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Ain Sakhri Lovers

Ain Sakhri lovers figurine

Ain Sakhri Lovers

The Ain Sakhri Lovers figurine is a sculpture that was created over 11,000 years ago and is the oldest known representation of two people engaged in a loving embrace. It was found in one of the Ain Sakhri caves near Bethlehem. The sculpture was made by carving a single rock of calcite cobble which was picked away with a stone point to create the heads, arms and leg positions of the couple.

The sculpture shows the lovers face to face. The arms of one of the couples are positioned around the shoulders of the other. While the legs are drawn up and embraced the waist of the other. The sculpture figurine lacks fine details but is expertly sculptured to allow the imagination to visualise different interpretations depending on the viewer’s perspective. Depending on the viewing angle and the shadows from the lighting on the sculpture, it can appear as a couple, or as different sexual anatomies or motifs depending on the perspective.

The sculpture was identified by a prehistorian in 1933 while visiting a small museum in Jerusalem. Enquiries led to the original discovery location within the Ain Sakhri caves, and it is from these caves that the sculpture gains its name. Excavations of the caves revealed that the cave had been used by family groups for thousands of years. Furthermore, the finds were classified as Natufian, a culture that existed from around 12,500 to 9,500 BC in the Levant.

The person who made the sculpture came from a culture which originated when the first humans began to gather and harvest plant seeds. They were hunters and are the earliest known humans to domesticate dogs, sheep, and goats. The security of a managed food programme allowed the Natufians to create more substantial communities and the capacity to produce art.

Reflections

  • Did the descendants of the Ain Sakhri Lovers migrate across Europe and the rest of the world?
  • Is this 11,000-year-old sculpture, the earliest image of a kissing couple?
  • What do you see in this figurine?

Exploring

Ain Sakhri Lovers

  • Title:                 Ain Sakhri Lovers
  • Created:           9,000 BCE
  • Period:             Natufian Culture
  • Discovered:    Ain Sakhri caves, Wadi Khareitoun near Bethlehem
  • Materials:        Stone (calcite cobble)
  • Dimensions:   102 mm high
  • Museum:         The British Museum

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“Victory belongs to the most persevering.” Napoleon

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Photo Credit: 1)British Museum [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 2) By BabelStone [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons