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

By Ben Miller | 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.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

More from Culture24's Object of the Week

A 300-year-old witching bottle containing fingernails and hair

A bible baked in a loaf of bread from 16th century southern France

A fumigating torch used to drive off the plague from the 17th century
Latest comment: >Make a comment
  • Back to top
  • | Print this article
  • | Email this article
  • | Bookmark and Share
    Back to article
    Your comment:
    DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted at www.culture24.org.uk are the opinion of the comment writer, not Culture24. Culture24 reserves the right to withdraw or withhold from publication any comments that are deemed to be hearsay or potentially libellous, or make false or unsubstantiated allegations or are deemed to be spam or unrelated to the article at which they are posted.