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DR. SYED ANIS HASHIM
Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums Ministry of Education, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
It is with pleasure that we welcome the present contribution of Dr. Anis Hashim in the form of an occasional paper published by the Department of Antiquities. The subject is a fascinating one. The focus of analysis and comparison is on the abundant remains of clay figurines excavated from the Hellenistic influenced settlement of Thaj in eastern Saudi Arabia. It is dated to the second half of the pt millenium B.C., and later. Naturally, a study of this sort of small finds will be of great significance to the overall picture of interpretation for the settlement of Thaj. There will, hopefully, be further contributions from Dr. Hashim to complement this important site. We encourage him and other colleagues in the Department to enrich the record by bringing more analytical studies of Arabian archaeology into publication.
Dr. Abdullah H. Masry Asst. Dep. Minister for Antiquities and Museum Affairs and Editor in Chief,
Atlal Ihe Journal of Saudi Arabian Archaeology
Thaj is one of the most important and well known 1st mill.B.C archaeological site in Saudi Arabia. It is located (latitude 26°52.5' north, longitude 48°42.9' east) in the Eastern Province of the Kingdom, and has attracted the attention of scholars from the very beginning of this century, (Lorimer, 1908 ) , ( Dickson, 1954 ) ( Mandiville , 1963) (Lapp, 1963) and Parr, 1964) . This site is 95 km. due east from the coastal, now identified, city of Jubail. It lies on the traditional route of Yemen via Wadi Dawasir and Qaryat al - Faw. The site is bounded by the remains of ancient walls with several building complexes and burials of archaeological importance lying outside the perimeters. The Department of Antiquities and Museums carried out a series of excavations at the site of ancient Thaj which included areas of city walls, towers and the so called iron mound. The excavation exposed occupation deposits of nearly 2m. deep showing five occupational phases. From the excavations many types of remains were recovered including coins, pottery, iron slag, shells and terracotta figurines, ( Atlal , vol.8, 1984, p. 41ft. and vol. 9, 1985, p.55ff) In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia there are not many sites which have provided terracotta figurines in large number. Some of the figurines have been recovered from al - Faw ( Ansari, 1982 ) and some from Marib, Najran, Tayma, Madain Saleh and its surroundings. Therefore, it was thought that Thaj was one of the biggest centers where terracotta figurines were produced and used. Due to this reason special interest was taken to study these figurines, critically and comparatively, in their technical , typological and iconographical aspects.
Typological Study of the Figurines
This aspect of study has been carried out on the basis of two diagnostic features - form and style. On the basis of form these figurines have been divided into two main groups- animal figurines and human figurines. Human figurines are represented in both male and female forms. A total number of six heads and five busts of male human figurines have been discovered. These figurines have been classified into two subforms - gracile and robust. The gracile category of figurines usually represents short and light bust with a small mouth either with flat nose or with sharp one, and sometimes with brachycephalic head. Two of the figurines of this category represent a physical disability on the person. On one of the figurines, the right side of the face shows effect of paralysis. The severe effect of this disease is represented very effectively by turning the mouth and eyes obliquely (fig.3). Another one, which also belong to this category, is represented by a damaged eye. One of the eyes is normal and the other one is deeply sunk inside the socket of the eye (fig.2). Probably these figurines were among the items of votive offerings to their deities in desire to seek remedy from those diseases. This type of offerings were not a new phenomenon in the ancient cultures, however it is the first time to be noted in Saudi Arabian antiquities. The robust form is represented with broad chest, muscular body, narrow waist and tall bust. One of the busts of this form represents a
powerful male, probably a deity of some sort (fig.8) This bust may be compared with the bust of Marduk of the Babylonian pantheon, Zeus of the Greek's or Hadad of the Nabataean's. Other figurine of this group represents a man with locked hair on the middle of the head. Half of the hair part is broken. Locking of the hair on the head is often found on Hellenistic sculptures, but this style is quite different (fig.7). The kind of hair style which has been represented on this figurine, could be compared with the terracotta sculptures of ancient India Produced between 3rd cent. B.C. and 3rd Cent. A.D. Locked hair on the middle of the head on a male statuette also has been discovered from al-Faw (Ansari, 1982). Another head of a figurine represents a man with Assyrian / Neo-Babylonian features (fig. 5) . The head is represented with a long beard and moustache, large facial features, fluffy noses, sharp eyes and thick eyebrows. It is covered in bell-shaped style from which two tresses of hair hang down to the neck (Gazdar 1984). Probably this was a representation of a priest. In some of the figurines of this category garlands in the form of incised dots also have been shown.
