Forum Lobby

Neolithic Figurines

There is no way for us to know what clothing and decorations Neolithic people used to any great detail. Neolithic people left behind figurines, pottery and other works which could give a hint of their aesthetic interests and even clothing. The problem we must consider are that these figurines typically, at least it is generally believed, represent ritualistic subjects. We cannot directly infer that everything we see on the figure is indicative of daily life. For example, figures are almost always nude, nudity being associated with religion quite deeply (not to be confused with sexual association, though we cannot preclude the possibility that some of that existed as well), though it would be an error to assume that Neolithic people walked around nude not only because this is very rarely observed in any culture (yes there are a few African the Amazon native groups that do this still) but it would also be preclusive in the colder northern hemisphere.

While we cannot directly determine what was worn, what decorations people wore in other parts of their lives merely by looking at their figurines, we can certainly use the knowledge of what tools they had, what materials they had, their pragmatic needs and use the artwork as a basis for a sort of inspirational re-creation of what their clothing might have looked like.

Justification: This is mostly to do with clothing, but it also involves jewelry, hairstyles and other practices which are touched on in different threads. The said specifically deals with figurines and other artifacts from which information about Neolithic cultures can be gleaned, with respect to aesthetics. That is why this thread is slightly different.

What we know:

  1. The materials available (wool, leather, bast fibers, shells, paints, etc)
  2. Pragmatic needs (what the environment require or even prevented. e.g. no wool coat in the summer Levant)
  3. Their artwork (Left on pottery, figurines, and several other sources. This gives us an idea of their aesthetic interest)

This is a pretty good example of what I’m referring to. This artist has reconstructed a possible athletic for a culture using figurines from that culture. I’m not sure I agree with every part of this, but I believe this example well illustrates what I mean.

I intend to start posting figurines, mentioning their culture and time period, and what I think can be gleaned from each of them. I invite each of you to propose alternate hypotheses. I should start out by saying that I will not reply to any hypotheses that are creepier weird unless the logical basis behind them is well backed by peer-reviewed research.


I’ll start out with the Sunghir burials. Contrary to the subject of this thread, this is actually not Neolithic. This is upper Paleolithic. The reason for its inclusion is the discussion of the use of multitudes of beads. This shows a rather complex usage of beadwork Perhaps 25,000 years before the Neolithic period. Contrary to what the image says about Neanderthals, these were modern humans apparently of haploid group MtDNA groups U8c and U2*, Something which leads me to believe they were probably from different tribes through exogami.

I disagree strongly with the clothing as I believe it’s level of sophistication is a little bit beyond the scope of people. I’m not talking that the general type of clothing, but the precision of the clothing. One might also expect a loincloth, pants not having been invented yet, though it could be very short, as many of the more. But you will find that short loin cloths are typically more associated with warmer weather and colder weather are more associated with longer loincloths.

* citation

1 Like

Neolithic Vinca Culture - 5700–4500 BCE

She is an interesting one because she’s definitely wearing what looks like either a loincloth wearing very interestingly designed skirt. Her arms may have sleeves, though I have a feeling that the lines on her arms as well as those on her legs, to the side, are actually paint. The lines for the clothing are very carefully carved. Effort was placed in depicting her breast and belly button exposed. I believe she is wearing a necklace and probably some form of headgear. Those little notches, perhaps holes, on the side of her head might actually be hair buns. I’m beginning to think that it’s very likely that at least women of this culture or their hair and buns as almost every single Vinca culture figurine I have seen has these.

Key Notes:

  1. Skirt or loincloth has a curved design, possibly made by altering the weft tightness of a woven panel.
  2. Arms and legs appear to have horizontal body paint.
  3. Hair in buns.
  4. Bellybutton prominently depicted.
1 Like

Bronze age Israel -1550-1400 BCE

The reason I included this one is because it shows an interesting depiction of ceremonial clothing. It is not Neolithic, but it can be used to give you an idea of the sort of ceremonial garb that would of come out of the Neolithic in this area. As you can see, she is wearing a waist cord with strings that hang from it, perhaps beads, shells or even bronze coin shaped objects attached. Around her neck hangs a pectoral or perhaps just large necklace with the same design as a waist cord. Her headgear is more complex and may be hat.

