Tuesday, September 6, 2011

7. Ain Sakhri Lovers Figurine (Judea, about 11,000 years old)

This erotic little statuette, found near Jerusalem, can’t have had much practical function--this is art, or at least religious art. If, indeed, the sex act and/or love was an important part of the religion practiced by its creators. Contemporary research is correcting all the mid-20th century anthropo-/archeo-logical hogwash about cults of the great Mother Goddess, fertility, always preceding the war gods worshipped by patriarchal agriculturalists. A nice theory, but the reality is proving to be less tidy. With this statue, ancient artists depicted sex, and not necessarily for purposes of fertility; usually if that’s the case, they’re at least male and female. (In Avebury, where I went a few days after scouring the British Museum, for instance, the procession of huge Sarsen Stones snaking up from the river alternate diamond (female) and lingam (male), which many suggest must be a fertility thing; here's my photo with one of each kind:

Avebury, by the way, is much bigger and more mysterious than Stonehenge.)

But back to the Ain Sakhri statue. It seems simply to be two people wrapping each other round in fond and close embrace. Meaning: sex, for no purpose other than sharing pleasure and expressing your love for another person, is powerful and deserves celebration. Doesn’t necessarily have to have anything to do with ensuring next year’s harvest, or making more little workers to help reap it.

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