11th NEOLITHIC SEMINAR

Symbols and Symbolism

Ljubljana, Thursday 4th - Sunday 7th November 2004

Abstract book

Dr. Marina Miličević-Bradač, Transfer of Symbols and Transfer of Meanings: the Case of "Horns of Consecration"

The first who used the term "horns of consecration" was sir Arthur Evans in 1901. They were since interpreted in various ways as Moon idols (Mondidole), boat models, pot stands, loom stands, spit supports, fire supports. Most of them though can be seen as abstracted bull's horns. Abstracting should have taken place in Anatolia or northern Mesopotamia and very early "horns of consecration" spread, appearing as already defined abstract symbol in different cultural settings. The question is whether they stood for the same set of ideas wherever they appeared, or their meaning varied from one cultural setting to the other.

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Dr. Aleksandar Durman, Pot as a symbol of life and universe.

Ceramic pots primarily have a utilitarian character. Without the concept of a pot the civilization, as we know it, would have certainly functioned differently or would not have been possible at all. Everyday use and production of ceramic vessels gradually led to the use of additional marks and ornamentation which in the course of their constant reappearance in precisely assigned places on vessels turned into a canon.

The symbolism of pottery ornamentation will be illustrated on the example of the late Eneolithic Vučedol culture in which it can be clearly interpreted. If the elements of this ornamental symbolism are compared to that of the ceramic pots dating from the Early Neolithic to the end of Prehistoric period - not solely on the European territory - the consequent presence of corresponding ornamentation can be established. The decoration on the pots, thus, does not merely convey a particular symbolic meaning, but the pot itself becomes a symbol of universe which governed the life of the prehistoric man through life, death and the flow of time.

The variation of symbolic features of pots (deep vessels) and bowls (shallow ones), as well as of those found in dwellings and in graves, should be distinguished.

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Dr. Corneliu Beldiman, Zoo-symbolism and early Neolithic Portable Art in Romania

The paper propose a detailed analysis of a fragmentary object discovered in 1971 by Dr. Marin Nica during the excavations in the well-known Early Neolithic site from Carcea - "Hanuri" (South-Western Romania, Dolj County), level I (attributed to Proto-Starčevo / Protosesklo / Gura Baciului-Carcea I / Ocna Sibiului I culture, around mid- sixth millennium B.C.). The artifact (around 30 mm in length) is worked in the basal part of a red deer (Cervus elaphus) antler and is interpreted as the terminal part of an open type bracelet. His very stylized and sophisticated design suggests probably a small herbivore head and has some rare analogies in discoveries from Serbia, Bulgaria, Hungary and Middle East. The microscopic analysis has allowed the correct identification of raw material (initially considered as bone by Dr. Nica) as well as the reconstruction of the "chaine operatoire" of manufacture by chiseling/chopping, abrasion and scraping. The small but unique and emblematic find from Carcea - "Hanuri" is the earliest zoomorphic (ronde bosse) representation in organic raw materials of the Prehistoric portable art in Romania. The paper offers also a good opportunity to present and discuss all Early Neolithic red deer antler bracelets from the area.

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Dr. Michael Séfériades, Spondylus gaederopus L. Symbols and Symbolism : a Structural Approach of European Neolithic/Chalcolithic Mentalities

In our contribution, regarding the present stage of the research - despite, unfortunatly, the lack of oral and written documents - we attempt to use in a structural approach, the concepts of symbol and symbolism of this 11th Neolithic seminar and by the way the Neolithic/chalcolithic mentality in Central, East and South-East Europe at the dawn of the European civilization through a "fossile directeur" (in different ways) extremely sensitive : a mediterranean shell, this spiny or thorny oyster Spondylus gaederopus L. ("jewels" related to settlements, hoards and graves) crossing Europe from the Aegean to the Channel (a road of 2500 kms long). As Gordon Childe wrote as soon as 1942 : "The Danubians seem to have brought with them from the South a superstitious attachment to the shells of a Mediterranean mussel, Spondylus gaederopi, which they imported even into Central Germany and the Rhineland for ornements and amulets".