Key Notes:

  1. The string skirt continues to appear in religious iconography / artwork.
  2. We can begin to see the transition from whatever existed in the Neolithic to the more complex skirts which will be seen 1000 years after this item.
  3. At least 2000 years after the Neolithic, ceremonial garb had not progressed to an advanced level in all locations. Nudity continued to be important for religion.
1 Like

Danube culture - 5000-3500BCE

I found this one to be very important due to the underrepresentation of male figurines in the Neolithic period. There are many hypotheses for why this is the case, though most of them tend to center on the concept of fertility worship involving a female form. What I find interesting is not only the advent of a male figurine, but the lack of decorations. Anyone familiar with cultures from the Danube knows that figurines are almost always intricately painted with designs, such as the form to the right of the man. The form to the right of the man is probably a woman. Danube culture figurines do not typically emphasize the breast, but they very much emphasize the buttocks.

Could body decoration be common among the women but not the men?

Just like with the women, the nudity among the men make sense for ritual but would not be pragmatic for everyday life, given how cold that climate can become. Though one wonders what the belts are for, given their odd addition to the otherwise nude figure.

Key Notes:

  1. Body oddly undecorated unlike similar figures from culture
  2. Subject is wholly nude other than to belts.

Mehrgarh, Pakistan - 3000 BCE

Appearing similar to most other figurines from this time period in location, we can surmise that large her buns were in vogue. You’ll note that she is wearing a pretty hefty pectoral or capelet. These caplets are also very common among this cultures figurines.

Supposition: These three women would probably have one simple loincloths, but there would be no reason to make these out of clay as they serve almost no iconographic purpose.

As you can see, other figurines from the same. Look about the same:

I have even reconstructed one, with mixed success.

Key Notes:

  1. Hefty capelets and pectorals were definitely displayed
  2. Large hair buns for the women. Unsure of men’s hair.
1 Like

The Venus of Tolentino (Italy) may have been Neolithic, though it was dated between 5ka - 12ka. Looking at the figure, we see a cow head and the typical nudity found with religion. The breasts and pronounced public area depict an adult woman.

Note her arms are crossed. Her body is decorated in linear artwork.

Key Notes:

  1. Linear artwork on body.
  2. Very distinct arm pose
1 Like

Balochistan, Pakistan 3000BCE - 2000BCE

This beautiful figure is technically just passed the Neolithic, but she is worth looking at. She has quite an elaborate headdress and what looks like a large flower. Her nudity is consistent with the use of nudity in religion. Her legs may be painted, but they may also be bangles. Her labia are visible, but it appears she also wears a waist cord. Many cultures who do not hide the genitalia do wear waist cords, to show a lack of total nudity (seen in contemporary Amazon tribes). if this were a depiction of a goddess, I don’t believe the requirement of the waist cord to show a measure of modesty all explicitly showing the nudity with a pronounced labia would make sense. I therefore believe this is the depiction of an actual person.

Key Notes:

  1. Very complex hair style
  2. Key note of a flower for decoration or ritual use
  3. Nude, but wearing waist cord, indicating lack of divinity.
  4. Large pectoral or capelet

I think the key message is that we can not know it in detail. Of course an archaeologist looks forward to a child when he finds something. Understandable, if he wishes, this is now the evidence for XYZ.
But: We also know that even Neanderthals had a high artistic expression. This requires the ability to observe, ability to implement observation, fine motor skills and artistic aspiration.
What if many of these characters are simply amateur-made fantasies? Or children’s toys? Or a talisman? The dream of a starving woman is …? A fat woman, right? With the figure, the desire for food in abundance. (pure speculation) Reverse interpretation: “If you continue to eat like that, you look like this” …
Let’s see, for example, Bhudda and by comparison the majority of the people worshiping him. And that has become much better over the past 500 years …
Similarly, it could have behaved in terms of fertility, breasts too big or too small, etc. Apart from imputed, at best, moderate artistic talent …

Interesting is the tomb of Sunghir. There we meet again these pearl strings … clay / bone? Definitely a grave decoration, I would think.

