Clay Figurine
Clay figurine

Clay Figurines

Clay figurines are found on a few Oklahoma sites but they are not very common. In general, they are crude and poorly dried; in fact, they appear to have been sun-dried and not baked as they are quite fragile and become broken easily. No visible tempering material has been added to the clay.

Figurines are found associated with the Middle Woodland, the Washita River focus, and the proto-historic Wichita sites.

Delaware County was in association with Middle Woodland pottery. Although incomplete, the fragments indicate a carefully made human figurine and depict some features of body dress and hair styling (Figure 47a). This figure resembles some of the clay figurines recovered from Hopewellian sites in the state of Illinois.

The clay figurines associated with the Washita River focus sites are more plentiful although they also are represented chiefly by fragments. They are crudely shaped for the most part and are commonly a stick-like roll of clay with crudely defined shoulders and head section (Figure 47b). The head is stylized and almost bird-like on some specimens, but others may depict features of the face such as the eyes, nose, and mouth or a detail of the hair style (Figure 47d). The torso is often marked by incision or punctates, probably to represent body tattooing, decoration, or clothing. Both females and males are represented, and the females are marked by prominent breasts which are sometimes decorated with punctates. The legs are usually not indicated although some fragments found at the Brown site near Alex, Oklahoma, suggest that this was sometimes done.

 

 

Most fragments suggest small figurines measuring between 50 mm and 80 mm in length although some crude and larger examples have been recovered.

The purpose of the small figurines remains unknown. One female burial found at the McLemore site in western Oklahoma had the remains of several figurines lying adjacent to the lower leg as if they might have been in a small bag or a similar container. Generally, however, figurines are found in the village midden area or in refuse pits.

Crude figurines are also found on proto-historic Wichita sites in Oklahoma and northern Texas. These figurines, however, mostly represent animal figures rather than human figures. Although damaged, many of the animal figures appear to represent horses. These are roughly shaped with "stick legs." Hollow impressions in the figurine legs or the torso of the animal indicate that small sticks were once present to represent the legs of the animal. Another type of small figurine present appears to represent owls or bird figures. Our information about figurines is quite poor as most examples recovered are fragmentary and incomplete. They become broken easily and when surrounded by damp soil in the ground are not recognized and are frequently discarded along with the soil matrix. With the exception of the Cooper site figurine, many of the specimens appear as though they were made by children in playing or possibly by adults for children's toys.

 

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