Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Venus Figure is 35,000+++ Years Old

But I sure wish the archaeologists would dream up a new name for these voluptuous statuettes. Please. After all, calling it a Venus figure prejudges its purpose, doesn't it? It creates a context in our heads. And when looking at something that may be up to 40,000 years old, that's a big mistake.

I like what archaeologist Paul Mellars of Cambridge U says about the piece though. Rather than accepting it as a fertility symbol, he suggests: "These people were obsessed with sex."

This lovely piece of work, carved out of mammoth ivory, was found in a cave in Schelklingen, in southern Germany--14 miles southwest of Ulm. (Not that I know where that is, but you might.) The tiny statue was in six pieces when unearthed, and it lacks a head, feet, and a left arm. It is the oldest representation of a human being ever found.

According to the AP story, the left arm is still being sought, but the lack of head and feet seem to be part of the artist's intent. You can just barely make out the loop that indicates it may have been hung from a string or hook.

I hope it is OK to reprint this AP photo by Daniel Maurer, since it seems to be the only picture of this amazing object.

The particular cave, Hohle Fels, has been rich in ancient deposits, and this piece was found 9 feet below the current surface. Both Neandertal and homo sapiens used the cave and left debris, but the scientists are certain this is made by our homo sapien ancestors. Bits of worked bone and ivory, flint-knapping debris, and animal remains were found nearby.

Discoverer Nicholas J. Conard of the University of Tubingen in Germany also found carvings of an animal head, a bird in flight, and a half-human, half-lion figurine, all about 5,000 years younger than the headless female. That's from a Los Angeles Times story--Conard wrote about his work in the journal Nature, but the article is only accessible to paid subscribers.

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