Ancient Near East, Tell Brak, modern day Syria, Late Uruk Period, ca. 3300 to 3000 BCE. Hand-made from ceramic, this is one of the most famous classes of artifact from early Mesopotamia. It has a wide, bell-shaped body ringed with 22 small perforations and surmounted by two loops, forming "eyes." Eye idols were named in the 1930s by the British archaeologist Max Mallowan when he was excavating at the mound called Tell Brak and found hundreds of small anthropomorphic items of similar form to this one - some kind of simplified body topped by large discs for eyes and no other discernible facial features. He named the place where he found them the Temple of the Eyes. Size: 3.125" W x 4.125" H (7.9 cm x 10.5 cm).
More recently, items like this one have been found beyond the Temple of the Eyes, leading French archaeologist Catherine Breniquet to speculate that examples like this one - characterized as a Type 2, for its bell-shaped body and a neck supporting two perforated circles - could have also been used for separating wool while spinning. The object would have been placed in front of a seated person who used the holes to separate two or three strands and then twist them together. Artwork on cylinder seals from Uruk seems to support this hypothesis. Other scholars have suggested they might have been lids for narrow jars or parts of a firedog. What do you think this mysterious object might have been? See a very similar example with its original shiny red paint still visible at the Louvre (https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/eye-idol).
This piece has been tested using thermoluminescence (TL) analysis and has been found to be ancient and of the period stated. A full report will accompany purchase.
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection
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