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Rick Hauser, July 2017
Updated October 2019, L. Recht

Major finds


      The figurine corpus from ancient Urkesh is large. These small figures made of clay are remarkable for a straightforward realism that documents the fauna of the area. They are made by people who know animals. A paleozoolo‐ gist can identify many species by body type and anatomical detail. Whether a knee joint is expressed or not, for example, distinguishes carnivore from herbi‐ vore. The way animals behave is accurately observed. A sheep in a flock holds its head high so as not to get caught in brush; an equid brays, muzzle thrust up and out.
      Some of Mozanʹs figurines represent wild species (bones have been found of at least 24) – wild sheep, as well as bears and other carnivores – lean and muscular cats, hyenas with striped pelt. Domestic species can also be recognized – bulls and fat‐tailed sheep and goats and curly‐tailed dogs.
      Less certain as to species but also present among our figurines are the equids, probably three of four members of the genus – wild horses and hemions and asses. Stratified material remains can not put the date of domestication of equids much beyond the beginning of the second millennium. Among the figurines of Mozan, we have preliminary evidence of earlier domestication of equids and likely of the horse itself. While gestural reality can startle (a stallionʹs head caught in half‐turn to the right, as example), it is the detail which we take as diagnostic, changes which came with taming – long mane lying along the neck on riderʹs left, forelock, well‐defined eye‐ridges, sharp breast‐line. An analysis of stance has also contributed to the identification of domesticated animals. And, at Mozan, a number of equid figurines have harnesses – small circular marks or more realistic gear.
      Technical characteristics – color, medium, manufacture – may hold clues to function. Size, too, must be important, for a large number of the Mozan figurines are quite small, miniatures in effect. Domestic objects – bowls, jars, beds – are also represented in miniature.
      By contrast with animal figurines, human representations in clay are rare at Mozan. While recognizable, most are simple and highly stylized, as if they were defined by function – gaming pieces, perhaps, or tokens.

equid figurine
See also typological discussions:
Human figurines
Animal figurines

See also the video clip:
Animal representations at Urkesh
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