Hellenistic art and culture, £18.99
Height: 66.000 cm
GR 1886.3-10.1 (Sculpture A 11)
Room 11: Cycladic Islands
Limestone female figure
Neolithic, about 4500-3200 BC
From the island of Kárpathos, Aegean Sea
The earliest stone sculpture from Greece in the British Museum
The size and style of this ungainly figure is unusual for the Neolithic period in Greece, though it does have features which link it both to smaller counterparts in clay, and to the later marble Cycladic figurines.
The arms are represented as stumps, perhaps because of limitations in the sculptor's technique, while the legs do not appear at all. This may be explained by a connection with seated Neolithic figure types, where the legs are tucked so closely to the body that they effectively disappear, though again it might be partly explained by technical limitations.
While the stylized appearance of the face, blank apart from the rather beaky nose, is similar to Cycladic sculptures, the sexual characteristics of the figure are more noticeable on this figure. This used to be interpreted as evidence of the early worship of a 'Great Mother' goddess; though now it is clear that this is a simplistic explanation for many different phenomena. However, it is possible that the significance of the figure may have been connected with female fertility.
J.L. Fitton, Cycladic art, 2nd ed. (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)