Venus-of-Brassempouy

This Venus has an Exceptional Representation of Prehistoric Human Face

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As human beings, we are always curious about our past and the future. We always have a wish to know the future in advance. In the same way, we are equally curious about our past.

We always want to know about the culture and lifestyle of our ancestors. We want to know how they looked like. However, with the help of the latest technology, it has been possible to create an image of prehistoric humans.

But still, there is one prehistoric artifact that has been accepted as the oldest realistic representation of a human face ever created. In this article, we are going to explore the statue of Venus of Brassempouy which is more than 20000 years old.

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Venus Figurine

A Venus figurine (Venus statuette) is an 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[2]. 

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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.

Venus of Brassempouy

The Venus of Brassempouy (French: la Dame de Brassempouy, meaning “Lady of Brassempouy”, or Dame à la Capuche, “Lady with the Hood”) is an ivory figurine created about 25,000 years ago and is one of the earliest known realistic representations of a female human face.

She was discovered in Brassempouy, which is a small village in southwest France. Two caves near the village, 100 meters from each other, were among the first Paleolithic sites to be explored in France.

The Venus of Brassempouy was discovered in one of the caves in 1894, together with eight other human figures in fragments.

The Venus of Brassempouy was carved from mammoth ivory. She is 36.5 mm high, 22 mm deep, and 19 mm wide. Her face is triangular and seems tranquil. While the forehead, nose, and brows are carved in relief, the mouth is absent which suggests the work of the sculptor may have been interrupted.

Venus-of-Brassempouy
Artist: Illustration © Libor Balák

Photo: http://www.iabrno.cz/agalerie/gravett.htm

Analysis

By looking at the statue, it seems that there is very little space left in it where the mouth can be drawn. Could it be possible that this is not an actual statue that was eventually built finally?

The error which the sculptor was failed to recognize in the early-stage forced him to left the work of this statue in the middle and started work on the other.

A vertical crack on the right side of the face is linked to the internal structure of the ivory. This might have been another reason for the sculptor to leave work in between.

On the head, there is an exceptional checkerboard-like pattern formed by two series of shallow incisions at right angles to each other, it has been interpreted as a wig, a hood, or simply a representation of hair.

The wig might look more suitable at this place due to the right angle which the sculptor might have created purposefully to differentiate from the real hairdo. The same kind of stuff can be found with other venus figurines as well.

The head of the Willendorf figurine offers the clearest evidence that what we see here is a depiction of head-gear-a fiber-based woven cap or hat-rather than a
hairdo[1]

These finds may represent unfinished works as if the artist or artists were carving several figurines at the same time. They represent some of the earliest works of prehistoric art.

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”
Venus of Brassempouy Postal Stamp in France

The Venus of Brassempouy is preserved in the Musée d’Archéologie Nationale at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris Since ivory is very susceptible to damage from factors such as temperature change, moisture, and light, the figure is opened only by reservation.

References

  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/317381?read-now=1&seq=8#page_scan_tab_contents
  2. https://www.historyandmythology.com/2019/07/gods-of-upper-paleolithic-period-50000bc.html

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