A total number of 20 pieces of female figurines have been discovered. Most of them have been represented in seated form. The main features of these figurines are prominent breasts, attached separately to body, heavy and protruding buttocks, narrow waists, thick and fleshy thighs, streched legs and feet with finger marks on them. (fig.9) to (29).
These figurines are generally disproportionate to relative sizes of their bodies. Most of the figurines have been represented with out draperies but are adorned with ornaments on the neck waist and wrist. Pubic hair is clearly shown on the figurines either by short strokes or dots. Some of the figurines bear a small triangular mark with few dots on the abdomen, probably symbolising early pregnancy in the form of a cluster of cells and some bear semi-crescent mark filled with short notches, probably symboIising late stages of pregnancy. (fig's 24.25) . Two types of hair style have been represented by the figurines. First, plaited design in three treses, one in the middle and two on either side of the back. (fig 26). The same style of hair can be noticed from a figurine of al-Faw (Ansari. 1982). In the second style, a whole bunch of hair is woven in one single strip and lying on the shoulder. (fig. 27). This style is comparable to the lock of hair reaching down over the shoulder of the Ma-in' relief representing a Nabataean diety (Gleuck «1965» p. 223). This evidence may indicates the practice of growing hair among the women folk. In most of the female figurines, the lower part of the body is very heavy. It shows that obesity was quite common among the women and was symbol of social status. Representation of female figurines adorned with ornaments and with out drapery, seated in a graceful form with heavy personality and prominently exposed private parts of the body indicates that they were not the representation of ordinary women or toys but of super-human beings in the form of mother goddesses, and hence, there was no need for them to wear
wordly clothes. They were the mothers of all living objects including plants and creatures and a symbol of prosperity, fertility and hope of better eternal life after the death. Obesity, heavyness of their breasts, sitting in a graceful form, all these aspects represent their greatness and respect. If we compare these figurines with Hellenistic terracottas of the Medittaranean world, we find that Hellenistic goddesses were always depicted with draperies. Representation of mother goddess with out drapery was a phenomenon of the Mycananean period in Greece and Harappan period of the Indus Valley. During classical and Hellenistic Greece this pattern was changed but was continued in the Indian sub continent till very late. Evidence of that tradition can be found in the sculptures of Khajuraho in central India, which was produced in the 10th cent. A.D. Saudi Arabian ancient art does not provide any evidence of mother goddess in this form. In the rock art of the peninsula human figurines are always schematized and idoliform representations marked with facial features. However, it has provided an evidence of a typical form of mother goddess with tall slim body and flying hair. The tradition of worshipping mothher goddess of this form named Alia was prevalent among the Bedouins few decade before the advent of Islam (Majeed Khan «1988» P. 37). Few figures of mother goddess have been noticed from the southern part of Saudi Arabia, which can not be dated earlier than the Iron Age c. 1000 B.C. Female figures belonging to rock arts of Chalco lithic period have not been noticed. Only male figures are depicted with a highly exagerated reproductive organs (Majeed Khan «1988» p.191), probably showing the
importance of the genital parts as a symbol of fertility and progeny. In the Iron Age of the region this form of art was simplified and in the Neolithic period these were never shown on human figures. A close look of the rock art of the Chalco lithic and Bronze Ages of the Kingdom indicates male domination over the society, specially in the case of religion where male deities were mostly depicted probably as creator of the world, as it was Marduk in Babylonia, Zeus in Greece, Shiva as creator of the world in India and Hadad in Petra. In later period, it seems that, gradually the importance of male deities were declining and female deities in the form of mother goddesses of 3rd millenium B. c., from the ancient civilizations of the East and the West were again emerging in the region. Probably, it was due to the influence of Babylon from the East and Hellenistic world from the West. At Thaj, this influence was felt due to its cosmopolitan nature at that time, where peoples from many parts of the world with diverse cultural and religious back grounds were meeting being a big commercial center not far from the shores of the Gulf . Another group of figurines recovered from Thaj are animals and birds. These. includes camel, bull, lion, horse, cobra, dolphin, eagle and owl.
