Pietro Gaietto

The two-faced is much recurrent in the studies of the religions, and insufficiently held in consideration from the art students, therefore, insufficiently present in the art books, and therefore little knew.
The two-faced is present in nearly all the ancient religions of the world (with the exception of those people who practice " only " painting).
The two-faced can be oral or iconographic.
In astral mythology of the Islands of the Society (Polynesia), the Sagittarius is " the red star that shines at evening with two faces " (verbal two-faced).
The iconographic two-faced with more heads or more eyes is an exclusive peculiarity of the omniscient beings, and therefore a univocal sign of their celestial or solar or skysolar nature or .
When the number of the heads increases to excess (fifty heads, many hands, etc in a same work), and assumes the aspect of the monstrosity, like in the art of India and extreme oriental Asia, then the nature of the represented subject becomes demonic, and however, its positioning is in the evolued civilizations of the historical times.

Two-faced anthropomorphic or zooantropomorphic representations in sculpture, are interpreted like omniscient or omniscient- all-seeing divinities , and this near the first historical civilizations. For the Paleolithic similar hypotheses can be made .

The zooantropomorphic two-faced is that less diffuse, and the animal part is mostly constituted from heads of great mammals.

Much rare are the heads of birds.

In this paper I show two two-faced sculptures with human head and head of bird, one of ancient Mexico, and the other of the Middle-Lower Paleolithic of Liguria, as I think that they are very similar.


The sculpture of Xochicalco (Mexico) (Fig. 1) is in basalt. It measures cm. 56.5 of height and cm. 38 of width, and is dated variously between the 600 and 900 a.C., or between the 856 and 1168 a.C.

Fig.1 Two-faced zoomorphic sculpture of Xochicalco

Fig.1 Two-faced zoomorphic sculpture of Xochicalco

The opinions on its iconographic interpretation are two:
1) the archeologists of the National Museum of Anthropology of City of Mexico (where it is conserved) support that it is a " head of parrot".

The guacamaya, or macao, or ara is a rare bird, connected to the CULT OF THE SUN.

The dating more probable of this sculpture, according to the Mexican archeologists, is century XII for the " characters of the strong styling tending to the abstract and the emblematic".

2) my opinion is different. I am convinced that this sculpture represents a human head and a head of parrot joined for the nape with look in opposite direction; therefore, a zooanthropomorphic two-faced sculpture .

The sculpture is peirced, and partially emptied to the inside

In this sculpture there are two different styles: one of geometric type for the human head, and one of not geometric type for the head of the parrot. Sure, the two styles for tradition are connected, one to the human and one to the animal, in separated representations.

The head of the parrot is more detailed of the human head. This is a norm in all the zooanthropomorphic sculptures of the Paleolithic. The head of the parrot, in fact, has the beak, both in the upper part, and in the lower part, that is the jaw; and also the tongue, that from the photography, seems obtained from a purposely inserted stone of dark color. To the contrary, the human head does not have the mouth.
This tongue of the parrot has been placed, in equal parts, between the head of the man and the head of the parrot, and even if from the line in relief that divides the two heads, it is clearly that the tongue belongs to the parrot, it promotes the hypothesis of representation of a " only divinity ", that is of a spiritual unit.
The back of the sculpture is equal in lateral view, as in photography, but the tongue is absent. I do not know if the tongue that lacks, is intentional from the artist, or if it has gotten lost for damnage; that is if they can be at time two lingues.

Both in the head of the parrot, and in that human, the two ends are shrunk; that is there is a greater thickness of the sculpture to the center, that is shrunk to the two opposite sides, that are the beak and the face of the man.

The eye of the parrot is on the beak, but in consideration of the stylistic deformation, it is like if it were on the head; the artist of that time was like the artist today, in how much " invented " varying the natural one. It was the fashion of the time.

