Over 300 clay figurines have been unearthed by archaeologists from the University of Southampton studying a Neolithic
archaeological site of Koutroulou Magoula near the Greek village of Neo Monastiri, around 160 miles from Athens, Greece.
The preliminary excavations and geophysical survey have already revealed the presence of a number of large, stone-built houses,
some with paved floors, which were built and rebuilt on the very same spot, over
Amongst the finds are plain and decorated pottery, stone and bone tools, figurines, animal and plant remains, human bones, and so on. The site is
particularly rich in clay figurines (more than 200 to date), some anthropomorphic and some human-animal hybrids.
Small ceramic figurine recovered at the Koutroulou Magoula site. Credit: To Vima
Koutroulou Magoula was occupied during the Middle Neolithic period (c. 5800 – 5300 BC) by a community of a few hundred people
who made architecturally sophisticated houses from stone and mud-bricks.
The figurines were found all over the site, with
some located on wall foundations. It’s believed the purpose of figurines was not only as aesthetic art, but also to convey
and reflect ideas about a community’s culture, society and identity.
“Figurines were thought to typically depict the female form, but our find is not only extraordinary in terms of quantity,
but also quite diverse – male, female and non-gender specific ones have been found and several depict a hybrid human-bird
figure,” says Professor Yannis Hamilakis, Co-Director of the Koutroulou Magoula Archaeology and Archaeological Ethnography
"We still have a lot of work to do studying the figurines, but they should be able to give us an enormous
amount of information about how Neolithic people interpreted the human body, their own gender and social identity and experience."
Excavations at Koutroulou Magoula were started in 2001 by Dr Nina Kyparissi (formerly Greek Archaeological Service) and
this latest project began in 2010.
The site is roughly four times the area of a football pitch and consists of a mound up
to 18 feet high featuring at least three terraces surrounded by ditches. The people who lived in the settlement appear to
have rebuilt their homes on the same building footprint generation after generation, and there is also evidence that some
of the houses were unusual in their construction.
Figurine found at the site depicting a hybrid human-bird character. Credit: To Vima
“This type of home would normally have stone foundations with mud-bricks on top, but our
investigations at Koutroulou Magoula have found some preserved with stone walls up to a metre in height, suggesting that
the walls may have been built entirely of stone, something not typical of the period," Professor Hamilakis comments.
Credit: To Vima
“The people would have been farmers who kept domestic animals, used flint or obsidian1 tools and had connections with
settlements in the nearby area. The construction of parts of the settlement suggests they worked communally, for example,
to construct the concentric ditches surrounding their homes.
“There is no evidence of a central authority to date, yet large numbers of people were able to come together and carry
out large communal and possibly socially beneficial projects.”