Nikil Sairam, Michael E. Moran
First Published: Jan. 6, 2023
Our knowledge of the social structure of pre-historic peoples is limited by the scant physical record, largely limited to archeological fragments of biological materials, tools, and funereal art. The Natufian, who lived near present day Jerusalem around 9000 BCE, was a culture first identified by Dorothy Garrod, a British paleo-archeologist. The Natufian produced what may be the world’s first expression of sexuality in art in the Ain-Sakhri statue, depicting two figures intertwined in a coital embrace. Our aim was to better illustrate Garrod’s seminal work, and the significance of the Ain Sakhri statue in our understanding of pre-historical concepts of sexual self-awareness.
Archives of the British Museum (London), the Pitts River Museum and the Dorothy Garrod Photographic Archive (Oxford), the Mathurin collection at the Musée des Antiquités Nationales (St Germain-en-Laye, France), and digital. humanities.ox.ac.uk were consulted to identify biographical information on Dorothy Garrod and her archeological work. Secondary sources on the Natufian peoples and their art were identified through PubMed, digital archive sources, and the Garrod archives as cited.
Dorothy Garrod (1892-1968) was a prolific early 20th century scientist in paleo archeology and a pioneer for women in a male-dominated field, the first prehistorian, and first woman, to be elected to a professorship at Cambridge University (19391952). She established comprehensive excavations in the Levant in the Middle East on Mount Carmel near Jerusalem where she identified the ancient Natufian cultures. There, her mentor, AH Breuil, had found a 10 cm stone figure, now known as the ‘Ain Sakhri’ figurine, from 9,000 BCE and identified by him to be a product of Garrod’s Natufian culture. Unlike other contemporary Natufian sculptures found in the Wadi Khareitoun region, which were worked in bone or antler, the Ain Sakhri was chiseled from calcite. The Ain Sakhri, depicting two intertwined figures and with a phallic shape, is regarded as the world’s oldest known sculpture of people making love.
Dorothy Garrod was a ground-breaking pioneer in paleo archeology and the 1st female professor at Cambridge from 1939-1952. Her early 20th century work on the Natufian people revealed a complex, sophisticated pre-historic culture which produced the Ain Sakhri, the first sculpted depiction of coitus, predating the historical record of sexual self-awareness by thousands of years.
Editor in Chief: John L. Phillips, MD
Journal Design: Akhil A. Saji, MD
US ISSN: 2769-2183