archived 11-01-99
Archive file# o110199b
donated by James Vandale


StrangeWeb News

The nine-thousand-year-old statues are the oldest known life-size representations of the human form--but to modern eyes they do not look quite human. Due to their big--sometimes slanting--eyes, rudimentary noses, and tiny mouths, some have compared them to space aliens. They resemble the kind popularized by Whitley Strieber's "visitors" books and Steven Spielberg's movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Ann Gunter, the curator of ancient Near Eastern art at the Sackler Museum of Asian Art in Washington, D.C., acknowledges this. She and her colleagues feel that, since the sculptures may have depicted the ancients' ancestors, the creation of features looking like "beings from some other time and place" may have been intentional, reported the August 1, 1996 Washington Post. The figures, made of plaster, and with actual human skulls within their heads, were retrieved from their longtime home at 'Ain Ghazal in Jordan after a bulldozer accidentally revealed a corner of their place of rest. The figures were in two groups, discovered in one cache. After a decade of study and restoration in Suitland, Maryland, at the Smithsonian's Conservation Analytical Lab, the public finally could view these seemingly unearthly pieces from 3,000 years before the use of writing, now that they were on display at the Sackler.

James Lochart, writing about the exhibit for the August 2 Washington City Paper, suggests another unorthodox theory that could be applied to the statues. He recalls the theory of the bicameral mind, explicated by Julian Jaynes, which posits that, until about 1000 B.C., people did not possess subjective consciousness. Decisions were supposedly carried out via auditory hallucinations--the sacred voice of authority. But he feels the Jaynes theory applies more to the famous Olmec heads (on temporary display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.) than to these small-mouthed depictions, unless "their makers had yet to fine-tune their technique...."

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