mark known as' wusum' in Arabic, also were shown either on the neck or thigh of the camel. It is curious to note that those animals and birds which were having some mythological backgrounds either in Sumerian, Babylonian, Indus Valley, Greek, Palmyrene or in Nabataean were only represented in figurine form. For example, the camel was a very important animal in the pre-Islamic society of Mesopotamia and other parts of Arabia. It was considered as the desert -ship as well as symbol of prosperity. Even after death, camels were sacrificed and burried along with the deceased as meal1l' for travelling to the outer world. Such evidence have been discovered from the excavations of burial mounds of Dhahran where camel skeletons have been recovered along with human skeletons. the importance of the camels was continued even in the later periods. The - Nabataeans felt even importance for this animal same as the other animals which represented in the figurines.
There was a high sign~ficance of bull in the Sumerian, Babylonian and Indus Valley religion. Bull was also represented in the cult of Zeus as a fertilizing power. This theme was borrowed by the Nabataeans. In their iconography bull breed usually shown is the Indian hump or zebu. Two figurine heads which have been discovered from Thaj excavations are Indian humped bull. (fig.35)
It is represented in a crude form but in a very furious attitude. Lion and tiger both are generally associated with the deities of the ancient East. In the Mesopotamian religion it was represented as a power and Hindu religion attached to goddess «Durga» as her vehicle. In
One of the most common animals represented in terracotta figurines is the camel (fig. 29, 35). This animal has been represented in various styles and decorations. Sometimes, ownership
the Nabataean religion lion is usually represented as animal in waiting to goddess, «Atargatis» consort of Hadad (Glueck 1965). (fig. 36).
This animal had the same importance as the camel, and was associated with faciliated travel in the darkness after death. Horses and camels, both animals were added to the commemorative relief of the Nabataeans (Brian Doe «1971» P.242). (fig. 37).
its importance in that society. However, the Nabataeans had very intimate relation with sea animals especially with the dolphins, with their desire to secure survival and safety for themselves along the unknown route they would have to travel after death (Glueck «1965». p.359). This was attached to almost all the deities of the Nabataean cult. (fig. 39). A complete bronze statue of a dolphin has been discovered from AI-Faw (Ansari, 1982), suggesting association with dolphins in their religious cult. The same possibility cannot be ruled out for Thaj also. Among the birds two terracotta heads, one representing the eagle (fig. 40) and the other an owl have been discovered. The eagle was one of the most important birds in Babylonian religion, and generally shown with double heads. It was also the most important bird in the Nabataean religion, representing Zeus-Hadad and associated with Atargatis, consort of Hadad (Brian Doe «1971» p.473). At Madain Saleh the eagle is generally represented along with a serpent. Other interesting figurine in the bird series is an owl's head (fig.41). This bird was also having a considerable place in Babylonian religion and very much importance in Hellenistic religion symbolising knowledge and wisdom and usually associated with the goddess Athena of the Greek pantheon. One of the Egyptian pharaohs Tachos, struck the coins bearing owl in 361 B.C. (Minerva, vol. 1 «1990»). Probably the idea of representing this bird was due to the influence of Hellinism in the region.
This animal is represented in the form of a cobra. The serpent in general was considered to as an old agent of healing and fertility (Brian Doe «1971» pp.907-908), and was connected with the promise of immortality of life after death. It was of a high reputation in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Syria, and in Asia Minor. In Greece it was associated with Zeus and in India as curl of lord Shiva. Due to Egyptian and Parthian influences it was adopted in the Nabataean religion. The sancutury of the serpent at Madain Saleh in northern Saudi Arabia is a striking example of its cult. (fig. 38).
Only a head portion of this animal has been found from the excavations. (fig. 39). An image of Sya creature, probably a seal, which bears an inscription of the Assyrian King Ashurbel Kala was found, (now kept in the Istanbul Museum), which he erected in the gate way of his new palace built in the city of Ashur in Iraq (Gadd, c.J. «1948» p23). We do not know much about
Classification of Figurines on the Basis of Stratigraphical Sequences and their Corresponding Styles
Under this aspect the figurines have been classified into two phases.