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Dr. Xingcan Chen, Turquoise: a symbolic object of the early Neolithic period in the Upper Huai River valley, Central China

It is generally agreed that what most clearly distinguishes the human species from other life forms is our ability to use symbols. Turquoise, being a special kind of such symbols, has been one of the most commonly used materials for decoration since antiquity in China. In this study we focus on the earliest assemblage ever found in central China in the Peiligang Culture of the Upper Huai river valley (ca. 7000-5000 BC), discussing their distributions, characteristics and possible meanings according to the archaeological context. At least 5 common types of turquoise object have been used in this early Neolithic culture, those of the round, squarish and triangular pendants are most popular in an area of about 300 square km, far away from the nearest turquoise mine to the southwest where few contemporary sites have been found to date. It is hoped that this study will provide better understanding of valuable goods and its symbolic meanings in prehistoric China, leading to further research on the development of simple society in relation to cultural exchange, natural resources exploitation, and interregional interaction within and beyond an archaeological culture.   

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Dr. Simona Petru, Symbolism of the Non-Figurative Signs on the Portable Art from the Late Paleolithic Site Zemono  

Two engraved stones were found recently in the late Paleolithic open air site of Zemono. They are especially interesting since few objects of Paleolithic art are known from Slovenian sites. Stones are engraved with geometric patterns, which can be interpreted as entoptic forms. One of the stones is rich in iron, so fresh incisions are red. That might have some symbolic meaning, since red ochre is also present at the site.

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Alenka Tomaž, Miniature vessels from the Neolithic Site Čatež - Sredno polje. Were They Meant for Everyday Use or were they Meant for Something Else?  

Archaeologists use models based on ethnographic analogy and theory to recreate past symbolic meaning, but rarely can the archaeological data by itself provide us with a story. Two main bodies of archaeological evidence for the social/symbolic interpretation are the objects themselves and their archaeological context. The extensive excavation at Neolithic site Čatež - Sredno polje provided us with new information concerning Neolithic society in first half of 5th millennium B.C. in Slovenia. Abundance of pottery finds offered a huge opportunity to explore several aspects of pottery production in terms of technology, use, function, distribution and discard. In this presentation a closer look towards one segment of pottery finds will be presented. Detailed picture concerning symbolic aspect of miniature vessels will be demonstrated with regard to their production, use, function and distribution. We will also try to look at ways in which we can more directly recognise their social and symbolic meaning.  

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Boris Kavur, Giving Junk. Simbolic Role of Lithic Debitage in a Neolithic Society

The study of lithic debitage - of products of a irreversible and reductive tchnology - brings us as close as we can get to decission making of an individual in prehistoric societies. On the other hand the study of spatial distributions of individual knaping products enables us to reconstruct not only the formative processes which shaped the archaeological deposits, but also provides us with a glimpse into the structural organization of a prehistoric society. We are able to observe the actions of an individual in a brodaer context of social dynamics on a site - relations which were shaped by the symbolic perception of the settlement and the functioning of the society in the past.

The site Čatež - Sredno polje reveald not only the biggest quantity of lithic finds from all stages of production in Slovenia, but with its structure of the archaeological record enabled us to recontruct the symbolic aspects of the position of aretefacts in a neolithic settlement.

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Dr. Jak Yakar, Language of Symbols in Prehistoric Anatolia

Geometric and linear designs on pottery, seals and various other artifacts are found in almost every excavated site prehistoric settlement in Anatolia. Concerning this phenomenon Anatolia like southeast Europe, or additional regions in Europe and the Near East, is not unique. The question is whether such designs are simple ornaments arranged according to ethno-cultural codes of decoration, or something more? The possibility that such ornaments, or some of them also have symbolic values cannot be ruled out.

Concerning the symbolism that must have existed in the prehistoric iconography of Anatolia painted or sculpted animal representations such as; wild cattle, lion, bear, boar, reptiles and birds of prey, found in religious contexts, are believed to have served to transmit certain messages of spiritual value. It is assumed with some caution that in prehistoric Anatolian society, social and religious rituals perhaps involving acts of magic would have required a language of symbols. Based on this assumption one may postulate that prehistoric village communities sharing the same ethnic identity and/or cultural affinities would have devised a range of abstract symbols for spiritual communication. Certain artifacts, and in particular seals decorated with such symbolic signs could have been considered as bestowed with spiritual power.

