A bird-like statuette dating back some 7,000 years has baffled archaeologists in Greece who still do not know exactly what it is, or where it came from.
The “7,000-year-old enigma,” as it has been dubbed by the National Archaeological Museum, has been put on temporary display until March 26 after being brought from the museum’s storerooms as part of a special exhibition called “The Unseen Museum,” samples of more than 200,000 antiquities in vast storage rooms and not on public display.
Carved out of granite, the 14 inches statuette comes from the late Neolithic era and has a pointed nose and long neck leading to a markedly round belly, flat back and cylindrical stumpy legs.
“It could depict a human-like figure with a bird-like face, or a bird-like entity which has nothing to do with man but with the ideology and symbolism of the Neolithic society,” Katya Manteli, an archaeologist with the museum, told Reuters in an interview.
Unlike most Neolithic figurines made of soft stone, it is carved out of hard rock even though metal tools were not available at the time.
And while it is too short for a life-size depiction of the human figure, it is bigger than most Neolithic statues, which are rarely found over 35 cm tall.
“Regarding technique and size, it is among the rare and unique works of the Neolithic period in Greece,” Manteli said.
More puzzling still is the lack of clear indication of sex. Is it due to technical sculpting limitations? Or did the sculptor intend to create an asexual figure. Archaeologists believe the fact that the statuette is polished suggests the figure is in its final form, although they maintain that if the sculptor had the appropriate tools it would have taken a more specific form.
“Yes, it could be a pregnant figure but there are no breasts, used in Neolithic times to depict the female body. On the other hand it lacks male organs so it is presented as an asexual figure,” Manteli said.
“There are enigmatic aspects to it which make it charming.”