Period: Early–Middle Bronze Age
Date: 3rd–2nd millennium B.C.
Geography: Southwestern Arabia
Medium: Sandstone, quartzite
Dimensions: H. 10 5/8 × W. 5 1/2 × D. 4 5/16 in. (27 × 13.9 × 10.9 cm)
Credit Line: Purchase, Fletcher, Louis V. Bell, and Rogers Funds, and The Tokyo Shimbun and Friends of Inanna Gifts, 1998
Accession Number: 1998.380
This sculpture is one of a group of statues associated with the South Arabian Bronze Age. It comes at the beginning of a figural tradition characterized by extreme simplification and symbolic strength. Represented is a standing female with a role of fat and deep groove emphasizing the belly and a clearly indicated pubic triangle. Her massive body is contained within a quadrangular space. The legs look truncated but the toes, like the hands and fingers, are indicated by incisions. She wears a strap across her body and a necklace. Subject and style invite comparison with Near Eastern and Aegean Neolithic statuary and with much later South Arabian statuary of the second century B.C. In early Anatolia and Greece—as in late Paleolithic Europe—nude females were dynamic, with curved, exaggeraged breasts, belly, and buttocks. By contrast, the frontal, profile, and back planes of the South Arabian sculpture are separated, emphasizing abstraction and containment within a blocklike form—features that characterize figural art of the region more than two thousand years later. Other similar statues were found near western highland settlements and the inner Hadramawt area. A few males appear ithyphallic, suggesting that these human or divine images were used in fertility rituals.