Prosopomorphic Lid

  • Era/Century: Prehistory
  • Culture: Vinča
  • Site: Banjica, Usek
  • Dating: 5th Millennium B.C.
  • Material: terracotta
  • Dimensions: length 25,2 cm
  • ID Number: AP 1635
  • Property: Belgrade City Museum
  • On Display: No

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Prosopomorphic lids are common in the entire territory of the Vinča culture and are all very similar. Most are of cylindric shape and have prominent horn-like lugs, a moulded nose, conspicuously marked eyes and varied decoration. The example shown here has marked pupils, which is rare. This type of vessels represents a specific form of Vinča ware and had a double function. It was used as a cover for amphorae with a cylindric neck. Its other and much more important function was to protect the contents of the vessel from evil spells and unknown powers. The most expressive details on the face are the eyes, which attract particular attention. They are associated with the so-called "mystical eyes", to which special significance was attached. It is a widespread belief that the eyes are "the mirror of the human soul", and that they can also be wicked and capable of casting evil spells. They often have the power to avert negative magic power from the individual or the community, so that they assume an apotropaic function. In addition, the eyes possess the power of constant observation, wakefulness, control, surveillance of the behavior of people, and in this way they have an influence on their magic beliefs and religion.

Finally, prosopomorphic lids may represent a mask which has the magic power to protect the ordinary human being or the priest-wizard from the unbounded energy of the deity before which he appears. As such, they cannot be considered in isolation from the other Vinča sculptures, altars and cult objects, for they are all associated with the relligious rituals and beliefs of prehistoric communities.

Published in Prehistory


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