Early phase: and later phase. Early phase:- In the early phase there is a crude representation of figurines, specially on human figurines where shoulder and waist are hardly distinguishable. In most of the figurines there is no harmony between heads and legs (Gazdar «1984»), and few of them are cylindrical in shape. The base of the figurines are big and slightly hallow. Decorations are usually below the belly and on some parts of the body e.g. breast and hair were added with separate piece of clay. Eyes are slanted and more frequently rounded. Animal figurines of this period are mostly represented by camels with conical legs, high neck and up-raised tail which could be compared with rock art representation throughout the Kingdom . Later Phase: In the later phase there are better
important figurines of this phase is represented by a head portion of a Assyrian! Neo-Babylonian priest as it ,has been discussed earlier. Some of the human figurines represent abnormalities e.g. in two of the figurines one breast is large and another one very small representing some anamoly in the breast. Male human figurines representing paralysis and eye disease also belong to this phase. In some of the camel figurines of this phase indented decorations and etched marks as well as owner's mark known as 'wusum' are also shown either on thigh or neck of the animals. Camels are represented either in rest or in movement with open mouth and sometimes with erect ears. On some of the camels, back saddles are also shown by etched marks. Some of the features are common on the figurines of both phases. For example, female figurines are always represented with heavy breast, thick thighs, protruded buttocks, broad hips and pubic hairs. Obesity is a very common feature in female figurines. Most of the female figurines are represented with curved arms, supporting or touching their breasts with both hands. Most of these figurines are in seated posture with spread legs. Ornamentation on the neck, breast and wrist is also a common feature. Animal figurines, especially camels are generally represented with conical legs, long necks and turned tails in both phases. Other animals are represented in a quiet position without movement.
representations of figurines than the earlier phase. During this phase we find a variety of animals and human figurines showing various features. Animal figurines of this period are produced in the forms of camel, horse,lion, bull, eagle and owl. Human figurines are made with clear differences between shoulder and legs, but bases are generally smaller, legs are out of proportion to the feet with decorations on the belly directly below the breast. One of the
Motifs and Patterns on Terracotta Figurines
A total number of fifteen incised decoration motifs have been depicted on the figurines. These include: Dots arranged in lines; Dots arranged to form a cross; iii. Dots arranged in semi - circular form; IV. A band of oblique lines (right to left); v. A band of oblique lines (left to right); VI. A group of three concave lines; vii. A vertical line with dots on the left; viii. Dots between two oblique/vertical lines; ix. Dots between two horizontal lines; x. Bands of double horizontal lines with dots; Xl. A convex line with dots; xii. Triangle with dots; xiii. Arrangement of crescent in oblique form; xiv. Notching in semi- circular form; and xv. Amoebic structure with dots on the outer wall (chart 3).
of camel figurines representing 'wusum' ownership mark. The 'wusum' marks also have been discovered on the rock art camels scenes in the Kingdom. This type of marks are still used to indicate ownership of the animals among the Bedouins. Motifs of line and dots, double lines and dots etc. were used to represent ornaments on the neck, breast and waist of mother goddesses.
Types of Eyes on the Figurines
A total number of eight types of eyes have been represented on the figurines (chart 3). These includes double crescent, oval shape in horizontal position, pointed eyes, eyes pointed towards nose, round eyes, oval shape in slanting position-, slanting upwards and slanting downwards. In most of the cases bulging irises have been shown. First four types of eyes are shown on human figurines and last four, which are very common, found on all types of figurines including human, animal and bird.
All these motifs and patterns are very simple which are generally found on pottery. One of the most common motifs is the line and dots decoration. A line is a very simple form of decoration and dots perhaps represent beads which was a very common type of decoration at that time, probably due to influence of the pearling industry in the Gulf. This motif was also common among the Nabataeans. The motif of triangle with few dots and etching in half circular shape are shown on the abdomen of mother goddesses. Patterns like cross dots and amoebic structures with dots are found mostly on necks and thighs
Iron Slags Representing Figurines
Along with the terracotta figurines many pieces of iron slags have been discovered from the site. Most of these pieces look like figurines representing humans and birds. One of these pieces resembles a girl in a dancing pose (fig.41) lifting one of her legs. The second piece resembles a bust of man (fig.43) and third resembles a sitting bird (duck) (fig.45). All these pieces were probably collected as natural representations of
their deities. Most of them were discovered from a place which was assumed to be an iron mound by the excavators, (Gazdar (1984). These iron slag pieces were accompanied with broken pieces of ceramic incense burners, mostly in square shape, engraved in semi-circular form, on the legs and the front rim, and painted with white slip. All of these incense burners were used only once as we find very little burning marks inside them.
