This is one of several surviving statuettes showing men carrying a ram on their shoulders. Most are shepherds, and this figure bears a remarkable resemblance to the Good Shepherd familiar in Christian art. The elongated slender proportions of prehistoric Sardinian figurines also inspired the work of the 20th century sculptor Alberto Giacometti.
Sardinian shepherds are usually shown sensibly dressed for the rough outdoor life. They wear hats to protect them from the sun, and carry heavy cloaks on their shoulders- these also provide padded support for the ram. Unusually, the Ashmolean’s figure is bare-headed and wears only a sleeveless tunic with a pronounced hem (perhaps a double layer). The tunic is more typical of dress worn by Sardinian warriors, of whom numerous figures have survived. The
facial features- a strong brow and prominent long nose- also recall Sardinian warriors. It may be that this figure represents a warrior who has put aside his weapons to perform a religious rite, or simply that this figure was made by a workshop of sculptors responsible for the warriors or for a particular regional style.
The Ashmolean’s figure has lost his right hand, which was probably extended in a gesture of worship. He has also lost both feet. These were most likely set on tangs to stand the figure upright.