Neolithic zoomorphic figurines have been found int the Near East in many different contexts. They do not constitute an homogeneous group, either in time or in space. Their study cannot be separated from that of other animal representations (petroglyphs, statuettes, paintings?). These representations expressed various relationships between mankind and the animal world. However, figurines are usually very schematic and it is often impossible to specify either species or sex. Their function stretch from the straightfowardly symbolise (fertility figurines, vehicule of magic, cult images?) to social assertion (marks of property?) ; they also served as education devices (initiation figurines) or even toys. These functions were certainly not mutually exclusive and it is usually impossible to identify the specific functions of figurines found in secondary contexts.
Animal figurines, Neolithic, Near East, symbolism, ritual.