Technical Aspects of the Figurines
Macroscopic study shows that th.ree types of clay have been used for producing figurines. a. Fine levigated clay without tampering material; b. Medium grained clay tampered with small pieces of chert; c. Coarse sandy type of clay tampered with chert pieces. All the figurines are hand made, wheels and moulds have not been used at all. This study suggests that most of the figurines were prepared into two stages. At the first stage, a small lump of clay was given a desirable shape with rough features. On the second stage, when the figurine was still leather hard, a second thick layer of fine clay was applied. When the second layer became leather hard, a desirable shape was given and ornaments and other features were depicted on the figurines by a sharp instrument, either of wood or iron. Some ot the figurines were prepared directly with coarse and sandy type of clay. Such figurines are generally very crude in shape, and in deteriorating condition due to salt
deposit on the surface. In most of the figurines, hands, legs and necks were separately attached to the torso with a thin wooden stick. A transverse section of a neck piece of a camel figurine, which was attached to the torso with a stick, shows four rings. The first ring shows a very thin layer of white clay, which was used as slip to whitewash the figurine, second ring which is about 2mm. thick, shows a fine levigated clay, third ring which is quite thick, shows coarse grained clay and the fourth ring is a burnt stick wood in charcoal form. It seems that green twigs were mostly used to attach the joints, because due to smokes from the twigs, while firing, the whole inside area of figurine is blackened, inspite of a laterite clay which turns red after firing. When the figurines were sun dried, they were given a slip of either white colour consisting of thick liquid of calcium carbonate (cac03) or iron oxide (Fe 0) which turn, after firing, white or red respectively.
It seems that only oxidation technique was used in firing. In most of the firing a high temperature of more than 600 c. was given and the oxidation process was usually complete, because figurines mostly turned red below the slip. Some of the figurines, at certain places, have turned partly black and in few cases totally black. It was due to reduction of air while firing and smoking fuel e.g. camel dung, goat droppings and green vegetations. Black smoky spots on the figurines indicate that open type of kilns were used where the temperature was not controlled. An excavation, outside of the city
wall at Thaj indicates the presence of a kiln of Akkadian or Aramaic type. The area excavated comprises three rooms, a courtyard with a kiln and deposit of ash and pieces of pottery in large quantity, but the detail about the kiln is not available (Eskoubi, 1985). Probably, that was the place where pottery was made and fired. Therefore, it is quite possible that in the later period, a permanent type of kiln for firing, was in use and hence showing improvements over the earlier periods.
