Seated Goddess

  • Southwest Central Asia
  • late 3rd millennium - early 2nd millennium BCE
  • Chlorite, limestone, bitumen
  • height 22.5 cm, width 22.0 cm,depth 16.5 cm

This composite figure of a seated female1 is an unusual variant of a type of statuette produced during the Bactrian Bronze Age. The figure is composed of six separate pieces: the hair, the upright torso, and the seated lower body, all made of chlorite, and the head and arms, which are made of white calcite. The torso rests on a flat, unworked area of the lower body. Both parts match in material and rather rough surface.2 However, the other pieces cannot be attributed so clearly to the figure. The hair, in contrast, is of a different stone and looks smooth and polished. It does not seem to fit particularly well on the head, which is also finely finished and shows no wear. The fragmentary arms are chalky and worn, and thus quite different in appearance; while they are flat on their undersides, there is no certain indication on the body of their placement (although there are two diagonal indentations on the torso). The statuette probably once had feet, one of which would have protruded from a small channel on the right side of the skirt.

The unusual elongated proportions of the figure, as now composed, are enhanced by the treatment of the hair, which is swept back and rolled up; incised lines show strands emanating from a central part.3 The head is characterized by large, blank, oval eyes (possibly originally painted), a slightly aquiline nose, some modeling around the mouth and cheeks, and an attempt to indicate details of the ears. The very thin neck ends in a curve and sits in a shallow depression in the chlorite upper body. The figure leans a bit to the right, and is depicted wearing a fleecy looking robe; the material is indicated by pendant triangular forms that inscribe either wavy lines or chevrons.4 The robe wraps around the body–a diagonal line for one edge of the garment is evident on the reverse–and may have been worn over another garment visible below the neckline, which is rounded in front and V shaped in back. Seated female figures like the present one have been attributed to Bactria on the basis of numerous examples seen in the Kabul bazaar.5 Rare excavated fragments, however, come from sites in Margiana (southern Turkmenistan)–a suggested center of production.6 As a type, they appear to be related to images on objects from Iran: a female figure enveloped in a wide, fleecy robe, on a silver vase of late third millennium B.C. date, assumed to come from the area of Persepolis; and females on Old Elamite seals of the twentieth century B.C. depicting royal figures.7

  1. See Ligabue and Salvatori 1988, figs. 114-15.
  2. For other examples of two-part torsos see Pottier 1984, pl. xxxvi, fig. 296.
  3. For another head with similar hair see ibid., pl. xli, fig. 303.
  4. Amiet 1988b, p. 136, discusses the texture of this garment with its voluminous “crinolines.”
  5. See Pottier 1984.
  6. See Hiebert 1994a, p. 259, fig. 3; 1994b, pp. 150-51, fig. 9.12.
  7. See Aruz 1992, pp. 115-16.