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        Venus Figurines:

Extract - 'Archaeologically they are known from the earliest horizons of the Aurignacian and extend to the end of the Magdalenian. Venus figurines have been found in Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Germany, Czechoslovakia, the Ukraine, and as far east as Lake Baikal... In appearance most are plump little creatures with exaggerated female characteristics: large breasts, thighs and buttocks. Many are carved from mammoth tusks, but one of the best known is made of limestone and generally known as the Venus of Willendorf' (1)



   Venus Figurines from Around the World:

'Venus figurines' - is an umbrella term for a number of prehistoric statues of women sharing common attributes from the Aurignacian or Gravettian period of the upper Palaeolithic, found from Western Europe to Siberia. These items were carved from soft stone, bone or ivory, or formed of clay and fired. The latter are among the oldest ceramics known. In total, over a hundred such figurines are known; virtually all of modest size, between 4 cm and 25 cm in height. (Ref:



 The Venus of Laussel, France:

 Fashioned on limestone approximately 20,000 years ago and painted with red-ochre paint.

It has been suggested that the 13 notches on the 'horn' she is holding represent either the number of moons or the number of menstrual cycles in a year (or both).




The Oldest Venus Figurine Yet Found:

The oldest yet discovered venus figurine has been recovered from the archaeological cave site of Hohle Fels, Germany, and reported in the May 14, 2009, issue of Nature

Hohle Fels is an Upper Paleolithic cave site in the Swabian Jura of southwestern Germany, and it is known for mammoth ivory carvings and the evidence of their manufacture, dated to the Aurignacian, between about 31,000 and 33,000 years ago. Excavator Nicholas Conard at the University of Tubingen has recovered three other ivory carvings, including a waterbird, a horse's head, and a strange half-human, half lion figurine.

Conard discovered the venus figurine illustrated above, and has suggested, based on the stacked five Aurignacian layers above it that it dates to the earliest Aurignacian period of about 35,000�40,000 years ago. The next oldest venus figurine is from Dolni Vestonice in the Czech Republic, between about 28,000 and 31,000 years ago.



Other Venus figurines:

 venus figurines

Three European Venus figurines from the ice-age of ca. 25,000 years ago. From left to right: Venus of Dolni-Vestonice, Czech, burnt clay. Venus of Willendorf, Austria, Chalk. Venus of Les pugue, France, mammoth ivory.


samarra figurine Le Puge figurine

Female statuettes from Samarra c. 6,000 BC (left), and Le Pugue (right).


The Kostenki Figurines: Siberia, Russia


(Left: 23,000 BC. Limestone. H 10.2 cm.)

This Venus figure from Kostienki made of mammoth bone shows the characteristic pregnancy, well developed buttocks and pendulous breasts of many such statues. In the rear view she can be seen to be wearing a fringe or girdle.
The faceless head bends towards the chest while the arms are pressed to the body with hands on the belly. Covering the surface of the head are rows of incisions indicating a hair style or cap. Relief work in the form of a tight plait convey a breast ornament tied up at the back. There are bracelets on the arms. Photo: J Jelinek, 'The Evolution of Man'.


Also found at the Russian site of Kostenki in 1988, this is by far the largest such object known from the ice age. The height of the surviving fragment is 13.5 cm (5.5 inches) It is noteworthy not only for its massive size and the prominent navel, but also for the bracelets on the wrists, which appear to be joined together at the front like a pair of handcuffs.




Venus of Gagarino, Ukraine: (Height 5.8 cm)

Gagarino is located on the right bank of the Don River about five kilometres north of the junction of the Sosna, a tributary stream. Here peasants discovered a house pit while excavating a silo trench. Unfortunately, the trench cut through the centre of the house pit along its major axis and presumably destroyed the hearth and entrance. Zamiatinine (1934) who excavated this site during 1926 - 1929, found a house pit roughly oval in outline about 5.5 metres long and 4.5 metres wide. The floor was located 40 to 60 cm below the occupational surface. The walls of the pit were lined with the long bones of rhinoceros and mammoth, including the tusks and lower jaws of the latter, as well as with sandstone slabs. The wealth of material remains found in this one house pit is seen in the recorded finds of some six hundred flint implements, over a thousand blades, and proportionately large numbers of cores, waste flints, artefacts of bone as well as several "venus" figurines .




   Maltese Figurines:

On the Island of Malta, which has several strong indications of a prehistoric female worship, a number of small 'Venus' figurines have been found, along with a 'life-size' figure, which is more often referred to as the 'mother-earth-goddess' figure.


Most of the Venus figures in Malta were found in or around temples, reinforcing the suggesting of an association with religious worship.

The shape of the temples themselves has been likened to the shape of the earth-mother-goddess figures. The same observation has been made at certain Neolithic structures on the Orkney Islands.

 Earth-mother goddess malta

The dominant position of the huge female-goddess figure inside the entrance to the Hal Tarxien temple reinforces the idea that they were an important part of ceremonial procedure. The top half is now missing.

(More about Malta)



   Venus Figurines as Representations of the Earth-Mother:

The Earth-mother figurine above is from Catal Huyuk in Turkey, and shows similarity to other more recent earth-mother figures found in Europe, such as the Cybele of Minoan Greece and Britannia below.




   Venus Brain-figurines...

Lateral and dorsal views of animal brains (not proportionally sized), from left: larva of lamprey, trout, frog, alligator, pigeon, rabbit.


The similarity between animal brains and some of the distorted Venus figurines lead to the possibility that some of the 'figurines' might in instead be life-sized animal brain-images.

It is proposed that ancient shaman carved brain replicas that encoded characteristics of the totem animals of whose brain they copied.

This figure (right) from Easter Island bears some resemblance, also, to the lateral view of a turtle's brain. Much art of the Pacific Islands may well lend itself to this sort of physiologic analysis.


(Link to Full Article)





(Palaeolithic Homepage)


1) Peter Lancaster Brown. 'Megaliths, Myths and Men'. 1977. Book Club Associates.



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