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HOME : Classical Antiquities : Classical Masterpieces : Violin shaped figure
Violin shaped figure - CB.233
Origin: Mediterranean
Circa: 3200 BC to 2500 BC
Dimensions: 4.5" (11.4cm) high x 2" (5.1cm) wide
Collection: Classical
Style: Cycladic
Medium: Alabaster
Condition: Very Fine

Location: Great Britain
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Violin-shaped figurines - thus named because their profile resembles that of a violin or fiddle - are the most common type of schematic representation of the human body in the Early Cycladic I period. Developed from the violin-like figures of the Neolithic Age (5300- 3200 BC), they are usually small, very thin, with a long rod-like projection denoting the head and neck, and two wide notches at the sides forming the "waist" of the body. Several examples feature an incised pubic triangle, while more rarely modeled breasts appear, indicating the female sex of the figures. The illustrated example features the pubic triangle as well as incised creases in the area of the "waist". Similar creases or wrinkles are also present on later naturalistic figurines and are usually interpreted as signs of a post- parturition state. However, incised creases occur sometimes on male figurines too, casting doubts on this interpretation. The Cyclades, a group of islands in the southwestern Aegean, comprises some thirty small islands and numerous islets. The ancient Greeks called them kyklades, imagining them as a circle (kyklos) around the sacred island of Delos, the site of the holiest sanctuary to Apollo. Many of the Cycladic Islands are particularly rich in mineral resources—iron ores, copper, lead ores, gold, silver, emery, obsidian, and marble, the marbles of Paros and Naxos among the finest in the world. Archaeological evidence points to sporadic Neolithic settlements on Antiparos, Melos, Mykonos, Naxos, and other Cycladic Islands at least as early as the sixth millennium B.C. These earliest settlers probably cultivated barley and wheat, and most likely fished the Aegean for tunny and other fish. They were also accomplished sculptors in stone, as attested by significant finds of marble figurines on Saliagos (near Paros and Antiparos). In the third millennium B.C., a distinctive civilization, commonly called the Early Cycladic culture (ca. 3200–2300 B.C.), emerged with important settlement sites on Keros and at Halandriani on Syros. At this time in the Early Bronze Age, metallurgy developed at a fast pace in the Mediterranean. It was especially fortuitous for the Early Cycladic culture that their islands were rich in iron ores and copper, and that they offered a favorable route across the Aegean. Inhabitants turned to fishing, shipbuilding, and exporting of their mineral resources, as trade flourished between the Cyclades, Minoan Crete, Helladic Greece, and the coast of Asia Minor. - (CB.233)


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