art and mythical imagery it is not possible to draw a line between the two eras, Palaeolithic and Neolithic, just as it is not possible to draw a line between wild and domestic plants and animals. Much of the symbolism of the early agriculturists was taken over from the hunters

`e sudy of these more articulated sculptures, their ideograms and symbols and the highly developed vase painting enabled the author to disinguish the diferent ypes of goddesses and gods, their epuhanies, their devotes, and the cult scenes wih which they were associated. `us, i is possible to peak of a pantheon of gods and to reconsruc the various cosumes and masks, which throw much light on riual drama and life as i was then lived‌ `rough the decuhering of sereoype images and signs wih the help of quantiative and qualiative analyses i becomes clear that these early Europeans expressed their communal worshu through the medium of the idol (Gimbutas 1974: 12).

and fishers. Such images as the fish, snake, bird, or horns are not yet Neolithic creations; they have roots in Palaeolithic times. And yet, the art and myths of the first farmers differed in inspiration and hence in form and content from those of the hunters and fishers. Âś Clay and stone figurines were being fashioned long before pottery was first made around 6500 BC. The vast increase in sculptures in Neolithic

On the basis of more detailed and pecific analoges wih hisoric and ethnographic figurines, i has ben possible to sumes reasons for the manufacure of certain groups of figurines rom each complement. Some could well have ben children’s dolls, others iniiation figures, others vehicles for sympathetic magc, etc.… Wih the possible exception of some figurines rom complements such as Hacılar, no evidence has ben found to support the view that they represented a Fertiliy Goddess although some may well have ben associated wih a desire for children (Ucko 1968: 444).

times and the extent to which they departed from Palaeolithic types was not caused by technological innovations, but by the permanent settlement and growth of communities. A farming economy bound the villages to the soil, to the biological rhythms of the plants and animals upon which their existence wholly depended. Cyclical change, death and resurrection, were ascribed to the supernatural powers and in

Taniguchi Yasuhiro


n 1990, a special issue of the influential journal Kikan Ko¯kogaku [Archaeology Quarterly] was dedicated to studies of dogu¯. To this issue, Kokugakuin University archaeologist Taniguchi Yasuhiro contributed a stimulating analysis of breakage patterns of figures [dogu¯ no kowarekata]. Taniguchi demonstrated that exceedingly few Jo¯mon dogu¯ are found unbroken. For instance, one study of figurines from six sites which examined ments of dogu¯ pro677 dogu¯ or fragduced only three complete figures (or 0.4% of the total dogu¯ assemblage). Of the remainder the clear majority (71.7%) were fragments from dogu¯ from which none of the other parts were found; indeed only for 15.3% of the dogu¯ fragments could a matching part be found. Taniguchi was one of the first archaeologists in Japan to explore quantitative approaches to dogu¯. He reviewed the evidence for dogu¯ fragments that could be reconnected, but which had been excavated from

Douglass Bailey, BucurestiMNIRb (2005) Digital print, 16.4 cm x 15.5 cm.

different sites or from widely separated, different parts of the same site. For example, fragmented pieces from the same dogu¯ at Shakado¯ were found 230m apart. At a site in Nagano prefecture pieces from the same individual dogu¯ were found in five different dwellings. Taniguchi also found evidence that in a few rare cases (e.g., at Tateishi) naturally occurring asphalt had been used to repair dogu¯ during the Jo¯mon. Furthermore, Taniguchi demonstrated that while in the early Jo¯mon period (when dogu¯ are mostly small) there is very little evidence for intentional breakage, from the middle Jo¯mon period onwards more and more evidence for dogu¯ breakage exists. Taniguchi’s detailed studies raise vital questions for all Jo¯mon periods. Why over time do the more visually striking and larger dogu¯ seem to suffer more breakage? Was breakage intentional or merely a factor of the object’s size? Is there something about the ways in which smaller dogu¯ are used that results in people breaking them less often? Does size matter where breakage is concerned? What does it mean that several fragments of the same dogu¯ are found in different parts of one site? Is there an intentional pattern to their deposition? Taniguchi 1990



consequence special provision was made to protect the capricious life forces and assure their perpetuation. As early as the seventh millennium BC traits associated with the psychology and religion of the farmer are a characteristic feature of sculptural art. This art was not consciously imitative of natural forms but sought rather to express abstract conceptions. ¶ About 30,000 miniature sculptures of clay, marble,

