The figurines, models of
people and animals, shaped in clay or carved in stone, are among Neolithic man's
most expressive creations, perhaps the principal manifestation of Neolithic art
and the basis for the study of the ways in which man was depicted. The female
figure, standing or sitting, dominates Neolithic coroplastic art, although male
figures also exist. With the sexual characteristics emphasized, woman must have
been for Neolithic people an object of wonder concerning life and creation.
The Neolithic figurines come chiefly from settlements and were not at all
standardized. The variety of postures, the rendering of features indicative of
sex or phases of life (e.g. pregnancy)
unique creations. Paint and incision are used to indicate individual details of
adornment and dress.
From the Early Neolithic, from 6500 BC, a naturalistic conception dominates the
rendering of people, which reaches a peak in the Middle Neolithic by 5300 BC.
There was an explosion in the inspiration, quantity and variety of
anthropomorphic figurines. In the naturalistic examples the female body is
portrayed with anatomical details, but with a tendency to exaggerate volumes,
especially in the lower part of the body. Schematic figurines of the same period
equal the naturalistic ones in numbers and variety. In spite of their
schematization, the distinction of gender is apparent. The male figurines, both
naturalistic and schematic, are chiefly distinguished by a projecting phallus.
In the Late Neolithic period (5300-4500 BC) abstract schematization prevails, a
product of the transformations and developments of the period and not the result
of technical inability. Moreover, the Nurse and the Thinker, with their superbly
modeled rendering, underline the intentional choice of he abstract depiction of
the human form. The plank figurines form a group of schematic figurines, in
which the human figure is a flat rectangular piece of clay with two horizontal
projections at the top to denote arms and a vestigial base. The acroliths are
even more abstract. Into a rectangular or cylindrical core, indicating the body,
is inserted a triangular shift of stone or marble to denote a head and neck. The
gender is not differentiated and since there are no anatomical features, these
figurines should be described as humanoid rather than human. The ultimate
schematization of the human form is to be seen in the ring shaped objects which
appear in this period and throughout the Final Neolithic one (4500-3300 BC) that
followed it. They were worn as amulets, and the materials used to make them
included gold, perhaps the first metal used by man. During the Final Neolithic
period white marble was also frequently employed for making anthropomorphic
figurines, considered as the forerunners of the famous Cycladic figurines of the
Early Bronze Age.