The oldest European Venus figurine was found in the Hohle Fels cave (Germany)

Venus figurine from Hohle Fels (Schwaben, Germany), the oldest from Europe

Venus figurine from Hohle Fels (Schwaben, Germany), the oldest from Europe

In another blog we discussed two stone statuettes found in Tan-Tan (Morocco) and Berekhat Ram (Golan Heights, Syria) that are respectively 400,000 years respectively and 251,000 à 800,000 years old. These stone figurines had a natural shape that reminded of a woman. They were slightly modified to look even better on a woman. Interestingly, the Venus of Tan-Tan was smeared with red ochre.

Female figurines have a very long tradition in human art.

The oldest European Venus figurine was found in the Hohle Fels cave in Schwaben (a region of Germany) in 2008 by Nicholas Conard (University of Tübingen). It is made of mammoth ivory, 5.97 cm high, 3.46 cm wide and it weighs 33.3 grams what made it suitable to carry on trips. Almost all hunters and gatherers lived as nomads. The age of the statuette is estimated between 35,000 and 40,000 cal BP (Before Present). It was found in the deepest layers of the Hohle Fels. It presented, as most of the statuettes of the 25,000 following years, a heavily built woman with large protruding breasts, buttocks, a belly and a vagina that are disproportionate. It has as the figurines that would be created much later no face, as if a face was not important.
Look at a short film from Nature: http://www.nature.com/nature/videoarchive/prehistoricpinup/

Archaeologists found in the cave another 25 other Aurignacian figurines of animals or figurines that are half-man/half-animal. (E.g. the Lion Man: ) but no other Venus figurine. The Hohle Fels figurine was older than the other figurines in the Hohle Fels cave. It is also circa 5000 à 10,000 years older than other Venus figurines from the Gravettian, such as the Venus of Galgenberg (Austria).

4 sides of the Venus figurine from Hohle Fels (Schwaben, Germany), the oldest from Europe

4 sides of the Venus figurine from Hohle Fels (Schwaben, Germany), the oldest from Europe

A fertility symbol?

Nicholas Conard  thinks that this Hohle Fels statuette could be a fertility symbol. There are no testimonials from this period nor later where we can rely on but we can list a number of facts and possibilities.

– Most of these figurines were small, portable. They were probably carried around by European Homo sapiens.

– He spent much time creating these figurines, he considered them important.

A fertility Symbol. If it were merely a symbol to increase fertility, then a representation of a pregnant woman would have been sufficient.

A sexual symbol. These figurines represent women with strong sexual accents, with a big belly but no pregnant women. Problem is that hunters and gatherers, before the emergence of agriculture, did not know that sex could lead to pregnancy. Women simply became pregnant. This may seem strange to us, but of course couples had more than once sex before they knew a woman was pregnant. In the framework of group marriage, they had not seldom sex with more than one partner. The link between sex and become pregnant was not evident to them. These figurines had a sexual meaning. The pronounced forms, the lack of a head, point in that direction. Pronounced female forms today are found in sexually charged images. It could be a male constant to have strong appreciation such images.

– They usually occur in Eurasia, but less in the Middle East. The two statuettes mentioned at the beginning of this blog, the figurines of Tan-Tan and Berekhat Ram, could fit in the same tradition though they date from the period of Homo heidelbergensis. The distance is expressed in time great but a connection cannot be excluded.

– Chances are that descent was matrilinear. The Venus figurines could therefore represent female ancestors. I think the probability is small but it may not be excluded.

These figurines were probably sexual symbols. Human sex is a very powerful motif. They were part of a specific Eurasian culture and tradition. Everywhere in the world sexual symbols as e.g. were made such as the statue of Ain Shakri or phallus symbols in many cultures.

Marc.Vermeersch@gmail.com


[1] Hohje Fels is also written as Hohlefels in German.

If you are interested in art you might like these blogs:
Art in Olduvai 1,74 Million Years BP, Baboonhead 
Rather unknown, undeserved, the oldest known art in the world

The Origin of Aesthetic Feeling and Art Fundamental: How our aesthetic feeling originated in reproduction of man, a darwinian explanation.

7000 BP: The Thinker and the Sitting Woman Two statuettes, one amazinly modern though it maybe 7000 years old

Chauvet Cave, the oldest known cave art in Europe The recently discovered cave shows that the European late palaeolithic culture lasted at least 20,000 years.

The oldest statuettes adapted by man are between 233,000 and 800,000 years old.

The oldest European Venus figurine was found in the Hohle Fels cave (Germany) It is between 35,000 and 40,000 years old.

“Lion Man”, the oldest statuette with a combination man-animal ‘Der Löwenmensch” was found in Germany.

The oldest Love Statuette in the World They keep on loving for ever in the British Museum.

A virtual visit to the Lascaux Cave is mind blowing!

Venus from Galgenberg (Austria), ca. 30,000 BP

Venus from Galgenberg (Austria), ca. 30,000 BP

La más antigua figura de Venus europea se ha encontrado en la cueva de Hohle Fels (Alemania)

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