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Dr. Steven Mithen, Symbolism at the PPNA Site of WF16, Southern Jordan  

This paper will present a set of symbolic artefacts from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A site of WF16 in Southern Jordan and consider their relationship to supposedly non-symbolic artefacts and materials from the same site.  Particular attention will be paid to the morphological continuity between artefacts that are evidently human representations and those that are assumed to be pounders and pestles, and between the bird bones from the site and the role of bird imagery in the PPNA and evident from sites elsewhere in the Levant.

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Dr. Nina Kyparissi Apostolika, Tracing symbols of life and symbols of death in Neolithic archaeological contexts

Since Early Neolithic times several miscellaneous objects seem to have served for self decoration keeping though a symbolic meaning as they are found in certain repeated types which must have been recognisable and accepted by all as "signifiers" of social and ideological information. This inventory was enriched during the following Middle Neolithic, while in the Late and Final Neolithic they seem to be, at least some of them, if not all, the result of systematic production for commercial purpose as they were made in Greece but destined mainly for the markets of Europe, where they were found usually in graves as symbols of social and financial gradations, and in this sense they also funcioned as "signifiers".

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Dr. Eszter Bánffy, Mesolithic - Neolithic contacts, as Reflected in Ritual Finds

The beginnings of settled life in Central Europe was marked by a series of interactions between local foragers and immigrants of southern origin. The Carpathian Basin is the last region to have direct Balkan people in the early Neolithic. In the course of the interaction not only two groups of different origin and manners met and merged, but also two ways of symbolic thinking, two kinds of cult life, two perceptions about space and time must have faced each other.

We know much more about the south east European neolithic cults and ritual life, as reconstructed from an enormously rich find material consisting of figurines, house models, anthropomorpic vessels etc. In the Western part of the Carpathian Basin there are local imitations of these finds, thanked to the contact. However, the figural representations almost entirely disappear by the developed phase of the LBK culture in Central Europe. Thus, we may find some hints about the other, local way of thinking. The possible causes of this change and also different perspectives in the symbolic meaning of this process are discussed in the short paper.

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Dr. Mihael Budja, Transition to farming and the 'revolution' of symbols in the Balkans. From ornaments to entopics and external symbolic storage

In desimplifying the logic of colonisation and transition to farming we will discuss the hunter-gatherer's and farmer's symbolic structures in the Balkans and Carpathians. Particular attention will be paid to the concepts of 'revolution of symbols', 'external symbolic storage', 'signs of all time'. Our basic premises are (1) that ceramic technology and the principles of fragmentation and accumulation were certainly not the exclusive domains of farmers and, (2) that the hunter-gatherers' symbolic structures and the process of transition to farming were not competitive but rather correlative in maintaining control and power within society and over the frameworks of external interactions and exchange networks. From our arguments we should expect that hunter-gatherers' symbolic structures maintained long traditions and that the 'revolution of symbols' in the context of transition to farming is not a paradigm we have to adopt. And, the  external symbolic storage, was therefore a characteristic of hunter-gatherer as much as of agrarian societies. It just hasn't been maintained continuously in Europe.

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Dr. Serge Cassen, Pigeon-Raven, Snake and Sperm whale, magical objects and domestic horned. The division of the world during the early neo-Neolithic of western France.

We advance that it is possible to invest an Armorican stele of the Vth millennium of an order of meanings, in the same way as the language or a system of kinship; in other words, a set of operations destined to insure, between individuals and groups, a certain type of communication. But such demands necessitate modifying the established patterns, because none agree with the idea that we conceived about the so-called peaceful passage to the agriculture and to the breeding on the Atlantic façade of Europe. Each fundamental sign on these standing stones will here be reconsidered, and their syntax   will be analysed.

However that may be, no innocence upon the subject : as soon as we display the strange desire to question these engravings, we participate in the analogical spell attributed to a distant image, we fall as well in these exegetic attempts pretending to obey to a cultural project where the appearance would be to interpret the symbolism but that, finally, tends to renew it, because any key of symbols is part of this symbolism.

Finally, even in an oneiric or fairy world, the force does not derive from gratuitousness: it comes from coherence.

