Biblical Archaeology Review 22:4, July/August 1996


Restored Neolithic Statues Go on View in Washington

“The commuters,” one conservator calls the 8,500-year-old statues from Ain Ghazal (“The Spring of the Gazelles”), in Jordan. Their blank expressions remind her of the empty stares people adopt while waiting for the bus or riding the subway. To others, the statues may look disconcertingly like the extraterrestrial creatures depicted in alien abduction stories. Whatever they remind you of, these objects project an eerie power, a power made all the more striking because they are among the oldest statues ever found.

The statues date to the seventh millennium B.C. and were discovered in two batches, in 1983 and 1985, on the outskirts of Amman; they are being restored in London and Washington, respectively. Work on the Washington group is nearly complete and the statues will go on display starting July 28, 1996, through April 6, 1997, at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. The restoration efforts in Washington are a great boon to Jordan because they cost the country nothing—the Smithsonian is paying the conservators’ salaries. With the current climate of federal budget cutting, a Smithsonian source told BAR, it is extremely unlikely that the Smithsonian would undertake such a project now.

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