Lepenski Vir "Fish-Head" Ancestress


  • Age: Around 8,500 - 7,500 BP
  • Material: Coarse Clast Sandstone
  • Found: House 44, Lepenski Vir (Serbia)
  • Present Location: National Museum in Belgrade
  • Size: 51cm x 39cm


move cursor over image to magnify replica

The anthropomorphic female sculpture (known as Praroditeljka / Ancestress) found in the front of the sanctuary in house No. XLIV at Lepenski Vir has a large "fish-like" head, collar-bones and clawed hands that appear to be opening up her vulva, in a very similar way to that of European Sheela-Na-Gigs figures.

Sheela-Na-Gigs (Síle na gcíoch in Irish)  figures are stone carvings of a female figure usually found on Romanesque (Norman) churches and castles. They consist of a naked woman squatting and pulling apart her vulva. The carvings are old and tyipcally do not seem to be part of the church but have been taken from a previous older, usually romanesque, building and are said to said to ward off death and evil.

Between 1965-69, Dragoslav Srejović (Assistant Professor of Archeology at the University of Belgrade) conducted the excavations with just two students and ten diggers at Lepenski Vir on a sandy bank terrace (measuring 170m x 50m); they revealed an important Mesolithic settlement. The three main habitation phases of the settlement (Lepenski Vir I-III) date to the Mesolithic Period (Lepenski Vir I-II) and to the transitional phase from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic Period (Lepenski Vir III). Seventeen unique anthropomorphic sculptures were discovered during the archaeological excavations. The position of the sculptures near the hearth suggest that they were figures of worship which probably symbolised river gods. A number of river stones with engraved and bas-relief geometric decorative themes were also found.

The sculptures can be separated into those with simple geometric patterns and others representing humanoid figures (ranging in size from 16-60cm) occur from the layer Lepenski Vir Ib onward. Only the head and face of the human figures were modelled realistically, with strong brow arches, an elongated nose, and a wide, fish-like mouth. Hair, beard, arms and hands can be seen on some of the figures in a stylised form. Many fish-like features can be noticed. They were made from colourful boulders of quartzy sandstone (yellowish-white, almost white, reddish).

Lepenski Vir (Лепенски Вир, Lepen Whirl) is located in the Iron Gates (Đerdap, Djerdap) Gorge, on the Serbian side of the Danube, not far from the city of Donji Milanovac, central Balkan peninsula. The site was declared Monument of Culture of Exceptional Importance in 1979 and it is protected by Republic of Serbia.

Yugoslavia 1983 Lepenski Vir 250 Dinara Silver Coin (weight:17gr & 92.5% silver)

Note: This item was "home-made" from expanding foam over a wire mesh frame and covered with sandstone coloured grout. A copy can be purchased from Ancientcraft - email me for prices and delivery options.


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