Seated Goddess

  • Late 3rd - early 2nd millennium B.C
  • Chlorite, limestone, bitumen
  • H-22.5 D-16.5 W-22
Catalogue Entry

Late 3rd‐early 2nd millennium B.C.
Chlorite, limestone, bitumen
H. 22.5 cm, W. 22.0 cm, Depth 16.5 cm
This stone image of a seated female wrapped in a garment with attached wool clumps is a specifically western Central Asian figural type. The body is made of chlorite, while the regularly formed face and neck are carved from contrasting white limestone and the light black hair and rest of the head is carved from bitumen. A fragment of a similar sculpture has been recently excavated from the Margiana region, site of the flourishing Nanazga culture. It is thought that this region was also heavily influenced by the Elamite culture, and we can see fragments of pottery with proto-Elamite script inscriptions from Gonur Tepe and silver pin with designs of seated women. This figure is extremely close to an image of a woman incised on a silver vase that is thought to come from Persepolis and to be an Elamite work from the end of the 3rd millennium.
If we consider this sculpture in this sequence of female images, we can see that the wool garment expression, the rounded collar, and the wide open, spindle-shaped eyes are all points in common with the other works. The image of the seated woman on the Elamite silver jar shows the ends of her bare feet, which means we can imagine that the two rectangular holes at her lower right hip could have been used for the attachment of feet. The silver jar is also inscribed with a proto-Elamite script text which lists the name of Narunde, the sister goddess of the god of war and fertility Kiririsa, and it is possible that the present sculpture is an image of a goddess from this earth mother goddess lineage. The face has been carved in from the back, and while something is missing from the left eye, the right eye has an inset pupil which is held in from the back by the bitumen. While this formation method can also be seen in figural images from Mesopotamia, this work shows a higher degree of finish that sets it above the other works of this type from eastern Iran and western Central Asia.