A critical look at portraiture as a social process helps to refine our understanding of anthropomorphic representation. Thinking around portraits prompts us to see how images of individuals can be used to transform the ways in which spectators view and recognize identities and social positions. The achieves meaning through the context in which it is seen. Portraits exist within complex historical local iconographies and are created with reference to elaborate codes of pose and posture. These iconographies and codes are only readily understood within the communities in which the images have currency. Portraits produce significances in which contending groups claim presence. They codify the person in relation to other frames of reference and to other hierarchies of significance. In these senses, a portrait is both a sign that describes an individual and a mechanism that inscribes social identity. Thus, a portrait is only one form, though an extreme one, of one’s relationship to others.


Figures from Japanese Dolmens (1906) (illustration from) Annotated water colour and ink drawing, 38.5 cm x 29.4 cm.

Bourdieu 1999; Clarke 1992a, 1992b; Tagg 1988



bone, copper or gold are presently known from a total of some 3000 sites of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic era in southeastern Europe. Enormous quantities of ritual vessels, altars, sacrificial equipment, inscribed objects, clay models of temples, actual temples and pictorial paintings on vases or on the walls of the shrines, already attest a genuine civilization. Âś The three millennia saw a progressive increase in

Lauren Talalay Franchthi Cave Fragment

medial side




Clay leg FC 68, from Franchthi Cave (2;3)


auren Talalay has studied the Neolithic figurines from southern Greece with special attention to the material from the Franchthi Cave. Talalay makes the important distinction between figurine function and figurine meaning: a particular figurine can be used as a votive but its meaning can refer to a range of things, from the way a community perceived the human body to their social attitudes to gender. Importantly, figurines have a particular potential for manipulating ideologies within mechanisms of social control. Thus, some Middle Neolithic (5000–4500 BC) Peloponnesian figurines worked as identification- or conceptual-props within intercommunity agreements and alliances. More provocative is Talalay’s discussion of the intentional cropping of figurines dur-

ing their construction, and the consequent suggestion that figurine makers recognized two major divisions of the body: upper and lower; left and right. Regardless of the precise meanings of particular body divisions or zones, the significant contribution to the debate is the recognition that Neolithic men and women saw the body and its component parts as templates with which they structured and understood their worlds. Refreshingly, Talalay moves us away from the simple view that figurines are mere reflections of people; she makes us realize that they were specifically charged objects with which Neolithic individuals thought about their world and the position of the human body within it. Kuwashima Tsunaki, Dogu¯ with decorative incised body (middle Jo¯mon, 2500–1500 BC), Ishinotsubo, Yamanashi (2009) Platinum palladium print, 9.5 cm x 12 cm.

Talalay 1987, 1993



stylistic diversity, producing ever greater variety of individual forms. Simultaneously, a more naturalistic expression of anatomical generalities gradually emancipated itself from an initial subordination to the symbolic purpose. The study of these more articulated sculptures, their ideograms and symbols and more highly developed vase painting enabled the author to distinguish the different types of goddesses and

Erich Neumann, The Great Mother (1955) Paper, ink, glue and thread (1972 reprint), 24 cm x 16 cm.