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Dr. Harald Haarmann, The challenge of the abstract mind: symbols, signs and notational systems in European Prehistory

Ever since modern Homo sapiens colonized the European continent, early humans have left visual traces of symbolic activities in self-created cultural environments. Experiments with culture have yielded remarkable variations in space and time. It is noteworthy that humans have expressed the dual capacity to produce naturalistic pictures and abstract signs from the earliest cultural activities.

The synchronicity of naturalistic pictures (e.g., animals, human beings) and highly abstract motifs (e.g., grid, circle, dotted line) manifests itself in records of the visual "arts" such as cave painting and rock carving, sculptures and carved antlers or bones. In the Palaeolithic cave paintings of Southwestern Europe, we find both naturalistic and abstract motifs in the same narrative sequence. This dual capacity to produce visual signs has been perpetuated and developed throughout the ages.

In certain regions, the archaeological record of cultural symbolism reveals a marked trend toward abstractness. This is true for Southeastern Europe where the synchronicity of naturalistic and abstract motifs is repeated until the Mesolithic Age when abstract signs are used more frequently. This trend is clearly discernible in the use of symbols at Lepenski Vir (Serbia) and in the rock engravings of Macedonia.

When, during the sixth millennium BC, the use of abstract symbols and signs virtually began to explode, this was not the sudden leap of the human mind into a hitherto unknown dimension. Rather, this phenomenon represents the intensification of a process of experimenting with symbol-making that had developed over millennia.

In Southeastern Europe, sign use reached a higher organizational level than elsewhere and eventually developed into systemized forms of notation and an archaic form of writing. The notational systems of the Neolithic cultures in Southeastern Europe are among the markers of high culture and contributed decisively to the formation of the Danube civilization which flourished from c. 5500 to c. 3500 BC.

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Marco Merlini, Some features of the "Danube Script"  by a semiotic approach

For a growing number of scholars a script of literacy in statu nascenti (in embryonic stage) appeared in south-east Europe 7,300 years p.t. (present time), some two thousand years earlier than any other known writing. The Danube script originally appeared in the central Balkan area and had an indigenous development. It quickly spread to the Danube valley, southern Hungary, Macedonia, Transylvania and northern Greece.

The Danube script flourished up to about 5,500 years ago when a social upheaval took place: according to some, there was an invasion of new populations, whilst others have hypothesised the emergence of a new elite.

At that time a specific script appeared and developed in south-east Neolithic and Chalcolithic Europe which was later to be lost.

Even though the Danube script is now lost and most probably it will never be possible to decipher it, we can infer some of its features.

Marco Merlini will discuss a few characteristics of the Danube script (features and standardization of its signs; principles characterising the organisation of the inscriptions; sort of messages which were transferred by it; the semiotic system based on the very peculiar relation between script, decorations and symbolism) while presenting some signs and inscriptions of the most recent, not very well known or unpublished objects (Supska torso, Giannitsa seal, Cyclope sherd &) and the first results of the "Focus on Tartaria tablets" of the Prehistory Knowledge Project which is analyzing the signs by microscope.

The presentation will also discuss the new inventory of the Danube script signs made by Shan Winn (2004).

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Dr. Andrej Starović, If the Vinca Script Once Really Existed, Who Could Write and Read It?

Paper tends to present author's consideration about the possible meaning and social role of the Vinca written signs and symbols, once invented and used among the Danube Neolithic society. Many scholars have tried to resolve two main questions about the nature of those signs: first, does it all present a meaningful system, and (if yes), could such a system be interpreted as original prehistoric script?

New approach to the problem, focused on archaeological reconstruction of basic function of ceramic objects bearing the signs, offers a strong evidence of the signs use in the context of ordinary domestic life, much more than in ritual and/or ceremonial context. Important set of data implies that practically every single Vinca household did have inscribed objects and that many of the signs and sign groups are uniform, just like in organized writing. Consequently, such complex notation system could really play a role of written communication among entire Vinca society.

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Dr. Gheorghe Lazarovici, Marco Merlini, New data on Tartaria tablets.

When have been discovered, the Tartaria tablets rise many discussions and questions concerning their absolute chronology.