Hellenistic religion. It clearly indicates that Babylonian influence was already there at Thaj. The figurine of a priest with typical Assyrian features also confirms this fact. Female figurines from the first phase, which are very crude in form also testify some of the typical Babylonian features like heavy hips, protruded buttocks, sitting position with out drapery and holding the breasts with both hands; plaiting of hair and bead motifs are also of a typical Babylonian character. In the second phase of Thaj when the figurines are more developed in style, representation and decorations, show Nabataean influence. Some of the figurines representing bulging forehead, flatttened nose, deeply sunk eye sockets, protruding irisis, rounded cheeks, slightly open mouth, full lip and pronounced chin are typically Nabataean in features. The only difference is that these features are well executed on the rock panels at Petra and on the other Nabataean sites, but on terracottas those features are rendered in more crude forms. In most of the Nabataean statuettes necks were intentionally made unusually long and were inserted into heads (Glueck «1965» P. 222). At Thaj also the same method has been used to produce human and animal figurines in the later stage. In the Nabataean iconography bull breed usually shown is the Indian humped bull or zebu. Two of the figurines which have been discovered from Thaj represent Indian humped bulls only. The ceramic incense burners which were discovered by Lapp (Lapp, 1963) from the surface of the Thaj site, also, seem related to the Nabataeans type. Many more incense burner of
Babylonian and Nabataean Influences on the Figurines
A close study of the figurines show that most of them were produced representing animals and birds connected either to Babylonian religion or to Nabataean. These animals were camel, horse, bull, lion, sea animal - dolphin, snake, vulture and owl. Common animals like dogs, cats, cow, goat fish, birds and lizards were not produced. It is interesting to note that some of the animals such as snake and owl were also associated with Hellinism. The terracottas of Thaj, which belong to the first phase of figurines and has been dated, on the presence of Attic Greek pottery, 3rd cen. B.C., include human figurines, camel, lion, snake, and sea animal figurines identified as dolphin. If we accept this date, it means that these figurines were produced when the Failaka island was coming under the influence of Hellinism and just after the Celucid period at Thaj as the excavation of earlier layers indicate . These figurines were certainly not produced due to Hellenistic influence, as there is no place for such animals like lion, camel and dolphin in the
similar type have been recovered from the excavations at Thaj, bearing the same features, which also confirms the Nabataean influence on the ceramic religious art. Some of the attributes of religious iconography, which are found on representational art of Babylonian religion, are very prominent in the Nabataean art at Petra an? are represented in the terracotta form at ThaJ. e.g. seated masculine figures representing gods, mother goddesses without draperies, and in most cases holding their breasts, plaiting and braiding of hairs with particular style, bead motifs etc. According to some ancient sources, it seems that idolatory was not a common practice in many parts of Arabia. It was introduced in Makkah by Amr bin Lahi from Syria, only a short time before the advent of Islam (Ibn Hisham Sira Egyptian Edit 27). Here, though reference is made for makkah, it is also possible that in the other parts of Arabia, within the territory of modern Saudi Arabia, this tradition of worship was not prevalent and was brought through foreign influences. Hence the possibility of idol worship from Babylonia, through some new settlers, cannot be ruled out at Thaj before 3rd cen B.C. Probably, later on, this tradition was inspired and continued at Thaj through influence of Hellenism from the Failaka island and the Nabataeans from Petra. After the downfall of the Nabataeans at the end of 3rd cent. A.D. this tradition of idol worship was wiped out from the region and was probably revived by Amr bin Lahi, as our reference says.
The most interesting fact that emerges from this study is that all the terracottas, which were produced at Thaj, were religious objects and not toys as speculated by the excavators (Gazdar 1984) One of the reasons for this is that very common animals like goats and sheeps, cats and dogs, foxes and jackals, gazelles, ibexes, lizards etc., which are generally found depicted on the rock art of the kingdom, were ,not produced. Figurines were produced either to represent their deities or the animals and birds related to their mythological legends. Some of the figurines were also produced as votive offerings representing disabilities and diseases. Animals, which were represented, were either related to Babylonian religion or Nabataeans. Few animals and birds e.g. bull, snake and owls, were also related to Hellinism. Terracottas of Thaj. from the first phase of production dated to early 3rd cent. B. C., representing female figurines in the form of mother goddesses and animals like camel, lion, snake, and sea ,animal are certainly of Babylonian origin, because these figurines do not show Hellenistic influences which had just started at Failaka island and the Nabataeans were not yet evolved in the region. Therefore, it clearly indicates that Babylonian influences were already there at Thaj. A human figurine representing Assyrian / Neo - Babylonian priest also confirms this fact. The second, point that emerges from this study is that, almost all the female figurines are shown without draperies, adorned with ornaments and with plaited hair. Most of them have some symbolic marks either on their abdomen,
