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Lime plaster statues
Pre-Pottery Neolithic B, about 7200 BC
From 'Ain Ghazal, Jordan
Micah, Heifa and Noah
These statues, modelled in lime plaster over armatures of reeds and twine, are part of an extraordinary cache found buried in a carefully prepared pit, discovered at 'Ain Ghazal on the outskirts of Amman in Jordan. They are perhaps the most remarkable examples of prehistoric art from the period known as Pre-Pottery Neolithic B. Dating to the end of the eighth millennium BC, they are among the earliest large-scale representations of the human form.
The statues, of which there may be as many as 25, fall into two categories according to their size. All have naturalistically rendered heads and faces, but whereas the smaller figures have schematized bodies, the larger ones have realistically represented bodies with arms and legs, hands and feet, and, in some cases, breasts. Many of the statues are decorated with paint to indicate hair, items of clothing, and also to highlight the facial features.
The eyes have been built up in a purer, whiter plaster than that used for the main statue. A black bituminous material has been used to create the iris-pupils, and the same material has been pressed into grooves surrounding the eyeballs, but here the effect is further enhanced by the addition of an unusual green mineral pigment, dioptase.
At the time of their discovery, the statues were given names by the excavators and conservators. These three were called Micah (small figure), Noah (large figure with missing arm) and Heifa (large figure).
J.N. Tubb, Canaanites (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)