Violin-Shaped Idol

2500–2000 BCE (?)
more object details

General Description

Small idols such as this were created by preliterate people all over the prehistoric Mediterranean, predominantly out of materials such as stone, ceramic, or bone. The vast majority of recovered prehistoric sculptures depict either animals or humans, mostly females with exaggerated feminine features. Since the large majority of these objects were not recovered during the course of systematic excavations, their archaeological context has been lost, and therefore many questions remain surrounding their use and function. However, they are generally understood as representations of the great forces of nature: life, death, and regeneration, embodied in the female form.

It is thought that through veneration of the female form, the source of life itself, idols such as these were intimately connected to fertility both in crops and in childbearing capabilities that would ensure the survival of the species. Because these figures persist in such large numbers across cultures, location, and time period, it is possible that their creation and use were necessary to daily life, equally important as food, water, and shelter. Scholars refer to these figures as "idols" only to indicate that they functioned as venerated objects, although their exact use and meaning is unknown.

Heather Bowling, Digital Collections Content Coordinator, 2016.

Drawn from

  • Idols: The Beginning of Abstract Form, Ariadne Galleries, Inc., New York, NY, November 30, 1989 -January 31, 1990.

  • Fred S. Kleiner, Gardner's Art through the ages: a global history, Boston, MA: Cenage Learning, 2016.