A team of British and Greek archaeologists has unearthed over 300 clay figurines at the Neolithic archaeological site of Koutroulou Magoula in Greece.
Koutroulou Magoula is located near the Greek village of Neo Monastiri, some 160 miles from Athens. The site was occupied from 5,800 to 5,300 BC by a community of a few hundred people.
The archaeologists found clay figurines all over the site, with some located on wall foundations. They believe their purpose was to convey and reflect ideas about a community’s culture, society and identity.
“Figurines were thought to typically depict the female form, but our find is not only extraordinary in terms of quantity, but also quite diverse – male, female and non-gender specific ones have been found and several depict a hybrid human-bird figure,” explained Prof Yannis Hamilakis, co-Director of the Koutroulou Magoula Archaeology and Archaeological Ethnography project.
“We still have a lot of work to do studying the figurines, but they should be able to give us an enormous amount of information about how Neolithic people interpreted the human body, their own gender and social identity and experience.”
According to the scientists, Koutroulou Magoula people made architecturally sophisticated houses from stone and mud-bricks. They appear to have rebuilt their homes on the same building footprint generation after generation, and there is also evidence that some of the houses were unusual in their construction.
“This type of home would normally have stone foundations with mud-bricks on top, but our investigations at Koutroulou Magoula have found some preserved with stone walls up to a meter in height, suggesting that the walls may have been built entirely of stone, something not typical of the period,” Prof Hamilakis said.
“The people would have been farmers who kept domestic animals, used flint or obsidian1 tools and had connections with settlements in the nearby area. The construction of parts of the settlement suggests they worked communally, for example, to construct the concentric ditches surrounding their homes. There is no evidence of a central authority to date, yet large numbers of people were able to come together and carry out large communal and possibly socially beneficial projects.”
“In later centuries, the settlement mount became an important memory place. For example, at the end of the Bronze Age, a ‘tholos’ or beehive-shaped tomb was constructed at the top and in Medieval times around 12-13th centuries AD at least one person (a young woman) was buried amongst the Neolithic houses.”