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From Monuments to Miniatures: Emergence of Stamps and Related Image-bearing Objects during the Neolithic

In southwest Asia, the emphasis on architecture and burial ritual, which was instrumental in the construction of place-bound identities during the EarlyNeolithic (c. 10,000-7000 cal. bc), shifted toward an emphasis on miniature portable objects, such as figurines, stamps and ceramics, during the Later Neolithic (c. 7000-5000 cal. bc). Through a focus on stamps, this article argues that the appearance and proliferation of image-bearing portable objects is related to a new understanding of identities around emergent concepts of ` house' and ` community', which reordered the terms of social affiliation as well as difference and hierarchy at various scales. In terms of an iconographical approach, stamp imagery shows some affinities with the anthropomorphic and zoomorphic themes of the Early Neolithic; however, the majority of the Later Neolithic stamp imagery is composed of highly abstract types that cannot immediately be associated with the themes of the Early Neolithic. A close examination would indicate that these abstract types were also reproduced by manipulating ancestral imagery. Itwould also appear that certain types of imageswere employed on certain types of objects, such as ceramics and figurines, in increasingly structured ways. Arguably, these seemingly different object classes are an outcome of a seamless historical discourse of raw materials, images and forms, continuously shifting the conceptualization of self and society. It is in this context that stamps may be treated as figurines of a highly abstract, highly crafted and highly standardized nature. While the clay figurines appropriated social identities in the domestic sphere, stamps and ceramicswere instrumental in linking multiple scales of identity formation, from personal to communal. Reconsidering the material shift from the Early to Late Neolithic, I suggest that the spreading regulation of appropriating body and food was central in the construction of a convergent politics of reproduction around the concepts of 'house'.