Courtesy Gary Rollefson

Imprisoned in earth, 9,000-year-old plaster statues and busts await release. The foot of one disintegrated statue has six toes (see photograph). Discovered in two caches at the Neolithic site of ‘Ain Ghazal in Jordan, the nearly 3-foot-high figures originally had skeletons of reeds and twigs, wrapped with twine, over which the plaster was molded. The skeletons have now decomposed however, leaving the statues hollow. Expressive faces of considerable individuality include eyes made of white chalk, outlined with green and black pigments, and round irises of black pigment. According to archaeologist Gary Rollefson, the figures apparently portrayed deceased individuals and served as cult symbols, possibly involving ancestor worship or veneration.