Michael Ashkin, No. 43 (1996) Wood, masonite, dirt, cement, dust, N-Scale models, Enviro Tex, 99.1 cm x 91.4 cm x 49.5 cm.



gods, their epiphanies, their devotees, and the cult scenes with which they were associated. Thus, it is possible to speak of a pantheon of gods, and to reconstruct the various costumes and masks, which throw much light on ritual drama and life as it was then lived. Âś Through the deciphering of stereotype images and signs with the help of quantitative and qualitative analyses it becomes clear that these early Europeans

John Chapman & Bisserka Gaydarska


ohn Chapman and Bisserka Gaydarska use theories of production, structured deposition, fragmentation, personhood, consumption, accumulation, and enchainment (i.e., the relationships between people/ people and objects), as a means of asking fresh questions of figurines from the Neolithic of southeastern Europe. Chapman and Gaydarska argue that many figurines were deliberately broken, and that the fragments that resulted were deployed in exchange networks, by which relations between people and groups were maintained. Though this process, figurine fragments established new life biographies and eventually came to be deposited in new social and archaeological contexts. Acts of breaking and deposition were performances which stimu-






torso break

right arm break

left arm break

head break

neck break

Figurine re-filled from two parts: A) graphite linear decoration; B) worn part of head; C) burnishing on front of torso; D) smoothed back of torso (museum no. 3902—H:5.4 cm, W: 8 cm,TH: 4.8 cm & museum no. 3357—H: 5.6 cm, TH: 4 cm).

lated senses of personhood and understandings within the Neolithic world. In one example (late Neolithic Hamangia figurines from the Black Sea coast), Chapman and Gaydarska demonstrate that deliberately broken figurines were central to the construction of personhood, agency, gender, identity and social structure. The case that some figurines were intentionally fragmented is made via fine-grained examinations of fragment distribution within and between sites, by the examination of post-breakage treatment, and by finding fragments that can be fit together (even though they were found in separate assemblages). Chapman and Gaydarska reconstruct biographical pathways along which figurines proceeded from their whole, original, state to the potential roles that they may have played as fragments. They argue that complete figurines were understood in the Neolithic as neither completely male nor female (i.e., they were androgynous). However, once the figurines were broken into fragments the objects became male, female, or gender-neutral. If the fragments could be refitted, then the figurines become androgynous again and were often deposited in a grave, thus marking the death of the figurine. In this way, Chapman and Gaydarska suggest that the personhood and social identity of figurines are fluid in the same ways as human identities are fluid. The suggestion that a figurine transforms in these ways (as a whole; as a fragment) raises fascinating possibilities. What happens during these changes? How do such changes affect the people who create or break a figurine? How does it feel to break one? What does it sound like? Is the act of breaking entertainment, display, or is it a moment of danger? How does the spatial separation of the pieces create new relationships? How is gender assigned to a figurine fragment? By focusing on the most ubiquitous characteristic of Neolithic European figurines (their fragmentary state), Chapman and Gaydarska move the debate in new and fascinating directions. Chapman 2000; Chapman and Gaydarska 2007



expressed their communal worship through the medium of the idol. In miniature sculptures of Old Europe the emotions are made manifest in ritual drama involving many actors, both gods and worshippers. Much the same practice seems to have been current in Anatolia, Syria, Palestine and Mesopotamia in the corresponding periods, but only in southeastern Europe is such a quantity of figurines available for a

Bonsai (or the Chinese punsei or pensai for the Chinese characters Pen-tui) have been popular in the West since the Second World War. Although the histories of growing small, potted plants in Japan and China are very deep, it is difficult to find a single origin or meanreplace the complexity of the life-size tree with ing for bonsai. In practice, the simplicity of convention. They compress information and detail about the texture of bark, the subtleties of colour, and the structure of fine branches.


