Spring of the Gazelles
8000 years ago in Jordan
Strange twins and sculpture calculated
to bring the pregnant womb into focus

Archaeologist Denise Schmandt-Besserat, a professor emerita of Art and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, and author of the books Before Writing, Volume 1 and Before Writing, Volume 2 has been a key archaeologist excavating the Ain Ghazal (Spring of the Gazelles) site. She describes one of the stone figurines with precision. It has "deep, clearly marked horizontal grooves," she notes, that "divide the body into three parts, the abdomen again occupying the center. Finally, the stomach is bracketed between a triple set of diagonal lines. The grooves descending along the breasts widen towards the abdomen driving the eyes on to it. In the opposite direction, the little arms form a double set of parallels that emphatically close the center of attention below the pregnant womb."

Continues Denise, "The most masterful part of the composition is the successful blending of the rigorous linear inner design with the outline of curves cascading along the shoulders, waist, hips and thighs.

"Moreover, lines and curves combine to create geometric patterns. The semi-circle of the shoulders mirrors that of the fat rolls, enclosing the torso into a full circle. Triangles are a leitmotif. Breasts, lower arms and thighs are made into three triangles switching directions. Finally, the tip of the stomach and the two upper arms form a last imposing triangle.

"Everything in the sculpture is calculated to bring the pregnant womb into focus. The lozenge composition emphasizes the round abdomen by featuring both extremities of the body tapering off symmetrically on either side. The style manipulates the female form for showcasing the bulging stomach. Some body parts are entirely eliminated. Among them are genitalia, navel, elbows, hands, fingers, armpits and neck. The chest and limbs are minimized. The breasts are flat, linear, and show no nipples. As a result, the streamlined composition concentrates upon selected fleshy parts of the body: the upper arms, thighs, fat rolls, and mostly, the inflated stomach. Proportions are skewed in order to emphasize the abdomen.

"The enormous arms taper to minuscule limbs when reaching over the stomach. The torso is lengthened to match the size of the legs so that the womb occupies the center of the figurine. Moreover, body masses are shifted. The switch between breasts and arms is perhaps most remarkable. The breasts are flat but the upper arms bulge, round and voluptuous. Finally, the buttocks are lifted to the height of the abdomen. As a result, the woman enshrines her womb with her head bent, raised thighs and folded arms."

These are compelling descriptions. But do they describe goddess figurines?

Our answer is yes. Archaeologists are constrained by their professional standards to stick to the facts. They realize that they will never know what people prior to written words were thinking when they created figurines like the ones Denise just described. However, Goddesses, a site dedicated to sharing extensive archaeological examples around the world of what could be considered prehistoric goddess-centered cultures, know the Ain Ghazal form rather well. Goddesses, is an "archaeomythology" site, so we can stick our necks out a bit further than archaeologists.

Goddesses found at Spring of the Gazelles.

All that remains of another interesting figurine found at the site is the torso, which depicts a woman cupping, or offering, one of her breasts. It is similar to another figure found from relatively the same time period at Catal Huyuck to the north in Turkey, a picture of which is shown directly below.

Other interesting finds at Ain Ghazal are drawn below. These drawings reveal sculptural objects created by prehistoric artists with aesthetic sensibilities that rival modern artists.

The alien-looking twin figures from Ain Ghazal
have received worldwide publicity.

For more twin depictions
see goddesses' look at the prehistory of twins.