World’s Oldest Lovers
In honor of Valentine’s Day, let’s have a quick look at what the British Museum describes as the earliest-known depiction of lovers.
This calcite figurine comes to us from the Ain Sakhri caves near Bethlehem in the Judean desert. It was made by members of the Natufian culture complex around 9,000 BCE.
The Natufians were probably the world’s first culture to domesticate cereal grains, and perhaps to practice animal husbandry as well. The added stability afforded by a relatively-abundant food supply may have allowed the Natufians to congregate in large settlements and devote more time to the arts.
The sculpture was found in a cave with several artifacts indicating habitation, not a grave (1). It therefore appears to have been a figurine of domestic significance, perhaps not unlike the “goddess” figurines commonly found in later Neolithic farming sites.
1. MacGregor N. A History of the World in 100 Objects. Viking Penguin. 2011. p. 40.
Image (C) Barnaby Thieme