Lower Nubian C-Group Figurines: Corpus and Context Open Access

Butterworth, Jennifer Ruth (2016)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/hm50ts02q?locale=en


This dissertation examines and analyzes as fully as possible the surviving corpus of clay figurines produced by the Lower Nubian C-Group. These small sculptures were individually modeled in the form of livestock and predominantly female human beings. Archaeological teams from numerous institutions around the world excavated these figurines from cemeteries and settlement sites along the Nile Valley from the First to the Second Cataract over the course of the twentieth century. Dating from approximately 1850 to 1650 BCE, these figurines have not, to date, been examined as a discrete object class although they hold great potential for improving current knowledge of C-Group social life and relationships with neighboring cultures. The reasons for the historical neglect of this artistic corpus are assessed and problems associated with their study are reviewed. To avoid subjective distinctions that could prejudice analysis, as well as resolving issues of diverse identification systems from multiple museums and issues of unpublished pieces, this dissertation introduces a novel alphanumeric identification system rather than developing a traditional typology. All figurines that were available for examination, or for which published images provide sufficient visual information, are included in two catalogs as appendices, organized for ease of visual legibility and reference. A two-pronged approach is taken in analysis of the corpus. The figurines are first examined and analyzed in terms of their formal and stylistic properties, and then analyzed in terms of their archaeological context. Maps of sites, including thumbnail images of pieces from each site, are included in the appendices. Results of formal and contextual analyses allow for inferences to be made concerning the subject matter, represented activities, and some ways that the original owners may have used these objects. The concluding chapter summarizes these interpretations and goes on to compare C-Group figurines, in terms of subject, activities of subjects, and use values, with earlier, Neolithic Sudanese figurines, Predynastic Egyptian figurines, coeval Egyptian figurines, and coeval figurines from neighboring Kerma. A trajectory of influenced is traced linking C-Group figurines to Upper Nubian prehistoric cultures rather than Egyptian prototypes.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction 1

The Figurines 1

Early Influences on C-Group Figurine Study 8

Before WWI: Slaves, Toys, Wives 15

Between the Wars: Concubines, Goddesses, and Childbirth 22

In the Postmodern Age: Interpretive Unease 27

The Egyptian Fertility Narrative 32

Expanding Methodologies, Looking Southward 38

Goals and Methods of this Dissertation 44

Organization 46

Chapter 2. Formal Properties and Technological Choices 51

The Corpus 51

Formal Consistencies 52

Formal Variations 63

Summary and Conclusions 88

Chapter 3. Context 92

The Archaeological Settings 92

Data Sources and Current Limitations 92

The Cemetery Sites 95

The Settlement Sites 123

Patterns and Variability in Style and Attributes 134

Summary and Conclusions 139

Chapter 4. Conclusions and Future Directions 142

Summary and What the Data Suggests 142

Integrating Results into Future Research 156

Ancient Female Authority Roles as Prototypes for Figurines 193


1. Catalog of C-Group Anthropomorphic Figurines 196

2. C-Group Anthropomorphic Figurine Descriptions and Bibliographies 270

3. Concordances for Anthropomorphic Figurines 379

4. Maps and Plans of Find Sites 385

5. Graves and Contents 428

6. Sites Dating to Phase II/a or II/b 437

7. Excavation Reports by Site 439

8. Catalog of Animal Figurines 440

Bibliography 446

About this Dissertation

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research Field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files