We will never truly know what Neolithic people meant by their figures. We can make some pretty good educated guesses, however. The similarities between figures for a particular culture intend to indicate cultural or perhaps religious pressures influencing their works. An example of this can be seen in early Christian cultures where everything seems to have a Christian look to it.

Artists probably use the world around them for inspiration, just as artists do today. As a result, clothing, jewelry, hairstyles and similar may not be exactly what was worn but they probably were influenced by What was seen. This means they can be a reasonably reliable window into what life looked like, aesthetically.

We can also learn some other interesting things. Women, nudity, infertility are he depiction characteristics. Figures are almost always drawn to be of adult age, and heavy emphasis is placed on their sexual maturity. These facts point to fertility being important motivating factor. We can even guess at the age of many of the figurines paste upon their morphology. Women did not wear bras back in those days, so when can get inaccurate guess of age by simply looking at the shape of the breasts.

Now there are things we can’t learn. The figurines are almost entirely needed, so we can’t know a lot of the detail about their actual clothing which they for sure wore. We can get an idea for what patterns and decorations they may have used.

@Uncasual might want to consider that the figurines from almost every Neolithic culture depict nudity as perhaps a key importance in primary religion. This is perhaps the most common feature found in Neolithic figurines. This cannot be put into the general public release (because the world now associates nudity with sex), but perhaps less clothing and more body paint might be worn during major rituals. A simple loincloth and a cloth wrap around the breasts covers everything up like a bikini, which is closer to realistic. This reflects what we know of the Neolithic culture. Also, lots of jewelry and big hairstyles.

1 Like

Also true, good arguments. It will be difficult to find a “golden middle ground” that makes the game accessible from today’s perspective.

This is reminiscent of the story Adam / Eve / Bible. There is “the realization that they were naked” and clothes made the sign that they had sinned. (The thing with the apple) Perhaps clothing was created for the purpose of concealment only by the sedentary nature. Presumably as a result of (land) ownership (possession) and the need to establish a household, to which then xyz “belongs”. And the property is hidden from concealment.
Believe, it is written of the sons of Eve, that at least one (Cain) was a peasant. Abel was probably a shepherd, so a kind of farmer.

During the cooler months, nudity is not going to be an issue unless you’re in the longhouse or hut. But during the warmer months or within the family dwelling, it would definitely be seen in a partial sense. Looking at contemporary tribes, we see that upper bodies are often not covered because there’s no practical reason unless it’s cold and it gets in the way of taking care of children. The arms legs but also renewed when it’s warm. The one thing that would not be needed is the genitalia, other than changing, swimming or perhaps certain very special ritual events. Aside from those few Amazon tribes who are wholly nude, you’ll find that genitalia is almost always covered no matter what else isn’t.

Now this game has to be rated for general audiences, so exposed upper bodies won’t work, no matter how realistic it might be.

So, how to handle ritual nudity or normal, everyday partial nudity?
I propose @Uncasual use something like a cloth upper body wrap to provide the required modesty for the rating for the game, while doing as little to damage the authenticity as possible. Where this upper body garment whenever the breasts would normally be shown. The educated audience member will realize what it is, and those who are just playing the game for fun won’t care anyway. This makes more sense than inventing some silly full-bodied dress thing that never existed anyway.

In a scenario where the person, man or woman, should be completely nude, such as a ritual or playing in the water, simply give them a small undecorated loincloth, like the one in this picture. Again, it’s simplicity will inform the educated player of what should actually be there while the casual player probably won’t even realize.

This is a simple way the doves can get past the problem of nudity. If they ever release a realism DLC, just remove these two meshes when needed and your realistic.

For my works, I always depicted the characters as they were, but I would use objects in the actual picture to cover up any parts that were not allowed to be seen. In this picture, Kaelu is being covered by two reeds. I’m not religious, but I remember seeing Bible stories involving at a many. They were always acted nude, but there would be some random plants in the way LOL