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16 September 2006
Neolithic figurine unearthed in Italy

Archaeologists have unearthed the largest Neolithic female figurine ever found in Italy. The 7,000-year-old stone statuette, discovered during excavations of a burial site near the northern Italian city of Parma, is over 20 centimetres tall. It depicts a woman with an oval face, slit eyes, a prominent nose and long hair. Her arms are bent at her elbows, sticking out at right-angles to her body.
     It is rare to find figurines this old in Europe, and the majority represent a mother earth divinity with a swelling belly symbolizing fertility. Archaeologists have instead linked this female to the goddess of death and rebirth, who is usually represented as slender, with a large, beak-like nose and rigid posture. In addition to these characteristics, this statuette has a small triangle similar to an excision between her breasts. The lower half of her body is much larger, with no distinction between her feet and her legs. Her back is perfectly vertical, leading experts to conclude that she was probably originally carved to sit on a some kind of throne or support made of a material that has disintegrated over the centuries, such as wood.
     The figure was unearthed in a tomb that is part of a larger Neolithic burial site outside Vicofertile, a town around 10km southwest of Parma. The grave, which belonged to a middle-aged women, contained a number of pottery bowls in addition to the statuette, which was placed in front of the deceased's head on top of her raised left arm . The burial site dates back to a period in northern Italian history known as the "square-mouthed pottery" era, corresponding to between 5,000 and 4,300 BCE. Neither the containers nor the statuette in the grave were properly fired, suggesting the items were not in everyday use prior to the burial.

Source: ANSA (11 September 2006)

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