A recent phenomenon is Mambonsai, a form of new-wave bonsai: miniature trees accompanied by hand painted plastic figurines. Although considered by some traditional bonsai growers as offensive, Mambonsai works with the basic ideals of bonsai; it presents perspectives on the world that are inspired and framed by small trees. Much of the appeal of Mambonsai rests in its sense of scale and humour. Mambonsai perpetuates traditional ways of doing things (the forms of the bonsai trees) and then subverts them by commenting on that world. Mambonsai themes range from amusement and recreation (rock climbing), to politics (the capture of Bin Laden), to erotica (exhibitionism). By looking at the tiny figures and trees, the viewer enters a smaller world which sometimes mirrors our own. These tiny tree environments allow contemplation and comment but on topics not normally found in bonsai. Mambonsai makes the world intelligible; it creates new small spaces as locations for reflection. While traditional bonsai works in similar ways, the addition of the human form in Mambonsai raises questions of how the anthropomorphic affects representation of the natural world. Does the representation of the human form provide the viewer with special access to alternative modes of observation and consideration? If so, what are the implications for studies of prehistoric figurines or dogu¯? Does the juxtaposition and placement of small scale figurines within environments stimulate a particular representational potency? Can a figurine or dogu¯ create contemplative environments, in the manner that small trees can?

Marija Gimbutas, Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe (1982) Paper, ink, glue, 25 cm x 24 cm.

Fontanills 1997; Yamamoto 1999, 2002, 2003



comparative study. ¶ The shrines, cult objects, magnificent painted and black pottery, costumes, elaborate religious ceremonialism, and a rich mythical imagery far more complex than was hitherto assumed, speak of a refined European culture and society. No longer can European Neolithic-Chalcolithic developments be summed up in the old axiom, Ex oriente lux. ¶ When the magnificent treasures of the Minoan

ontext Q17

Vicki Noble

: In your recent book,

and women) living along the Don

from the early period; without any

male images, which we believe to be

in the folk rituals and practices of the

In the Archaeomythology Masters

you draw inspiration from

and Volga Rivers. Historians reported

evidence for such designations, those

sacred, is terribly significant for wom-

rural people (spending her summers

course I teach (at the Institute for

prehistoric figurines, particularly

that Amazons were governed by two

scholars had called the figures priests,

en, whose sense of divinity has been

in the country) as well as the intellec-

Transpersonal Psychology, in Palo

those depicting two individuals.

women, one who ruled over tempo-

kings, and gods. It was at that mo-

greatly restricted by the absence of

tual life of her progressive parents,

Alto, California), I require my stu-

What brought you to write about

ral matters and the other over spiri-

ment I understood that to really know

female deities in modern European

both of whom were physicians as well

dents to read Marija Gimbutas’ most

these objects?

tual ones: war queen and a domestic

what has been unearthed archaeo-

and American religions.

as revolutionaries in Vilnius.

recent book, The Living Goddesses,

queen. This archetypal pairing (the

logically, one must visit local, re-

warrior and the priestess) became

gional, and national museums where

my template for the book, along with

artifacts are kept and displayed; and

the long accepted idea that the two

now I know that one must even get

women might also be mother and

into basements, closets, and museum

daughter, or sisters, and whom schol-

drawers in order to really see every-

ar Mary B. Kelly suggested represent-

thing that might be of interest.

VN: My interest in the figures of two women together, featured in my book The Double Goddess: Women Sharing Power (2003), arose out of my travel outside of the United States and in particular, my visits to archaeological and national museums. Marija Gimbutas included several double-headed females in her books on Old Europe, and I had also seen some from ancient Mexico. But what I began to understand as I traveled was the ubiquity of double female figures in the Near East and Mediterranean civilizations from the Neolithic through the Bronze Age. The tipping point for me came when I spent time in London’s British Library researching Amazons, who had been described as having ‘ruled in dual Queenship’. When I juxtaposed that idea with the many Double Goddess figures who appear to be sitting on thrones and/ or wearing crowns, I found the central thread of my investigation. By this time I had visited Russia with archaeologist Jeannine Davis-Kimball, whose work makes it clear that Amazons can no longer be considered mythical, but were, in fact, tribes of matriarchal Iron Age people (men

ed chains of matrilineal descent. Since that first museum experience, I have enjoyed viewing myriad female

: When you see or handle prehistoric figurines, what reactions do you have? How do they affect you physically, emotionally, intellectually, or in any other way?