at the first stage of production or on the belly, in the second stage of production. These features indicate that they were the representations of mother goddesses symbolising fertility and hence prosperity in every aspects of life. A number of female figurines in comparison to male figurines indicates that female deities were having a dominant part in the society . Male deities were only few and probably were produced as consorts of goddesses. Votive offering was the main part of their religious life. It also seems that there was another religious custom in which effigies and parts of the bodies e.g. arms, legs of disabled and diseased persons, in terracottas, were offered to their deities, naturally, in the hope of getting rid of those diseases. Most of the camel figurines generally bear a kind of mark known as 'wusum', either. on the thighs or on the necks. At present also such type of marks are used to brand animals among the nomadic Bedouins, to show the ownership. Adornment of female figurines clearly indicates that jewellery was very common among women folk, but the men were not fond of jewellery. Among women two types of hair style were popular, in one style hair was plaited into three treasses which w.ere usually kept on the back, and in other style a thick plaited treass of hair was made which was usually lying on the right shoulder. Limited spread of terracotta figurines at the archaeological sites in the kingdom suggests that idol worship was not a common practice in this part of Arabia, and was probably brought through some foreign sources. It seems that in the beginning their religion was polytheistic and Eastern in origin and prone to accept new rituals
and deities of any religion. The result was that when the Hellenistic wave came, they accepted some Hellenistic rituals and religious practices. In the later period when the Nabataean influx started, they blindly accepted their cult and started producing icons and objects which were very common among the Nabataeans. Probably the Nabataeans practices more suited to their taste as that too were having almost common language and socio-cultural backgrounds. In the field of pottery technology, it seems that they were well acquainted with ceramic properties, especially in the second phase of production. Most of the figurines were well baked at a high temperature of more than 600°c. There kilns were of open type and mostly they were using oxidation process as their figurines are generally red, below the white slip of calcium carbonate, which was generally applied before firing. It is also evident that in the first phase they had kept pieces of iron slag resembling figurines as a natural and undestructive representations of their deities and related animals. This reflects their faith and respect towards their deities. The study of these figurines in general shows that, though there are stylistic and stratigraphical differences, they represent almost common features. It suggests that all the phases of Thaj were occupied by a particular ethnic group having a common socio-cultural background; though, there was some external influences from time to time at different periods. The last phase of Thaj is represented by a strong influence of the Nabataeans and probably that remained there until their uprooting at the end of c. 3rd cent. A.D.
I offer my sincere gratitude to Dr. Abdullah H. Masry, Assistant Deputy Minister for Antiquities & Museum Affairs, for providing me an opportunity and permission to work on terracotta figurines from Thaj. I am also very grateful to Mr. Abdulrahman A. AI-Zahrani, General supervisor of Atlal and Publication Division, for
Finally, I must pay my sincere thanks to Dr. Hamid Abu Duruk, Director Research and Excavation Center and to all members of Thaj excavation teams, on whose academic labor my present study is based.
Ansari A.R. 1981 Qaryat al - Faw, A Portrait of pre - Islamic Civilazation in Saudi Arabia, University of Riyadh. Brian Doe 1971 Southern Arabia, Thames and Hudson 1985 Eskoubi K.H et.a\., Excavation at Thaj, Vol, 9, AlIal, Dept. of Antiquities and Museums, Riyadh. Gadd C.J. 1948 'Iraq' vo\. x part 1. British School of Archaeology, Iraq. Gazdar M.S.,et. al 1984 Excavations at Thaj , AlIal, vo\. 8, Dept. of Antiquities and Museums, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia George K.M. 1986 Archaeology of Kerala, umpublished Ph.D. thesis. M.S.University, Baroda Glueck Nelson 1965 Deities and Dolphins, Farrar Straus and Giroux, U.S.A Hashim S.A. 1986-87 Terracottas and Its Relation with Tribal Tradition of Worship in Gujarat, India, Journal of Oriental Institute, Baroda, Vo1.36. No.1 - 4. Ibn Hisham Sira, Egyptian Edit, 27 Qouted from Arabia before Mohammed (P.B.U.H.) by Leary 0., Kegan Faul, London, 1927 Lorimer, J.G. 1908 Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, Oman and Central Arabia, Calcutta, 11 , P. 1234. Majeed Khan 1988 Prehistoric Rock Art of Northern Arabia and in Wadi Damm, unpublished thesis, University of Southampton. Mandaville J. 1963 Thaj, A Pre- Islamic Site in Northeastern Arabia, Bulletin of American Institute of Oriental Research, 172 : 9 - 20 Minerva (An archaeological news Journal) 1990 Vol 1 , No.1, London Lapp W.P. 1963 Observations on the Pottery of Thaj, BASOR, No. 172 Potts D., Thaj in the light of Recent Research, 1983 AlIal, vol. 7, Dept. of Antiquities, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The sequence of plates accords with the practice of Arabic language publications.
