Ain Ghazal Statues Never Cease to Amaze
Ain Ghazal Statues, Never Cease to Amaze
With their ever open eyes, the pre-historic statues of ‘Ain Ghazal‘ will never stop gazing at our world. They were shaped to watch life developing around them. The statues, the world’s oldest, were dug out in 1983 during excavations in the site of ‘Ain Ghazal‘ a name that means ‘Spring of the Gazelles’. The discovery was made during the construction of a highway linking Jordan’s capital city of Amman to the city of Zarqa.
The 30 acre site is located near Amman and was home to major occupations during the pre-pottery Neolithic (PPNB) period about 7200 and 6000 BC and during the early pottery Neolithic (PPNC) between ca 5500-5000 BC. The major finds in addition to other human and animal remains excavated in the area were plaster statues found in two groups including 15 full figures, 15 busts and 2 fragmentary heads. The motive behind creating the two headed figures is not known. The excavation work was led by Gary Rollefson of the US Whitman University and Ziad Kafafi of Jordan’s Yarmouk University and their team.
Burials Beneath Dwellings
The statues were found in a large flat-bottomed pit beneath the floors of some abandoned houses. Others were buried in the vicinity. Burials during the time were carried out in line with special religious rituals. The statues were made in stages by applying plaster to reed bundles bound with cordage. Legs appear to have been fabricated separately and joined to the busts.
To enhance their human appearance, eyes were made from cowry shells and heads were decorated with wigs. Ornamental tattoos or body paints left their marks on the figures which are large – their height measuring between 35-100 cm – when compared to other miniscule human clay or stone figurines of the Neolithic era found at the site.
Light Shed on the World’s Earliest Settlements
Known as the world’s oldest human settlement and a farming community, Ain Ghazal was inhabited by nearly 3000 people who lived in multi-roomed mud-brick houses.The discovery of the statues was a major archeological development which augmented the wealth of knowledge of human life in the village contributing to more understanding of the culture, traditions, beliefs, rituals, subsistence sources and house construction methods in the PPNB period.
Ain Ghazal was continuously inhabited between the seventh and fifth millennia BC with life in the area showing different economic shifts. Inhabitants shifted from a subsistence base that depended on wild and domestic animals and plants to other resources as well as practices in addition to new techniques of building houses and other structures. Remains showed they used wheat, barley, peas and lentils in their daily meals. A focus on pastoralism was detected in the village during the PPNC period with domestic sheep, goats, pigs and probably cattle identified in the archeological finds.
Source: laits.utexas.edu/ “Ain Ghazal Excavation Reports”