May 18, 2009

Oldest Piece of Figurative Art found

The above image, labeled the "Venus of the Hohle Fels", has been carbon dated to an age of over 32,000 years old. It was discovered last September in six different pieces during the excavation of a cave at Schelklingen in the Swabian Jura of southwestern Germany. It appears to have been carved out of mammoth tusk with stone age tools. As far as the scientific record shows, this is the oldest known example of a figurative artwork in existence. There is no consensus, but it is very interesting and puzzling as to why figurative art is not found before 30-35 thousand years ago.
In southern Africa, the very cradle of humanity, painted abstract images have been found that date to a time over 75,000 years ago.
Of course, people assume this was some sort of totemic fertility icon, but it could just as easily be the very first sexually arousing art, or as we term it in these ridiculous days we live in, pornography. Note what is accentuated by the artist: the fleshy buttocks, the thick thighs, the huge pendulous breasts, the engorged and oversize labia. These things do not necessarily point to fertility. A fertility goddess should show a woman who is pregnant, should it not? This appears to be more fetishistic, more of a lusty carving by a lonely man, easy to carry with you on long hunting expeditions, allowing him to stroke it to satiate his lust, but there is really no way to know.
Here are some other examples of what are dubbed "Venus" figures, after the Greek/Roman goddess of love and fertility. The first is the famous Venus of Willendorf, or as she is now known, the Woman of Willendorf, discovered in 1908 in lower Austria.

This is the Venus of Laussel, discovered in central France and dated from between 21,000 and 18,000 BC. This more definitely pertains to the correlation between the human female menstrual cycle and the phases of the Moon, which was most certainly known and noted by ancient humans.

The carving below is a ceramic statuette titled the Venus of Dolní Vestonice.
It was discovered in a Paleolithic site dating between 29,000 and 25,000 BC, and located in Moravia, of the former Czechoslovakia. It is the world's earliest example of fired clay, predating the pottery we know by millenia.

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