These tablets have been discovered in a pit, name by N. Vlassa "a ritual pit". He put this pit in connection with a pit house found nearby. Both belong to the same level of excavation (h11). The distance between "the ritual pit" and the pit house pit was of 70 - 90 cm. Both the ritual pit" and the pit house pit belong to the same archaeological complex. We have checked this, using the radiocarbon data obtained from "the ritual pit" and the pit house pit. The difference it is at about 10 years.

The Skeleton. Archaeological data. The "cult pit" contained different archaeological remains as well as some parts of a human skeleton. The human bones have been put here after an "excarnage" process. Nicolae Vlassa believed that the human bones have been burned. We believe that in fact the bones lies a long time under sun rays and therefore they have an whitish colour; similar situation and rituals is known from the end of the Cotofeni culture until the Early Bronze Age.

Dr. Georgeta Miu made the anthropologic expertise from Iasi Institute of Anthropology. She observed that the human bones have not been burned. Only one bone, belonging to an animal have traces of burning and was mixed between the human ones. It might be related to death or inhumation rituals. Many small bones (as those from the palms or foots) are missing. This might be the result of a natural process, when birds take these parts. But we have also to check once more the materials from older excavations made by K. Horedt. Some other bones belonging to the face and the skull are missing too. If those of the face might be related to the bird actions, situation is different in the case of the skull bones. In this case we believe that this might be related to the skull cult; in the same time we have not to forget that the skull might be loosed during the cleaning of the profile of the excavation by K. Horedt, or N. Vlassa (in the photo made by Vlassa is possible to see that pit was partially cut).

The radiocarbon date for the human skeleton from the "ritual pit" is: Rome-1631 = 6.200+/-65 yr BP (5.370 - 5.140 Cal BC: 1 sigma); the radiocarbon date for the animal bones found on the bottom of the pit (level h11) is: Rome-1655 6210+/-65 yr BP (5.280-5.060 Cal BC) These results show that they have been partial contemporaneous.

Because the skull and pelvis are missing (from the latter there are only some fragments), the sex and age determination of the subject has some limitations".

Based on metric and morphological features of the long bones (entire or fragmentary) and others elements, Dr. Georgeta Miu consider that she is a female of 50-55 years old. The age was estimated based on: resorption of the spongy tissue, the aspect of the pubic area and some particular pathological degenerative processes of some bones.

The height is 147 cm, indicative of a small woman. It was calculated on the basis of classical known methods (radius, cubitus and tibia length).

Our analysis and conclusions are based on the small height of the subject and on the gracile features of the bones. We remember that skull and face bones are missing. Based on the available data we believe that all this features indicate the Mediterranean type.

The lower part of the articular surfaces of the pubis shows a similar destruction process. We do not know the origin of these bone lesions, but they are associated with a quite high process of osteoporosis. All these degenerative processes may have produced great pain and it is probable that she had pain in the last 10-15 years of her life. But her death can be related to other reason.

Radiological expertise and clinical analogies indicate "Osteoperiostit sclerogomoas", tuberculosis or osteomelite. We do not exclude either a form of ancient syphilis.

Conclusions

- Ritual pit is contemporary with the pit house: radiocarbon data sustain this. It is also possible that its functionality is related to the same pit house. We suppose that the pit house was lived by this woman and the "ritual pit" was the place was she was keeping the sacral inventory. Her bones, after excarnage have return in the place she was living. Such hypothesis is sustained by two cult discoveries from Poduri and Isaiia. Both contain 42 pieces. We suppose the existence of some special houses belonging to the "priestess", "older" or "clever" ladies, many times related with number 7.

- The tablets and other objects from the ritual pit we believe that belong to a cult inventory of a priestess. The same with the pit house. The objects belong to different cults related to fertility and fecundity (the Big Goddess and her hypostasis: fertile mother, clever mother). The tablets and their signs represent another problem: they are related to initiation process, symbol signs and with a sacral meaning.

- Excarnage suppose a period between some months to 6/7 years. It is possible that in this period the house was abandoned. To this period we can relate the first filling levels. The cult inventory of the priestess was maybe destroyed after her death as a ritual, when she was not in direct relation with the divinity.

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Dr. Magda Mantu Lazarovici, Signs and symbols on the anthropomorphic plastic of Cucuteni culture.

