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Dec 10, 2004
Elusive Female Figures

Archaeologists have uncovered scores of so-called 'female figurines' in Mycenaean layers, dated from Late Helladic IIIA (1450-1300 BCE) to Late Helladic IIIC (1180-1050 BCE). One might be tempted to dismiss these images as crude representations of human beings, but there are good reasons to suspect that something else may have been behind the production of these objects. After all, Mycenaean art is not normally known for its crudeness and the artists would probably have been able enough to produce more naturalistic objects.

A comparative study of the statues in case, some of which are portrayed above, uncovers a number of recurrent features. The figurines all have a cylindrical base. Their torsoes are invariably decorated with vertical stripes and come in three types. Due to the resemblance of these types to some letters of the Greek alphabet, specialists have called these Phi (Φ), Tau (Τ), and Psi (Ψ) types. The headdresses of some of the women are shaped like bowls or cups, and often an equilateral cross is placed across the inside of these cups.

The axis mundi is the common designation for the column that connects the poles of the earth with the celestial poles, around which we see the stars revolve. One of the most profound symbolic expressions of this axis in world mythology is the image of a giant human being upholding heaven with his head or arms. The classic examples of this motif are the Greek Atlas, the Chinese Pan-Gu, the Vedic Purusha, the Judaeo-Gnostic Adam Qadmon, and the Egyptian Shu.

The present model identifies the archetypal features of such cosmic giants with the complex evolutionary sequence of an intense aurora: a glowing plasma column that must once have been visible in the night sky above the earth. The Mycenaean figurines appear to fit seamlessly into this category. The peculiar streamers running across their bodies are the signature of plasma. The alternation of circular bodies and outstretched "arms" conforms to the degrees of vorticity experienced by the hypothetical column, as presented in the analysis of plasma physicist Anthony Peratt. The most compelling indication that the figurines were modelled after a plasma column is perhaps the shape of the headdress. Laboratory experiments conducted by Peratt and his team indicate that, under intense electrical stress, the plasmoid filaments at the top of the column warp to such an extent that they eventually produce the image of a hollow cup. The cross may be related to the image of the four streamers reported to have emanated from the summit of the axial column.

Contributed by Rens van der Sluijs


David Talbott, Wallace Thornhill
Amy Acheson
  CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Mel Acheson, Michael Armstrong, Dwardu Cardona,
Ev Cochrane,   Walter Radtke, C.J. Ransom, Don Scott, Rens van der Sluijs, Ian Tresman
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