Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Venus Figurines of Upper Paleolithic Art

Archeology and Art

     This is one of those really interesting moments when history meets art. Archeologists have uncovered over a hundred 'Venus Figurines', or little statuettes, throughout Europe. The most famous, of course, being Venus of Willendorf (pictured left).
     These voluptuous vixens range from 4 cm to 25 cm in height. They are often small-small enough to fit in the hand. Their purpose has been questioned, however it is likely that they were used for a ritualistic purpose. Their exaggerated body proportions (emphasis on secondary sex characteristics) is a pretty good indication that they were used for fertility purposes. *cue Marvin Gaye music* No . . . really, though, the hunter-gatherers of the Paleolithic Age rarely made anything that wasn't utilitarian. So it is likely that these were used in some kind of religious ceremony or as a charm, not just revered for their looks (Sorry, ladies!).
    Carbon dating estimates these steatopygiac statuettes to be around 35,000-11,000 yrs. ago. Which spans roughly the Paleolithic Age. They are mainly found in Western Europe, however have been found as East as the Pyrenees mountains (Wow!). Honestly, I'm a bit curious. Pouring through the pictures of these limestone ladies have made me wonder . . . how can art be so similar across such an expansive time frame and geographical area?? Although, the Paleolithic tribes were nomadic, so it is likely that these ritualistic traditions were carried with them.

    In any case, and as mysterious as these ancient statuettes may be, they are incredibly beautiful. The attention to detail is absolutely amazing. Perhaps these ladies were small idols? Replications of goddesses? The Paleolithic Marilyn Monroe? We'll never know . . . 

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