Spread over an impressive area of more than 350. 000 km2 and lasting more than a millenium, the Cucuteni-Tripolye culture is part of the last great Eneolithic/Chalcolithic complexes in the central and southeastern Europe. The big number of settlements, many of them with a large area (in Bessarabia and Uman) have been interpreted as proto cities, elaborate architecture, fortifications and cult constructions, show an hierarchic organization of the settlements, the existence of tribal and cult centers, playing an important role in the control and movement of raw materials, such as salt, flint, copper or of finite products as pottery.

Sanctuaries with monumental architecture including stattues, stellae, shrines etc. are documented starting with Precucuteni III (Târgu Frumos), during Cucuteni A and A-B (Tripolye B I-II), but not in Cucuteni B (Tripolie C). Cult complexes from different phases, as well as other discoveries show the use of sacred numbers, maybe related with the pantheon of this civilization. Some of the most used numbers, in different civilizations are 3, 7, 4 and 6.

The pantheon is dominated by the Big Goddess, master of life and death; other deities are not very well defined, but can be identify the divine couple, couple of goddesses, a male or an androgyny, the sun, the moon etc. Although most of the magic religious practices are related to the fertility and fecundity cult, other ones are present as well (for example the protection of the animal breeding or of the ancestors). The Big Goddess of the Cucuteni-Tripolye pantheon is represented in association with the tree of life or the column, snakes, fishes and carnassials, the last elements suggesting high fertility.

The masculine statuettes, fewer than the feminine ones, seem to represent a secondary character in the pantheon of this culture. The male character, depicted in hieros gamos scenes or alone, is seen as the pair of the Big Goddess, but also as an androgyny. Some male statuettes have chest bands and hip-belt, interpreted as symbols of a social statute.

Solar symbols, concentric circles, circles with different internal signs, simple, singular or in combination with other signs/elements, can be identified on many and only in few anthropomorphic statuettes. The sacral property, including vegetal elements as symbol, signs and symbols statuettes as well as other cult objects made by durable or perishable materials, play a major role during the religious celebration and cult practices. They accompany the specific rituals, offerings, dances and myths of different festivities and represent for us a valuable source that helps us decipher some aspects of the religious life of that time.

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Thomas Dowson, Towards an archaeology of decorated Neolithic figurines from south east Europe.

A striking characteristic of the Neolithic of South East Europe is the presence of clay figurines - stylised human (mostly, and obviously female) forms and some animal. The frequent occurrence of female representations "presenting the breasts or the vagina" has given rise to a range of interpretations that centre on notions of the mother goddess, fertility and reproduction. These figurines have also been interpreted in terms of the ways in which the communities that produced and consumed them negotiated such concepts as gender, identity, descent and ancestry. Successive interpretations of these images have necessarily reflected successive generations of archaeologies theoretical and political agendas. In this paper I theorise these figurines, a theorisation that begins by revealing the figurines' appearance and meaning in local and regional contexts. On a local level aspects of the figurines' production are socialised. At a more regional level, I examine the social production of "figurine art" in south-eastern Europe in comparison to the social production of so-called "abstract art" of north-western Europe. Here, there is the distinctive "cup and ring" motif found on open, exposed rock surfaces - surfaces that were often quarried for inclusion in various mortuary and other monuments. These images are themselves strikingly different to the geometric passage tomb art. I argue the "differences" we observe in the imagery of south-east and north-west Europe resulted from differing ways in which people related to the dead.

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Dr. Vassil Nikolov, Neolithic Altars: a Symbol of the Goddess?

The Neolithic altars consist of a horizontally leveled dish supported by three or four legs. They are made of clay. Their shape is of an equilateral triangle or square. The altar outer walls are usually covered with dots or incised decoration, white incrusted next to always. The inside and lower surface of the dish is very often painted in white (as a symbol of fertility). The embossed female plastics on the walls of the bigger vessels bear a particular significance to reveal the alter semantics: they represent standing female figures with legs bended at the knees and unnaturally wide open aside, and in between them a vulva marked by a pendant embossed triangle. The analogy of these plastics, as well as any one particular aspect of the altar is obvious. The anthropomorphic images associate with the Mother Goddess thus giving grounds to consider the altars as a symbol of the Mother Goddess' body lower sector and womb. Two variants of this type present an especially good opportunity for a similar interpretation - altars with well-expressed convex curve in the middle of the wall lower edge, as well as altars with a dish hanging in the middle.

