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Neolithic Figurines of Western Europe

Scarre, Chris

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Chris Scarre


Tim Insoll


Western Europe is distinguished from regions to the east, and indeed from the Central Mediterranean, by the relatively scarcity of Neolithic figurines. Figurines in durable materials such as stone, bone or terracotta are furthermore divided among a series of regional traditions that are separated in both space and time. A number of explanations suggest themselves, from intentional avoidance (Thomas 2005) to use of perishable materials, or simply perhaps diversity of ritual practice, diversity of representational practice, and social context. The focus here will be on human representations, rather than on zoomorphic figurines; although the latter are known in a number of areas, including the Baltic, and in Bandkeramik contexts (Götherström et al. 2002; Hofmann 2012; Riche et al. 2010). It should be noted, however, that several aspects of the conventional terminology may not accurately capture the symbolism and significance of figurines for these prehistoric communities. There is sometimes evidence, for example, of the elision of human and animal features (Hofmann 2012; Martinsson-Wallin 2008). Furthermore, the relationship between figurines (small scale portable artefacts) and human, or potentially human, representations in other media, such as rock art or megalithic art, must be emphasised. Among megalithic art, particular relevance attaches to statue-menhirs whose overtly human forms should be viewed within the growing recognition that many megalithic blocks of less overtly human form may also have held anthropomorphic connotations (Bueno Ramírez 2010; L’Helgouach 1997; Scarre 2007, 2011a).


Scarre, C. (2017). Neolithic Figurines of Western Europe. In T. Insoll (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of prehistoric figurines (877-900). Oxford University Press.

Acceptance Date Aug 17, 2016
Online Publication Date Apr 20, 2017
Publication Date Apr 20, 2017
Deposit Date Aug 17, 2016
Publicly Available Date Aug 24, 2016
Publisher Oxford University Press
Pages 877-900
Book Title The Oxford handbook of prehistoric figurines.


Accepted Book Chapter (343 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This is a draft of a chapter that was accepted for publication by Oxford University Press in the book 'The Oxford handbook of prehistoric figurines' edited by Tim Insoll and published in 2017.

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