Mothers of Time

Figurines: The Mask

This is the only one of the pieces discovered by Louis Alexandre Jullien at the Balzi Rossi that does not fit the theme of the Palaeolithic Venus.

Fashioned from a small thin pebble, it is a sparse representation of a grimacing face that seems to convey a curious impression of cruelty, or even diabolism.

The eyes and mouth, rendered by perforations, are set off by deep lateral slits that serve to heighten the menacing, cruel aspect of the face - that most likely belongs to an imaginary animal. A depression (its purpose unknown) has been hollowed out between the eyes; below this, a small protuberance corresponds to the nose, the nostrils being marked by two little holes. Finally, a complex series of fine incisions on the lips, under the eyes and on the periphery of the principal features completes this extraordinary countenance, which is, at present, unparalleled in the annals of Western Europe's Palaeolithic age.

Carved on a lightly mottled (greenish-yellow), translucent chlorite pebble, The Mask is approximately 23 millimetres wide.