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. A~ 4>..,J ,A
7 - Female figurine
8 - Bust of a camel with turned tail on the back
vol. 8 , pI. 82
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10 - Figurine
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vol. 9 . pI. 37
in a snake
9 . Lion figurine
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't'\ II - Figurine
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in owl's shape
vol. 9 . pI. 31
in a dancing
The sequence of plates accords with the practice of Arabic language publications.
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8 - Bust of a camel with turned tail on the back
7 - Female
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10 - Figurine in a snake form
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vol. 9 , pI. 37
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9 - Lion figurine
vol. 8 , pI. 81
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. 'r\ II - Figurine
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in owl's shape Reprinted
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vol. 9 . pI. 31
12 - Girl in a dancing
.n 2 - Human
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9 • pl. 34
I - Human
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face Reprinted form Atlal
•Vol. 9 , pl. 34
with one eye Reprinted
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vol. 9 , pI. 37
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man with Assyrian
3 . Human
. ~I 6 - Female
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5 - Female
with hair locks
on the shoulder
Types of Eyes
Name of Figurines
Double Crescent with Dots
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Oval Shaped in Horizontal Position with Dots
Pointed Eyes with Do~
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Eyes Pointed Towards Nose with Dots
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Round Eyes with Dots
Human and Animal Figurines
Oval Shaped in Oblique Position, Tapering Upwards.
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Human and Animal Figurines
Oval Shaped in Oblique Position, Tapering Down Wards.
Human and Animal Figurines
Dots Arranged in Lines
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Dots Arranged to Form a Cross
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Dots Arranged in Semi - Circular from
a Band of Oblique Lines (Right to Left)-
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a Band of Oblique Lines (Left to Right)
a group of Three Concave Lines
a Vertical Line With Dots on the Left
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Dots Between two Oblique / Vertical Lines
Dots Between two Horizontal Lines
Bands of Double Horizontal Lines with Dots
10 - , •
a Convex Line with Dots
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Triangle with Dots
12 - ,y
Arrangement of Crescent in Oblique form
Notching in Semi - Circular Form
AmoebicStructure With Dotson the outer Wall
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14 - , t
2 - y
3·,4 - t
Slightly Curved Horizontal Line
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Oblique Lines (Left to Right)
Oblique Lines (Right to Left)
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40 - Eagle's head.
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43 . Bust of a man, iron slag.
42 . Girl in dancing posture, iron slag .
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45 • A sitting bird (probably duck) , iron slag.
44 - Camel's neck, iron slag.
32 - Camel's neck .
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3S . Bull's head.
34 - Leg of a sitting camel with attached tail.
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...l...I~_1"'\ 36 - Lion figurine .
37 - Bust of a horse figurine.
39 - Dolphin's head.
38 - Snake (cobra) figurine.
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25 - Bust of a female figurine with tiny notches on the belly.
Bust of a female figurine, with triangle mark on abdomen .
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27 - Treasses of hair on the shoulder of a female figurine .
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29 . Camel's head with incised grooves.
28 • Treasses of hair on the shoulder female figurine.
30 - Camel's head with incised grooves.
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18 - Female fiprine
with neck ornaments .
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19 - Lower part of a female figurine.
17 - Female figurine in seated form .
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21 - Leg of a female fIgUrine with fmger marks.
20 - Leg of a female figurine with fmger marks .
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23 • An arm of female figurine.
22 - Base of a female figurine in hell-shaped form.
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10 - Bust of a female figurine. 9 - Bust of a female figurine.
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12 - Female figurine.
II - Female
figurine in seated form.
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14 - Bust of a female figurine ;'ith abnormal breasts.
13 - Bust of a female figurine .
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16 - female figurine.
15 • Female figurine.
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2 - Head of a male figurine, robust form, Terracotta, eye disease.
1 . Head of a male figurine, robust form, Terracotta.
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4 • Head of a male figurine, gracile form .
3 • Head of a male figurine, gracile form, paralysed face.
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6 • Head of a male figurine, gracile.
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8 - Bust of a male figurine, robust.
7 • Head of a male figurine, robust, locking of hair on head.
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