danbue figurines
© Mickey Mystique/Wikimedia Commons
The strange statues have been declared 'fish-like'
Mysterious sculptures with "haunting faces" that date back 8,000 years have left archaeologists baffled.

The strange human figurines found in Serbia have bizarre fish-like features - but there's no telling exactly who made them, or why.

Carved by ancient Europeans on the banks of the Danube river, the sculptures represent a little-known period of history.

They were sculpted over a period of around 200 years at a long-lost Serbian settlement known as Lepenski Vir.

The site was first inhabited more than 12,000 years ago, populated by a mixture of two cultures.

Experts told the New York Times that farmers from the Near East migrated into southeastern Europe, settling with the local hunters and gatherers there.
danube figurines
© Alamy
Archaeologists are puzzled over the exact reason for their creation
The site is well-known for its excellent preservation of prehistoric life - and the high-quality of the ancient artefacts there.

In fact, it was once described as "the first city in Europe", due to its organised and permanent living arrangements.

Archaeologists have been digging up treasures at Lepenski Vir since the late 1960s.

And among the greatest finds are mysterious statuettes, carved from round sandstone cobbles found on the river banks.

The carved statuettes are said to be the oldest sculptures of this size ever found.

They have "haunting" faces with large round eyes and sad, "fish-like" mouths.

Archaeologists have suggested that these fishy features could be a sign that the statues were some kind of representation of the river gods.

Others suspect that the figurines might represent lost loved ones.
  • Findings at the site represent the Mesolithic Iron Gates culture of the Balkans
  • Evidence suggests the site may have been occupied as early as 12,000 years ago
  • The site consists of one large settlement, with 10 smaller satellite villages nearby
  • Archaeologists think the site is important because it marks an early phase in prehistoric European cultural development
Whatever the case, the statues represent a snapshot of one of Europe's earliest "civilised" cultures.

"It is a mother lode of material," said David Reich, a Harvard expert speaking to the NYC.

But because Lepenski Vir appears to be a melting pot of different cultures, it's hard to pin down exactly what their belief system was - or why the statues were carved in the first place.