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 Post subject: Figurines excavated from Sigiriya
 Post Posted: Sat Mar 04, 2006 3:34 pm 
Figurines excavated from Sigiriya

@ JO

Sigiriya rock, which is over 600 feet high, is better known for its frescoes, the mirror wall with graffiti, Asia's oldest surviving landscaped gardens and the rock fortress on top, it has also gained a reputation for the large number of artifacts excavated from the site.

Miniature terracotta figurines are some of the most important discoveries of the excavations carried out through the Cultural Triangle projects.

However, these were not the first sculpture to be excavated from Sigiriya; other sculpture had been discovered before, from a site close to the latter location.

The new figurines were found among the rubble of collapsed structures in the boulder (rock) garden area, at the base of the rock, at a depth of between 150 and 250 centimetres. These structures are believed to be Buddhist monastic complexes dating back to around 500AD, after the reign of King Kasyapa. From their archaeological context and style, experts have dated them to a period between the 7th and 10th centuries.


Although all the figurines are damaged and some are in pieces, with heads and limbs missing, some of them have retained enough of their original form to testify to their high artistic quality and intricate design. Most of the figurines are of women and are usually between 10 and 20 centimetres tall.

They are believed to be models or representations of the frescoes known as Sigiri apsaras painted on the walls of the rock.

Although terracotta figures of this particular type have been found only from Sigiriya, they are somewhat similar in design to terracotta sculpture associated with other sites in the area, such as Manikdena and Dambulla. According to archaeologists, something unique about these ancient artifacts are that they are deliberate representations of other art. They can be viewed and admired as art objects in their own right or as an indication of the "art consciousness" of the period. They believe that the sculpture was designed much later than the actual Sigiri paintings.

There are some differences as well as similarities between the figurines and the paintings. Experts think that these objects were not part of any fixed architectural decoration, but rather objects which were meant to be carried. This has led some to believe that they may have been given as souvenirs to visitors in the olden days. Yet others think they may have decorated nooks and corners of the rock fortress.

Although it was a common practice in Asia to present souvenirs to pilgrims visiting religious sites, these souvenirs are unique as Sigiriya was visited and appreciated for its aesthetic and archaeological importance and not for the religious aspect.

The sculpture is important to Sri Lanka's culture, not only as beautiful terracotta art, but also as unique historical documents.

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