Human Face Carved On Pebble 15000 Years Ago

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There is a paucity of Palaeolithic art in the southern Levant prior to 15000 years ago. The Natufian culture (15000–11500 BP; Grosman 2013) marks a threshold in the magnitude and diversity of artistic manifestations (Bar-Yosef 1997). Nevertheless, depictions of the human form remain rare—only a few representations of the human face have been reported to date. This PDF article presents a 12000-year-old example unearthed at the Late Natufian site of Nahal Ein Gev II (NEGII), just east of the Sea of Galilee, Israel (see Figure 1 PDF link below). The object provides a glimpse into Natufian conventions of human representation, and opens a rare opportunity for deeper understanding of the Natufian symbolic system.
The NEGII face is carved from a limestone pebble measuring 90×60mm.

Minimalistic manipulation of the pebble’s surface creates a simple but realistic human expression. The artist used the natural form of the pebble to represent the outline of a human head, and slightly modified the stone’s perimeter with a flat band to shape the contours of the face(see Figure 2a PDF link below). The main modification engraved on the front of the pebble consists of a T-shaped linear relief that emphasizes an eyebrow ridge and nose; two low arcs that meet at the centre of the pebble form the eyebrow ridge and then turn downward to depict a straight, elongated nose.





By skillful play with line depth and curvature,the artist has achieved a soft depiction of the cheeks and deep, shaded eye sockets (see Figure 3 PDF link below). The artistic qualities of the representation are schematic, but they present a realistic and uniquely expressive human face.

Leore Grosman

The back of the pebble is not carved but is lightly modified at the edges. Microscopic analysis shows a few small, smooth and shiny areas that may have been created by gentle polishing of the surface with a soft material such as skin or fabric, or by…… continue reading this article by clicking here.  For the Silo by Leore Grosman, with Natalie Munro and Hadas Goldgeier/ Feature image photo by Dana Shaham.

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