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Dr. Ilze Loze, Aspects of Research on Symbols of Neolithic Anthropomorphic Miniature Plastic Art

In a ritual, a symbol is the smallest unit that preserves specific features of ritual activity & an elementary specific structural unit in ritual context (Turner, 1983). Therefore, in archaeology just research in symbols may open at least a little opportunity to see far reminiscences from the activity cycle of a corresponding ritual in the past.

Materials on Neolithic anthropomorphic miniature plastic art in clay have in a recent decade been accumulated in Eastern Baltic, and particularly in Latvia. Their samples differ by their outer appearance, size, ornamentation, modelling of face, and sometimes emphasized female features. In addition, faces of the figurines have been strewn with ochre.

Having been made for special purposes, the above figurines served as the means to reach them. Therefore, they by themselves symbolise a definite topic in a common cycle of a ritual. Symbols are not only the figurines themselves, but are also their decorations: tattoos. The colour of ochre that symbolises life, is a symbol, too. In the light of archaeological data, the latter aspect is represented through different categories of blood (of animals, mother, women, murder, magic, as well of the attestation of power) that allows to dwell upon the importance of the red colour in the perception of Neolithic man.

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Dr. Florian Drasovean, A figurine head used within black magic witchcraft discovered in the Late Neolithic settlement from Sinandrei (SW Romania)

The head of the figurine has deformations, impressions and stiches which do not constitute ornaments, but they are made intentionately to direct the evil within some rituals of black magic. The head was discovered in the Vinča C levels.

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Dr. Christina Marangou, On size, on unreality and on otherness in Neolithic symbolic imagery

Prehistoric figurines occur on different scales, from the microscopic to the almost (super)natural. Besides, in spite of predominant trends in the choice and copying of subjects (mostly human and domestic animals), exceptional and even non-existent beings, wild and hybrid animals have occasionally been reproduced, resulting sometimes in counter-nature images. The paper considers such instances, based on Neolithic material, mainly from Northern Greece. It attempts various possible research directions towards interpretation of size variability and denial of nature in the complex connections signifiants - signifiés embodied by Neolithic symbolic artefacts.

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Dr. Julian Thomas, Ambiguous Symbols, or Why Were There No Figurines in Neolithic Britain?

One of the distinctive characteristics of symbolic expression in Neolithic Britain was the emphasis on non-representational, geometrical motifs. By the later Neolithic, a wide range of artefacts (carved stone balls, Grooved Ware, maceheads, chalk objects) carried elaborate and highly formalised decoration, although they were often used and deposited in quite different contexts. This can be related to a broader pattern: the proliferation of human figurines in south-east Europe, and their comparative scarcity in the Atlantic Neolithic. This is clearly an issue that needs to be addressed at a number of different spatial and temporal scales, but this contribution will focus on the importance of ambiguity and varying conceptions of the human body.

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Takamune Kawashima, The contextuality of clay figurines in Japan

In Japan, most clay figurines are discovered in fragmented   condition and outside the structures. It is indicated that the   figurines are deliberately fragmented during the rituals.   However, figurines are unevenly distributed among the sites   in the same region. It is likely that these facts correlate with   the interactive activities among the neighboring sites.

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Georgia Stratouli, Symbolic behavior at places of social activity beyond the domestic environment in the Neolithic of the Ionian Islands, W. Greece

The paper aims to trace some interesting issues concerning the neolithic society, such as perception of the landscape and making places as well as building the social environment through integration of significant sites-monuments beyond the domestic area.

We will focus firstly on the analysis of physical and social dynamic traits of the landscape in which Drakaina Cave in the steep-sloped gorge of Poros in Cephalenia island is located. This gorge bridges a well protected and reach in resources small basin with the coast, facilitating participation into extensive communication networks.

Further, we will discuss archaeological evidence from Drakaina Cave (e.g. construction of lime plaster floors and the related cultural deposit), indicating symbolic behavior in a valued place. The practices of special meaning that took place in the cave may be attributed to the reminding and strengthening the coherence of the neolithic society to its past, present and future within its region.

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Last update: 29.9.2004.