figures from ancient civilizations all over the world. Sometimes I have had the privilege of holding them in my hands, which is certainly a thrill, but my research is more strongly based on the visual associations my mind

VN: My earliest first-hand experience of the power of female figurines occurred during my first trip out of the country in 1983, when I visited the National Museum in Mexico City. Nothing I had seen in any book on ancient Mexico prepared me for the experience of being in that museum, in which four entire rooms were devoted to female figurines from the prehistoric period. I realized in a kind of epiphany (an aha moment) that academic scholars had universally chosen to downplay or ignore the great prevalence of female images in favor of the extremely rare male figures

makes among sites as far flung as the Mediterranean and the Tibetan plateau or the Indus Valley. I do feel quite emotional whenever I get to see one of the more famous figurines ‘in person’, such as when I visited the Venus of Willendorf in her little house in the Vienna Museum, or the Enthroned Mother Goddess of Catalhöyük in her display case at the Museum in Ankara, Turkey. So although I am mainly intellectually stimulated by the figures, many of them also serve as spiritual icons for me in a devotional sense. Like others in Women’s Spirituality, I feel that the existence of these fe-

plus a contemporary text on African

: What role do objects such as figurines have to play in Archaeomythology? VN: The more than one hundred thousand female figurines unearthed from the many archaeological sites across what Gimbutas called Old Europe are of enormous importance to the field of Archaeomythology. Although historians and academics can (and do) change the stories told about objects and artifacts found in ancient places, the visual imagery speaks quite loudly for itself. Because Archaeomythology is an interdisciplinary methodology, it requires many more points of view for interpretation than that of one specialist in the archaeology of a particular region and time. Marija Gimbutas was a world class archaeologist, but this specialization was supported by her proficiency in linguistics (she read most sources in their language of origin) and mythology (she was a serious collector of folk songs of Lithuania since adolescence). Having grown up in Lithuania in the early twentieth century, she was immersed

In order to practice Archaeomythol-

matriarchy, Reinventing Africa, by

ogy, one must see the figurines in

Dr. Ifi Amadiume, an

contextual ways, beginning with the


material context in which they were

teaches at Duke Uni-

found, but then also in comparison

versity. I expose them

with other finds from other places

to Mary B. Kelly’s books

around the world. Recent advances

on Goddess Embroi-

in linguistics, as well as DNA studies,

deries, in which she

have shown that despite the archaeo-


logical bias against the idea that an-

porary European and

cient people traveled great distanc-

Russian folk art (such as

es, a tremendous diffusion of cultures

tea towels, aprons, and

and artifacts has actually taken place

ritual costumes) depicts

over the millennia (e.g., the Bronze


and Iron Age Caucasoid mummies

stylized) images of an-

unearthed in China’s Tarim Basin).


When my eye told me that a figurine

from Old Europe, the

from Sumer looked like a figurine


(found near the Caspian Sea) that I

the Near East. My third

had seen in the Hermitage Museum

required text is a book by world tex-

in St. Petersburg, it was no surprise

tile expert, Elizabeth Wayland Bar-

to me to find a Central Asian archae-

ber, called Women’s Work: The First

ologist showing that some Sumerians

20,000 Years (Women, Cloth, and

migrated to that site, and even more

Society in Early Times). When my stu-

interestingly, that the migrants bur-

dents prepare to write their research

ied there in round tholos tombs were

papers, their investigation into the

women, children, and a few old men.

archaeology of their chosen region is

That stimulated the question, were

supported by these other disciplines’

they refugees from the destruction

contributing to a broader view of

that took place in Sumer during the

whatever artifacts (particularly figu-

‘cultural incursion’ dated to that time?

rines) they are viewing.






(though deities and



civilization were unraveled in the beginning of the twentieth century, Sir Arthur Evans wrote: I venture to believe that the scientific study of Greek civilization is becoming less and less possible without taking into constant account that of the Minoan and Mycenaean world that went before it.’ While his remark was amply justified, the question of what went before the Minoan civilization remained to be posed. Now it