Figurine Use and Disposal Patterns

Ucko had briefly considered disposal patterns for his functional classes, but could make little headway. For the Neolithic Near East he had only one site with a large corpus of figures, Jarmo, and the Jarmo figurines were said to be distributed throughout the deposit, with a concentration in ashy trash deposits that was "explained by the favorable conditions there for the recovery of figurines, and by the great extent of the ashy area" (Ucko 1968:364 citing Broman 1958:3,47; see also [Broman] Morales 1983). But the Hajji Firuz figurines did show a patterned distribution and this pattern could be directly related to artifact disposal; they also exhibited consistent damage, which reflected use or disposal or both. I therefore expanded Ucko's approach by searching the ethnographic literature for information on disposal.

I also looked for evidence of the way that figures were handled when in use, predicting the kind of wear that might result from specific actions. For example, if the behavior associated with a particular functional class involved a great deal of manipulation or handling, worn areas on the surface of the artifact may be visible (Voigt 1983:Tables 28-23). Suggested disposal and wear patterns for each of Ucko's functional categories are summarized in Table 3. Using a more recent (and less rigid) approach, these patterns can be recast, setting out a series of axes along which Ucko's functional groups can be arranged, showing increasing or decreasing probability of a specific

Table 3. Figures and Figurines: Predicted Patterns of Wear, Ruinous Damage, and Disposition Associated with Functional Classes



Cult figure

Wear and damage


Vehicle of magic

Wear and damage


Initiation figure

Wear and damage Disposition

Wear and damage


Intact surface, or minor damage incurred during relatively careful handling

Localized areas of abrasion or polish may occur on surface from ritual touching (for example, at head or feet) Figure may exhibit burning, ruinous fresh breaks due to "killing"

at the time of disposal May be deposited in special purpose (ritual) structure May be deposited in inaccessible places (for example, caves, bodies of water)

Groups of figures which are similar or which differ in morphological characteristics may be associated because of the repeated deposition of figures used sequentially, or to the deposition of a number of cult figures at a single time Unlikely to be associated with ordinary refuse

Either no wear, or abrasion/polish of a type resulting from contact with a person wearing figures as an amulet Frequently exhibits burning, ruinous damage which occurred as part of the deposition process Characterized by fresh breaks in a consistent location (for ex ample, at neck, waist) May be placed in the walls or beneath the floors of houses May be deposited in burnt features, pits in open areas, bodies of water

Parts of broken figures are frequently separated at time of deposition, do not occur in same part of settlement Groups of figures may be associated by repetition of a rutual in a single locale, or by the use of several figures in a single ritual May be associated with ordinary domestic refuse Surface may exhibit minor wear from handling, especially at base May be burnt, or intact and unburnt

Frequently disposed of in inaccessible areas such as caves, bodies of water Rarely associated with domestic strucutures, houses Groups of morphologically different figures usually associated because of deposition of entire teaching group as a unit Occasionally associated with ordinary domestic refuse Surface chipped and abraded, especially at base of standing figures

Appendages frequently broken away

Broken areas are worn, abraded due to continued use

No systematic pattern of ruinous damage, except at points of structural weakness Deposited in ordinary domestic contexts, both interior and exterior Figures randomly distributed in debris, not clustered Assocated with ordinary refuse, including bones, sherds, other kinds of broken artifacts

Source: Voigt (1983:Table 29).

use given patterns of wear and disposal (Table 4). Returning to the Hajji Firuz figurines, I concluded that the majority were probably vehicles of magic and therefore documented ritual behavior, but the data were more suggestive than convincing (Voigt 1983:193-195). Far more rewarding was my next analysis ofNeolithic figurines.


From 1981 to 1984 I worked as a member cf an archaeological team investigating a small mound on the left bank of the Euphrates near a minor river

Table 4. Probability ofFigurine Function Based on Attributes

Table 4. Probability ofFigurine Function Based on Attributes

crossing. The sequence at this site extends from medieval/crusader times back to the Aceramic Neolithic (Ellis and Voigt 1982;Voigt 1985, 1988;Voigt and Ellis 1981). Today both site and surrounding villages lie under water, destroyed as the river rose behind the world'slargest earth dam. The Neolithic occupation was sampled along the eroding southern edge of the mound, exposing a narrow strip of the settlement. Four phases of occupation were defined, the earliest (phase D) resting on sterile soil and dated by radiocarbon to the tenth millennium bp (Voigt 1988). The largest sample comes from the third phase (B), which provides information on house form and settlement pattern for the Late Taurus Neolithic during the mid ninth millennium bp. While the sites in southeastern Turkey have distinctive aspects, their chipped stone industries, architecture, and use of lime containers ("white ware") link them to PPNB sites in the Levant, so the sites discussed here are usually referred to as part of the "Taurus PPNB" (see M. Ozdogan 1995, 1997a for general discussions of the Neolithic in Turkey).

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