Those people supporting that this sculpture is " only " a parrot head, could also support that the eyes of the parrot are instead of the " nostrils ", and those that I consider the eyes of the man, are instead the eyes of the parrot. This for me is impossible, in how much, also in the pushed to the maximum stylistic deformations, since the topic is figurative, we must be able to understand the figure, and what it represents, like if the figure (human or animal) did not have stylistic deformation.
The art is divided in only two parts: figurative and abstract. The art abstract in the antiquity served for the decoration.
This sculpture, in the side without the tongue, can be seen in the site of the National Museum of Anthropology of City of the Mexico.
The two-faced zooanthropomorphic sculptures of Liguria, Mexico and every other part of the world, object of these studies, in every time constitute always a single divinity, but one of the two parts composing it can have, or assume subsequently, a major importance
The human head in the sculpture of Xoachicalco is characterized from the great eye, against the small eye of the parrot ( proportions of report that are natural); but what ulteriorly distinguishes the head of the bird regarding that one of the man, is the recordings on the face of the man. These recordings can give rise to some interpretations, on the basis of the material that will be able to be found to put to comparison. My opinion, currently, is that it is the representation of the feathers of the bird on the face of the man, and the representation of these feathers is completely invented, and re- enters in the fashionable style of those times.
In the human head can be recognised a quota of divinity that comes down of value, but also a anthropomorphic divinity that " animalizes " himself, that is one of those represented beings that I define " humanized animals ". An example of representations of " humanized animals " are some Africans wood masks, constituted from a human face in imitative of the real style , and with the not human ears, but of a feline . Therefore, the human head could be of animalized man, in how much has the face " plumed".
The head of the parrot, other way, has of some features that approach it the man, therefore, some remarkable indications of " humanized animal ". These features, also in the difficulty that the profane reader can acknowledge for the " style of the work ", are constituted from three elements:
- the upper beak, that, instead being curved like that one of the parrot, comes down vertically like a human nose, even if with stylistic deformation ;
- the mouth opened with tongue outside that it is human grimace (much more because the beak is closed). This tongue surely belongs to the parrot, in how much re-enters in the line carved in relief that separates the two heads.

- the vertical structure of the head, even it's only the beak, having a setting nearer the human head, than not to the head of a parrot.

This sculpture, therefore, is not the simple representation of a human head joined for the nape to a parrot head, but is a animalized human head joined to a head of humanized parrot, at least this is mine opinion.


The two-faced zooantHropomorphic sculpture of Vesima (Genoa, Italy) (Fig. 2) is obtained from a cliff green gray rock, and has one strongly patina of light brown due to acids of the ground. Find in secondary bad, approximately 150 meters on the sea level in the mountain that goes down on the sea of Liguria. Measure cm. 28 of length, cm. 18 of height, and has a maximum thickness of cm. 8. Weight kg. 3.700. Its cultural attribution is the Middle - Upper Paleolithic.It represents a human head joined for the nape to a bird head, with look in opposite direction. The bird is considered a royal seagull, both for the shape of the beak, and for the forehead. Royal seagull ( Larus argentatus) is largest of the seagulls. It has great wing span, he is optimal flyer and swimmer; still today it is stationary on the coasts of Riviera ligure.
Fig.2 Two-faced zooanthropomorphic sculpture from Vesima

Fig.2 Human head and head of royal seagull
(the eye of the royal seagull has been colored, in how much the graffito is eroded by rolling in the water, and it is no viewed in photography

Fig.2 Two-faced zooanthropomorphic sculpture of Vesima
(limestone for the acids of the ground)

Fig.2 Two-faced zooanthropomorphic sculpture of Vesima
(frontal view of the beak of the royal seagull)

Fig.2 Two-faced zooanthropomorphic sculpture of Vesima
(view from the high : beak of the royal seagull on the left)

This sculpture is worked from every part (frontal view like photographed, over and under, while the back is flat). Light erosion from alluvial tumbling .

The sculpture of Vesima does not have a base, as nearly all the sculptures of the Paleolithic , therefore its orientation is variable. The same for the orientation of the sculpture in photography.

The orientation of the sculpture regards the orientation of the looks, and has various meanings, if the look is turned in ahead, or towards the high, or the bottom.
In the paleolithic sculpture, generally, the look towards the bottom represents a died person or a skull, and this desumes from those two-faced anthropomorphic sculptures, where the other head is unequivocal with look in ahead: these sculptures represent joined an half head (face) in frontal view with an half head with lateral profile.

The positioning of this sculpture on the ground was surely horizontal, in how much the sculpture on the back does not have representation, is flat, contrarily to the " paleolithic Venuses ",carved to full relief, and that, probably, like other Mexican statuines " without feet ", were held in vertical position sticked into the ground.
The two heads (the man and the royal seagull) have two different styles, surely consequence of two different traditions.
The human head has a style considering the proportions of the skull , but the eye is not represented, and is replaced from a wide orbital zone. The nose is integrated in the profile of the face. The mouth is absent. The ear never is represented in the paleolithic sculptures, and not even in this.

