An unusual 7000-year-old bird-like figurine of the Neolithic era baffled Greece archeologists who do not know the origin of this mysterious statue, as well as why and by whom it was made.
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In 2017, a figurine with a bird face was exhibited at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens under a project name “The Unseen Museum,” which contained around 200,000 ancient artifacts, from statues and household utensils to golden ornaments.
The 36 cm high granite figurine was surrounded by more typical examples of Neolithic sculpture: small figurines made of clay and soft stone.
The small figurine, recovered from the storerooms and set in a brightly-lit display case, lacks the grandeur of the marble and bronze statues of Classical Greece.
The place of origin of the ancient statuette is unknown: it came to the museum from a private collection, but nobody knows where it had been found. According to scientists, the figurine could have come from the northern Greek regions of Thessaly or Macedonia.
It is possible that the figurine belongs to the late Neolithic era, the dating range is from 4500 to 3300 BC. But, unlike the overwhelming majority of sculptural works of that era, the figurine with a bird face was carved from stone, not from the soft pliable rock-like limestone, but from hard granite. Besides, there were no cutting tools suitable for processing hard rocks in the Neolithic era.
Mostly, statues from the Neolithic era were limited to small sizes: only 5% of the known Neolithic stone figurines exceed a height of 35 cm, and they were all made of soft rocks.
For example, the seated mother goddess figurine from Catal Huyuk, Turkey, was made of a local variety of marble, weighs one kilogram, and is only 17 cm in height.
Katya Manteli, an archaeologist of the museum said: “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.”
The face of the granite figurine is indeed very similar to a bird: a sharp nose-beak, large hollows of eyes, a long neck. The graceful top blends into a massive, elephant-like bottom. The long neck flows into a rounded tummy, but the figure’s back is unnaturally flat and straight.
There was no clear indication of the gender of the mysterious creature. Was it because of the lack of technical skills of the sculptor? Or did he want to make an asexual figure?
“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,” said Manteli.
According to archaeologists, the figurine was polished, which means it was a finished statue. However, there were unpolished areas on the statue where the original color of the stone was visible.
All those oddities, according to Manteli, make the granite figurine one of the rarest artifacts of the Neolithic era.