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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Professor Robin Skeates

Skeates, Robin (2017). Prehistoric figurines in Italy. In The Oxford Handbook of Prehistoric Figurines. Insoll, Tim Oxford: Oxford University Press. 777-798.

Author(s) from Durham


An overview is provided of anthropomorphic figurines in peninsular Italy and Sicily between the Palaeolithic and Copper Age. Some updated patterns in the data and contextual interpretations of the production, use, and deposition of figurines are presented. For the Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic figurines, we can think about the performative nature of their manufacture, handling, inspection, and deposition at key residential sites, and about their symbolic significance as representations of pregnant women’s bodies. In the Neolithic and early Copper Age the focus shifts from the belly and breasts to the head and breasts, sometimes elaborated by hairstyles, necklaces, abstract symbols, and colour. The large number and variety of forms give the impression of localized production, usages, and understandings. In addition to domestic use, from the Middle Neolithic onwards, figurines were also handled, displayed, and deposited more purposefully at cemeteries and in other ritual contexts.