Images of cats from the British Museum collection, £9.99
Seated terracotta figurine
Neolithic period, about 4500-4000 BC
From Vinca, Serbia
Possibly a household deity
This stylized human figure was discovered at the site of Vinca, a large mound or tell that was formed by the accumulation of debris from a succession of settlements over a long period of time. Such settlements were a feature of early farming societies in parts of south-eastern Europe, and some continued to be occupied into the Early Bronze Age. Figurines and other clay models, for example of houses, have frequently been found at these sites. However, they have never been found in the West, which may indicate differences in religious practices and beliefs, and cultural attitudes towards the representation of the human form.
The seated figure has been modelled in one piece with the stool. The incised decoration represents clothing and body ornament; the holes at the ears, shoulders and elbows might have held other decorative elements now perished or missing. The sex of the figure is not clear and the posture is formal. It might have been a cult object, perhaps a household deity.
T. Richard Blurton (ed.), The enduring image: treasures, exh. cat (British Council, 1997)