Prehistoric Figurines in Sudan

Randi Haaland and Gunnar Haaland

in The Oxford Handbook of Prehistoric Figurines

Published in print April 2017 | ISBN: 9780199675616
Published online June 2017 | e-ISBN: 9780191767913 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Prehistoric Figurines in Sudan

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  • African Archaeology
  • Prehistoric Archaeology


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The chapter presents a descriptive account of Neolithic site inventories containing figurines in the Sudan Nile Valley. Cattle figurines indicate that animal husbandry played an important role in economic life as well as in political and ritual contexts. Female figurines can be seen as a multi-vocal symbol that may evoke a wide spectrum of meanings ranging from sexuality and fertility to basic qualities in human relations— trust, dependency, and solidarity. The mother–child relation is generally associated with such qualities. Symbolic imagery (e.g. female figurines) evoking this relation serves to foster compelling ideas of solidarity in small-scale networks of relations. In Neolithic pre-state communities, security of life and property is based on ad hoc political mobilization of such small-scale networks. Emergence of more permanent, specialized politico-administrative structures serving to maintain security within societies of larger scale is associated with increase in signs (e.g. weaponry, monumental architecture) expressing male warrior-like qualities.

Keywords: Sudan; Neolithic sites; cattle figurines; female figurines; symbolic imagery; mother–child relation

Article.  8390 words. 

Subjects: African Archaeology ; Prehistoric Archaeology

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