Vinca Figurines: Imaging the Devine?

This is a head of a fragmentary Vinca- anthropomorphic figurine.

The Vinca-horizon is dated between 5400 and 4700 BC cal. on the territories of what is now Bosnia, Serbia, Romania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.  Settlements are in some cases extensive open sites such as Selevac, Serbia, while others, such as Vinča itself, are substantial tell mounds with up to 8m of occupation.

The people of the Vinča culture were one of the first that used copper for the production of artifacts. Mining was an invariable part of this culture: The absolute dating of the site of Rudna Glava, for example, suggests a very early Vinča use of the site, probably starting in the fifty-fifth century cal BC. The findings suggest an advanced division of labor and organization. Houses had stoves, there were special holes for trash, and the dead were buried in a tidy necropolis.

The ritual aspect of life encompassed an overwhelming production of anthropomorphic figurines, often found in a fragmentary stage and left in dumps within the settlement areas.

It is highly questionable that the meaning of the Neolithic Figurines of the European earliest Farmers will ever be understood. The prerequisite of understanding would be a reconstruction of the full range of Neolithic mentalities and ideologies, which, at the best, can only be reconstructed in a fragmentary manner.

The simplicistic narrative explanations (the figurine as “mother goodness”, fertility figure, sexual aid, votive and healing object, territory and identity marker, but also out of pure enjoyment) can and will never be proven beyond doubt.

The empirical solutions, which take great care on contextual information, the typology of the figurines, their gender and sex are important, but rather descriptive with little explanatory power.

Recently W Bailey suggested that if the figurines had a meaning and function, then it would be that they were “philosophies of being human”. This ontological argumentation may be a too unspecific answer to the question, what a certain figurine meant for a Vinca- individual.

A neolithic figurine, shown in the “Naturhistorisches Museum” at Vienna:

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