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Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi/ Photo: Thierry Ollivier

Woman Dressed in a woollen Garment

ca. 2300 BCE-1700 BCE

Clad in a voluminous garment with puffed sleeves, this female statuette with an imperious bearing belongs to the Oxus civilisation, which spread in Central Asia in the late 3rd and early 2nd millennium BCE. A network of fortified settlements developed in the areas of deltas in the heart of a territory extending over modern Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and part of Afghanistan. As suppliers of raw materials like metal and lapis lazuli, they traded beyond the mountains and deserts with regions as far away as Mesopotamia, the northern coasts of the Arabian Peninsula, the Iranian plateau and the Indus Valley. Despite the loss of its calcite arms, this statuette is among the masterpieces of its kind. Like the rest of the approximately forty specimens recorded today, it is made up of several detachable parts (headdress or hair, head and dress) in materials of deliberately contrasting colours: green chlorite for the clothing and headdress and white calcite for the exposed parts of the body.

While most of these figurines are seated, this one is in a standing position and surpasses most of the others both in height (25 cm) and in the delicacy of its features. The absence of specific attributes and precise archaeological documentation makes it impossible to identify this young woman with any certainty. Sometimes majestic and sometimes rudimentary, these composite figures were frequently placed in the tombs of men and women alike to afford protection in the world beyond the grave.

In a world with no writing, this imposing female figure also appeared on certain ceremonial objects, such as goblets, seals and pins, in combat with fantastic creatures (dragons and eagle-headed spirits) in a complex mythological repertory. Of divine nature, she appears to reign over the entire Central Asian pantheon, governing the forces of the underworld and ensuring the rebirth of vegetation and preservation of the cycle of nature and water. The discovery of fragments of comparable statuettes on the sites of Quetta and Harappa in Pakistan, but also at Susa in south-west Iran, confirms the vast network of long-distance trade that characterised the end of the 3rd millennium BCE and connected the Mediterranean with the shores of the Gulf, the Indus Valley and the foothills of the Pamir range.

Artwork Details

Title: Woman Dressed in a Woollen Garment
Geography: Bactria, Central Asia
Date: ca. 2300 BCE-1700 BCE

Medium: chlorite, calcite

Classification: sculpture
Dimensions: 25.3 x 11.5 x 9.5 cm
Inventory number: LAD 2011.025
Contact for images : [email protected]
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