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by Archaeology Newsroom

Portraits from neolithic Thessaly

This article is only the summary of a joint publication on the figurines in private collections of Thessaly. The relevant project was carried out by the Research centre for Antiquity of the Athens Academy and the IE’ Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classic Antiquities at Larissa. The article refers to a choice of twenty Neolithic figurine heads found on various sites of Eastern and Western Thessaly. These heads have been selected from over 2.500 unpublished figurines, which belong to private collections. They have been rendered with such an expressive power and realistic features that they could be considered as portraits of unknown members of the Neolithic Thessalian society. These heads, apart from exhibiting a very interesting modeling technique, contribute a lot to out knowledge of the appearance of the Neolithic face. However, since these figurines are surface finds, it is not easy to classify them in precise chronological groups. Nevertheless, an attempt of classifying them in chronological and topographical entities is made by comparing them to relevant pottery and to other published or unpublished figurines from Thessaly and the surrounding area. Two main groups of heads seem to prevail so far, the naturalistic and the schematic one. The first group of heads, usually made of clay, can be subdivided in two entities, the one sharing common characteristics – a fact possibly indicating the existence of figurine workshops; the other displays heads of free, plastic rendering with an emphasis on certain facial features. The overall handling of these heads shows the artist’s effort to portray specific members of the Neolithic community, an effort which often produces individual faces of ovewrhelmmg expression. The second group includes figurine heads made of marble or other stone. Some of them are acroliths, while others do not bear any specific characteristics.