Earliest known clay figurines in American Southwest being fertility symbols

Newest research of 3000-year-old clay figurines excavated near Tucson, Arizona, U.S.A., states that they might have been used as fertility symbols by desert farmers.

Clay figurine found in situ (by Mark Chenault via Western Digs)
Clay figurine found in situ (by Mark Chenault via Western Digs)

During excavations for a Tucson road project in 2008 a team of archaeologists found the most recent cache of figurines. Since the first of them was reported in 2005, experts have speculated about what they were. Theories for the the long, bulbous objects range from healing charms to children’s toys. A new research based on these most recently discovered figurines suggests that they are distinctive tokens of fertility, using both male and female symbolism to signify sexual duality. The 2008 artefacts were found among ruins dating back to the Early Agricultural period, (about 1850 to 3500 years ago), when settlers in this part of the Sonoran Desert had begun farming as well as foraging.

The so-called Type 1 figurine (by Mark Chenault via Western Digs)
The so-called Type 1 figurine (by Mark Chenault via Western Digs)

The figures, fashioned out of non-fired or low-fired clay, consist of a long body, measuring between 7-10 centimetres in length, sometimes decorated with human features like eyes or braided hair. At the bottom are two oblong bulbs that had been interpreted as legs or buttocks. According to the newest research, the shape is distinctly phallic, some include female traits, such as breasts. The objects may have represented both sexes at once, embodying a duality of male and female sexuality in a single figure. They could have been used for both human fertility and agricultural fertility. The experts state that the differences in morphology of the figurines suggest differences in function.

(after Western Digs & Mark Chenault)

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