The Goddess of Upper Paleolithic Period [50,000 to 10,000 BP]

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Venus Figurine

A Venus figurine (Venus statuette) is Upper Paleolithic statuette portraying a woman. Most of them have small heads, wide hips, and legs that taper to a point. Most of them date from the Gravettian period (26,000–21,000 years ago) and have been unearthed in Europe, but others have been found as far away as Siberia, extending their distribution across much of Eurasia, although with many gaps, such as the Mediterranean outside Italy.

In total, some 144 such figurines are known virtually all of the modest size, between 3 cm and 40 cm or more in height. They are some of the earliest works of prehistoric art. The original cultural meaning and purpose of these artifacts are not known. It has frequently been suggested that they may have served a ritual or symbolic function.

The Upper Paleolithic Period

The Upper Paleolithic period has the earliest known evidence of organized settlements of the human being, in the form of campsites, some with storage pits. Artistic work blossomed, with cave painting, petroglyphs, carvings and engravings on bone or ivory. The first evidence of human fishing is also found, from artifacts in places such as Blombos cave in South Africa. More complex social groupings emerged, supported by more varied and reliable food sources and specialized tool types. This probably contributed to increasing group identification or ethnicity.

First Discovery of Venus Figurine

The first Venus figurine was found in about 1864 by Paul Hurault, 8th Marquis de Vibraye at the famous archaeological site of Laugerie-Basse in the Vézère valley in southwestern France. The famous Venus of Willendorf was excavated in 1908 in a loess deposit in the Danube valley, Austria. Since then, hundreds of similar figurines have been discovered from the Pyrenees to the plains of Siberia. In September 2008, archaeologists from the University of Tübingen discovered a 6 cm figurine woman carved from a mammoth’s tusk, the Venus of Hohle Fels, dated to at least 35,000 years ago, representing the earliest known sculpture of this type, and the earliest known work of figurative art altogether.

Venus of Hohle Fels

Venus of Hohle Fels
CountrySwabian Alb, Germany
Discovery Date2008
Creation Time35000-40000 BC
Measuresheight 6 cm (2.4 in)
Current Location Prehistoric Museum of Blaubeuren
Amazing FactsThe figurine was sculpted from a woolly mammoth tusk and it has broken into fragments, of which six have been recovered, with the left arm and shoulder still missing.

Venus of Galgenberg

Venus of Galgenberg
CountryFanny von Galgenberg, Germany
Discovery Date1988
Creation Time30000
Measures7.2 cm in height and weighs 10 g
Current LocationMuseum of Natural History in Vienna, Austria
Amazing Facts“It is sculpted from the shiny green serpentine rock which is found in the immediate vicinity of where the figurine was unearthed. Because the figurine exhibits a “dancing pose” it was given the nickname of “Fanny”

Venus of Dolní Věstonice

Venus of Dolní Věstonice
CountryMoravia, Czech Republic
Discovery Date1925
Creation Time29,000-25,000 BCE
Measuresheight of 111 millimeters (4.4 in), and a width of 43 millimeters (1.7 in)
Current LocationMoravské zemské Museum, Brno, Czech Republic
Amazing Facts The figurine was discovered on 13 July 1925 in a layer of ash, broken into two pieces. Once on display at the Moravian Museum in Brno, it is now protected and only rarely accessible to the public. Scientists periodically examine the statuette.

Venus of Lespugu

Venus of Lespugu
CountryThe French Pyrenees
Discovery Date1922
Creation Time24000-26000 BC
MeasuresApproximately 6 inches (150 mm) tall
Current Location 
Amazing FactsThe Venus of Lespugue resides in France, at the Musée de l’Homme. It was damaged during excavation

Venus of Willendorf

CountryLower Austria
Discovery Date1908
Creation Time30000
Measures11.1-centimeter-tall (4.4 in)
Current LocationNaturhistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria
Amazing FactsThe figure is believed to have been carved during the European Upper Paleolithic,  or “Old Stone Age”, a period of prehistory starting around 30,000 BCE.  In a 2009 reexamination of the stratigraphy at the site, researchers estimated that the age of the archaeological layer in which the figurine was found is about 30,000 years before our time.

Venus of Brassempouy

Venus of Brassempouy
CountryBrassempouy, France
Discovery Date1892
Creation Time25000 BC
MeasuresThe head is 3.65 cm high, 2.2 cm deep and 1.9 cm wide
Current LocationMusée d’Archéologie Nationale at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris
Amazing FactsThe Venus of Brassempouy meaning is (“Lady with the Hood”).
It is one of the earliest known realistic representations of a human face.
The face is triangular and seems tranquil. In 1976, the Venus of Brassempouy was depicted on a 2.00 franc stamp”

Purpose of Making Venus Statuette

Many theories try to explain the existence of Venus figurines because different Venus figurine indicates different representation and may lead to a different explanation. Like in some examples, certain parts of the human anatomy are exaggerated like abdomen, hips, breasts, thighs, vulva.

In contrast, other anatomical details are neglected or absent, especially arms and feet. Some may represent pregnant women, while others show no such signs. They may be emblems of security and success, fertility icons, or direct representations of a mother goddess.

In some theories the Emergence of the Goddess that the consistency in design of these featureless, large-breasted, often pregnant figures throughout a wide region and over a long period of time suggests they represent an archetype of a female Supreme Creator.

The Venus of Willendorf and the Venus of Laussel bear traces of having been externally covered in red ochre. The significance of this is not clear but is normally assumed to be religious or ritual in nature—perhaps symbolic of the blood of menstruation or childbirth.


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