Discovered in 1956 near Cernavoda, Romania, at an ancient burial ground of the Hamangia culture, this statue is sometimes referred to as “The Thinker,” as his pose resembles the famous work by Rodin. Settling in the region of Dobruja (modern Romania and Bulgaria), the Hamangia people migrated from Anatolia sometime during the sixth millennium B.C.E.
The Thinker dates to 5000–4600 B.C.E. and was found alongside a female statue known as the The Sitting Woman of Cernavoda. Sculpted from polished, dark gray clay, it stands 4.5 inches tall. Some believe it to be the oldest-known prehistoric statue representing human introspection. Others contend his posture could be a position of mourning, as the piece was found in a funerary context. A third theory is that he represents a deity, perhaps a vegetation god who must die to resurrect the following spring. Male statues from this period are rare; that both a male and female figurine were found together in the same context implies there was a special relationship between the two.
This masterpiece of Neolithic art can be viewed at the National Museum of Romanian History in Bucharest.