French archaeologists have discovered an extremely rare example of a neolithic "earth mother" figurine on the banks of the river Somme.
The 6,000-year-old statuette is 8in high, with imposing buttocks and hips but stubby arms and a cone-like head. Similar figures have been found before in Europe but rarely so far north and seldom in such a complete and well-preserved condition.
The "lady of Villers-Carbonnel", as she has been named, can make two claims to be an "earth mother". She was fired from local earth or clay and closely resembles figurines with similar, stylised female bodies found around the Mediterranean.
Although neolithic experts are revising their opinions, the figures have long believed to have been connected with the existence of a cult which worshipped a goddess of the hearth or of fertility.
The Somme "earth mother" appears to have broken into five or six parts while she was being fired between 4300 and 3600 BC. She was found in the ruins of a neolithic kiln at a French government "preventive" archaeological dig near Villers-Carbonnel on the banks of the river Somme in the dpartement of the same name.
The figurine may be just the …