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Irene Bald Romano

Image of a divinity that served in antiquity as a focal-point for worship and cult rituals. Most cult statues were housed in temples or shrines, although outdoor worship of images is also attested. Although aniconic worship (i.e. of a non-anthropomorphic symbol of a deity such as a rock or pillar) is known in Near Eastern, Greek and Roman cults, most deities by the late 2nd millennium bc were worshipped in an anthropomorphic form and were, as such, earthly substitutes or humanized manifestations of the presence of a deity.

Anthropomorphic cult statues are well attested in the Ancient Near East, Anatolia, the Levant and Egypt. Near Eastern cuneiform records going back at least to the 2nd millennium bc indicate that Mesopotamian cult images were made of wood and opulently clad in tiaras, robes and jewellery. The garments of the statue were ceremonially changed, and ritual meals were served up to the cult image. Specific attributes and attire aided identity. From ...