The style considers the proportions of the head, but it is not realistic. However, this lateral profile of human head has a own solemnity, that could celebrate the silence. i.e. the representation of a died person. < BR > In regard to the physical aspect studied from the anthropology, for bisecular tradition, through the human skulls, also the human head of Vesima can give news regarding this discipline. The human head, in fact, has of some features that approach it to a hypothetical Homo sapiens of archaic type, but also to a Homo sapiens neanderthalensis with mixed characters of Homo sapiens sapiens, and this is deduced from the forehead and the jaw in the inferior side. Since the profile of the face, from the upper part of the nose to the chin, is a lot made thin, it is not excluded that in the alluvial tumbling the carved face has lost some rock fragment, i.e. that the face is deteriotated in that point, therefore, not are certainties in the interpretation of the physical aspect of this man.

The head of the royal seagull in the two-faced sculpture of Vesima is in style much realistic , and well proportioned. The beakt is only represented in the upper part, while the jaw lacks, but however, it is more effective visually than a complete beak. This beak is accurately icarved, and hollow in the part below.
The head of the royal seagull, in the upper part, is much proportioned like the natural, in how much there is the " forehead ", that is that frontal part of the head that rises from the beak. This also according to the opinion of ornithologists of the Natural History Museum of Genova.The eye is graffito in rumble shape, little damaged from the tumbling, but perfectly centered in the head of the gull, like in the nature. The graffito of the eye (engraving by rubbing) re-enters in a technical, typologically diffrent from the technique to carve, modeling the shape of this lithic sculpture. Therefore, in this sculpture two different techniques of working.

The eye of the seagull is lateral; while the eye (the orbital zone, that is the sinking that replaces the eye) in the human head is frontal. The two heads, in fact, are in lateral view, but with the relief, they are also semifrontal.

The head of this royal seagull, moreover, beyond to the lateral representation, has an emphasized frontal representation, in how much the pointed beak from 7 cm. of width reaches in tip a thickness of 1 cm. towards the center; that is the beak is made thin from the two sides.
The forehead is wide 5 cm., and all the beak is shrunk from the bottom towards the high, like a normal beak of seagull. In this beakt, moreover, is underlined the shape of the part of skin that joins the beak to the head, found with more evidence in the littles of brood, in how much it has a light color .
In this sculpture the head of the royal seagull has most great dimensions ( according to the nature proportions) of the human head. That is, while the carved human head is smaller of the natural one, the head of the carved seagull is larger of the natural one, but they are represented here in the same dimensions.

1) the two heads of birds, in nature smaller of the human head, in these sculptures have the same dimension of the human head.
2) the heads of the birds are more realistic of the human heads joined.

3) the heads of the birds has a various style different, from the style of the human heads.

4) the human heads does not have the mouth.

5) the human heads does not have ears.

6) the human heads seems heads of died person, as they does not have expression.


1) The iconographic two-faced is connected to celestial or solar or celestialsolar divinities.
These two two-faced zooanthropomorphic sculptures, according to the more shared hypothesis, would have to be divinity, if the same interpretation of the two-faced anthropomorphic sculptures is applied, that is those that join two human heads.

To this it must be added that the guacamaya or macao or ara is a parrot connected to the " cult of the sun ", therefore also the representation in sculpture of a parrot must re-enter in this cult.
2) These two sculptures, instead, could re-enter in the cult of the died person, in how much the two human heads, being inexpressive, can be interpreted like heads of died persons.
The union of the head of bird to that human, could mean, the defunct travel in sky, transported from the bird.
In any case, it is not a ritual like the interment of the defunct person , but these sculptures can re-enter in a cult of the died person connected to the attainment of the divinity in sky. With this hypothesis the bird would not be a God, but it would be sacred as an angel of the historical times .


In the evolution of the art from the Paleolithic to the historical and current times it is necessary to consider the elements who change, thatdo not change, that are present, and that are no present.
The men of the Paleolithic in Liguria could not represent parrots, why not there were.
Today, in the Sanctuaries of the world, the statuines of divinity, in sale to the believers, are made in plastic; a new material, not present in the past millennia.
Art and religion are present from always, that is from the beginning of the Paleolithic.
In the Paleolithic and in the historical times, the art is mostly to the service of the religion.The man has more interests in the religion that in the art.
The religions have more elements, that the art
. Some elements of the religions are ancient , and are remained unchanged for tens of thousand of years, like deduced from the sculptures of Vesima and Xochicalco.
The art has made technical progresses (in the working), and spiritual progresses (in the composition of the work).
In the spiritual aspects of the man, beyond to the religion, between the others, we have to consider also the " thought " for the planning and the composition of the art work, and this from the beginning of the Paleolithic.



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