Object of the Week: Fertility figures from an ancient civilization in Bronze Age Pakistan and India

By Ben Miller Published: 13 January 2016

This week we bring you a set of sculptures which could have been fertility figures in prehistoric Asia

A photo of a series of small light brown fertility figurine sculptures
© Courtesy Horsham Museum and Art Gallery
Found by an anonymous collector and said to have been made by the Indus Valley Civilization between 3000 and 2000 BC, these 10 “fertility figurines” display male, female and hermaphrodite features in a set of remarkable, complex and imaginative sculptures.

At one time they were thought of as toys. In reality we may never know their usage, partly because the context of their discovery has been lost.

Discovered between 1921 and 1929, the civilization produced two “city” type sites - Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro - both of which gave the name to their culture. It has no monumental art or architectural features with names of the powerful, and none of its scripts have yet been deciphered.

It did, however, produce a number of small, elegant works of art and sophisticated craft: these sculptures are part of a larger collection of 40 artefacts assembled during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

  • Curiosity: A Tale of Quirky Collecting is at Horsham Museum and Art Gallery from January 15 - March 5 2016. Find out more.

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