skip to content

Cambridge AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership - Student Profiles



I completed my undergraduate and graduate studies at Leiden University (The Netherlands) focussing on the Late Neolithic period of Northern Mesopotamia. I have had an interest in figurines from my undergraduate studies onward. They offer me the opportunity to combine my two main interests: working with objects and archaeological theory. 

 In the Near Eastern Neolithic period (ca. 10,000-5,500 BC), figurines are often our primary source of visual representation. Figurines are a ubiquitous find on many Neolithic sites, however they are still poorly understood. Traditionally, they have been researched through visual approaches focussing on their iconography and symbolic meaning. The main drawback of these interpretative frameworks is that they fail to analyse figurines as artefacts. Instead, figurines are treated primarily, or even exclusively, as images or texts.

For my PhD I aim to move beyond the question: ‘what do figurines mean?’ and instead focus on the question: ‘what do figurines do?’. My research takes an artefact approach and posits that in order to better understand figurines we need to analyse figurines as a process; from production, use, to discard, and to analyse choices made within this process. By taking this approach we can answer specific questions regarding the materials used to make figurines, analyse the choices within the production of figurines, analyse markings to gain information on how figurines were used and compare depositional contexts for different figurines. Better insight into these aspects will allow us to better comprehend how figurines operated in their respective social contexts. 

Department: Department of Archaeology and Anthropology
Supervisor: Dr. Augusta McMahon
College: Trinity College
AHRC subject area: Archeaology
Title of thesis: Beyond meaning. An Artefact Approach to the Neolithic Figurines from Tell Sabi Abyad (Syria) and Ҫatalhöyük (Turkey)
 Monique  Arntz