A figurine (a diminutive form of the word figure) is a statuette that represents a human, deity or animal. Figurines may be realistic or iconic, depending on the skill and intention of the creator. The earliest were made of stone or clay. Modern versions are made of ceramic, metal, glass, wood and plastic.
Figurines and miniatures are sometimes used in board games, such as chess, and tabletop role playing games. Old figurines have been used to discount some historical theories, such as the origins of chess.
In China, there are extant Neolithic figurines. Prehistoric figurines of pregnant women are called Venus figurines, because of their presumed representation of a goddess, or some connection to fertility. The two oldest known examples are made of stone, were found in Africa and Asia, and are several hundred thousand years old. Many made of fired clay have been found in Europe that date to 25-30,000 BC, and are the oldest ceramics known.
These early figurines are among the first signs of human culture. One cannot know in some cases how they were used. They probably had religious or ceremonial significance and may have been used in many types of rituals. Many are found in burials. Some may have been worn as jewelry or intended to amuse children.
Porcelain and other ceramics are common materials for figurines. There are many early examples from China where it originated, which drove the experimentation in Europe to replicate the process. The first European porcelain figurines, produced in a process mastered in Germany were known as Meissen ware after the city where it began. Soon the technique was copied in other cities, such as the one depicted from Dresden.
Modern era 
Modern figurines, particularly those made of plastic, are often referred to as figures. They can encompass modern action figures and other model figures as well as Precious Moments and Hummel figurines, Bobbleheads, Sebastian Miniatures and other kinds of memorabilia. Two companies which produce porcelain figurines are Royal Doulton and Lladró.
Figurines of comic book or sci-fi/fantasy characters without movable parts have been referred to by the terms inaction figures (originally used to describe Kevin Smith's View Askew figurines) and staction figures (a portmanteau of statue and action figures coined by Four Horsemen artists to describe Masters of the Universe figures).
See also 
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- Li Liu, The Chinese Neolithic: Trajectories to Early States, 2004, Cambridge University Press, 328 pages ISBN 0-521-81184-8
- C.Michael Hogan, Phaistos Fieldnotes, The Modern Antiquarian (2007)