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Item sold
Near Eastern Terracotta Snake
New York | Animals
Date:  3500 BC - 2500 BC2500 BC - 1900 BC1900 BC - 1600 BC1600 BC - 1200 BC1200 BC - 8th Century BC
Culture:  Mesopotamian
Category:  Animals
Medium:  Terracotta
Dimension: H: 5.2 cm. - W: 6.32 cm.
Provenance: Ex- European Private Collection
Serial No: 3763

This small and unusual object represents a snake carefully executed in terracotta. The piece is traversed by a hole, and it seems that the snake coiled around an invisible ax. The snake’s body is treated with multiple circular incisions representing the scales of the skin. The eyes of the small and elongated head were inlaid with the pieces of turquoise or a glass paste, one of them is now missing.
Although made of a rather simple material, such as clay, the work shows the highest artistic quality ennobled by the presence of turquoise/glass paste inclusion.
The desire to produce a remarkable and fine object is evident, and it might be a sign of its use in a ritual like a mace head, a symbolic weapon dedicated in a temple to receive the god’s blessing. Snake is an animal which appears very early among the images of Egyptian, Near Eastern and Cypriote art as well as among many mythological stories. Snake is an attribute of several divinities of chthonic nature (like Dionysos, Hera, Hermes, etc. in the Greek mythology). It was associated with the rites of fertility, with the expression of the most essential forces of nature but also of the death and the transition from one world to another.

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