Interesting item from ANSA:

Archaeologists have unearthed the largest Neolithic female figurine ever found in Italy, according to a press report .

The 7,000-year-old stone statuette, discovered during excavations of a burial site near the northern Italian city of Parma, is over 20 centimetres tall, the archaeological monthly Archeo reported .

It depicts a woman with an oval face, slit eyes, a prominent nose and long hair. Her arms are bent at her elbows, sticking out at right-angles to her body .

Although such statuettes are fairly common, it is rare to find figurines this old in Europe, and the majority represent a mother earth divinity with a swelling belly symbolizing fertility .

Archaeologists have instead linked this female to the goddess of death and rebirth, who is usually represented as slender, with a large, beak-like nose and rigid posture .

In addition to these characteristics, this statuette has a small triangle similar to an excision between her breasts. The lower half of her body is much larger, with no distinction between her feet and her legs .

Her back is perfectly vertical, leading experts to conclude that she was probably originally carved to sit on a some kind of throne or support made of a material that has disintegrated over the centuries, such as wood .

The figure was unearthed in a tomb that is part of a larger Neolithic burial site outside Vicofertile, a town around 10km southwest of Parma .

The grave, which belonged to a middle-aged women, contained a number of pottery bowls in addition to the statuette, which was placed in front of the deceased's head on top of her raised left arm .

The burial site dates back to a period in northern Italian history known as the "square-mouthed pottery" era, corresponding to between 5,000 and 4,300 BC .

Neither the containers nor the statuette in the grave were properly fired, suggesting the items were not in everyday use prior to the burial .

The statuette joins a list of important female figures dug up across Europe, which archaeologists believe indicate some of the earliest concepts of divinities .

The first such figures date back to the 9th millennium BC and were found in the Near East. They then spread across the area that is now eastern Turkey and gradually through the Mediterranean, to Crete, the Cyclades Islands, Malta and Sardinia, before moving up through mainland Europe .