1.1.1.2 – Variegated Venuses – 50,000 – 6,000 BCE

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QUICK LINKS:
Venus of Tan Tan
Venus of Hohle Fels
Venus of Dolní Věstonice
Venus of Galgenberg
Venus of Lespugue
Venus of Willendorf
Venus of Laussel
Venus of Petřkovice
Venus of Moravany
Venus figurines of Kostenki
Venus figurines of Balzi Rossi
Venus of Savignano
Venus of Renancourt
Venus of Brassempouy
Venus figurines of Mal’ta and Buret
Venus figurines Gönnersdorf
Venus figurines of Petersfels
Venus of Monruz
Fertility figurine of Tel Halaf
Orkney Venus (Westray Wifie)
Fertility figurine Mehrgarh

The earliest forms of sculpted items discovered have been a large series of Venus figurines. Some 190 of these have been found right across Eurasia). They were fabricated in the Stone Age, more specifically in the Upper Palaeolithic, and are mostly attributed to the Gravettian period (24,000-19,000 BCE). This was when hunter-gatherers were operating in extremely cold regional conditions.

However the title of “Venus” is a modern attribution and it is usually said that these represent a mother goddess, a symbol of fertility. A small portable goddess would have been useful to these nomadic people. The materials used were soft rocks and ivory, some were ceramic.

What is remarkable is the consistent look and purpose across such a wide area. Some sources claim this is the ‘Great Goddess’, a monotheistic belief of this period, to be replaced by polytheism in the bronze and iron ages; however a mother god persisted into the Classical era, worshipped by Greeks and Romans as Cybele or as Gaia or Rhea. The Chinese had a mother-god called Magu, though she appears much more fragrant and sylph-like.

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50,000 – 20,000 BCE
Image source: en.wikiquote.org
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The left-hand object is the ‘Tan-Tan Venus‘ carved from a quartzite block. It was discovered in a river bed outside Tan-Tan Morocco, and is claimed as the earliest-found sculpting of the human form. The right-hand object, the Berekat Ram Venus, a modified pebble found on the Golan Heights in Israel. Brought together at the Museum of Human Evolution (Burgos Spain) as early Venus figurines.

The Tan-Tan object is not without controversy because many claim the 6 cm stone as a naturally occuring object, worn down by time and river into a suggestive shape. Others sit on the fence and suggest while naturally occuring there are signs of subsequent human carving. Its proponents point to the other artefacts found with it, and flecks of what might be red paint.

38,000 – 33,000 BCE
Image source: Wikimedia commons
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Here are two views of the ‘Venus of Hohle Fels‘, discovered in Shelklingen, in the Swabian Jura of Germany. It is indisputably carved from mammoth ivory by Cro-Magnon man, and clearly a depiction of the human form.

29,000-25,000 BCE
Image source: pinterest.co.uk
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The ‘Venus of Dolní Věstonice‘ is a ceramic figurine found in Moravia, Czechia. It is 11cm tall x 4cm wide and was made by a low-fired clay process. The large hips, belly and breasts suggest it was used as a fertility figure. It is held today at the Moravské zemské muzeum, Brno, Czechia.

28,000 BCE
Image source: itinari.com
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The ‘Venus of Galgenberg‘ (aka Fanny von Galgenberg) was found near Strazing in Austria. It is diplayed at the Museum of Natural History in Vienna, alongside the Venus of Willendorf. Its nickname was earned for the dancer-like pose and named for an Austrian ballet dancer Fanny Eissier. The 7cm figurine is fashioned from a local green serpentine rock.

24,000 – 22,000 BCE
Image source: pinterest.co.uk
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The ‘Venus of Lespugue‘ was discovered in the Rideaux cave in Haute-Garonne France. It is 15cm tall and made from ivory. It’s curvacious features have a technical term – steatopygous. There is the suggestion of a very early spun-thread skirt below the hips. It is at the
Musée de l’Homme in Paris.
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Willendorf.jpeg
24,000-22,000 BCE
Image source: Wikimedia commons
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The ‘Venus of Willendorf‘ was discovered in Lower Austria. It is 11 cms tall, carved from oolitic limestone and had traces of red ochre. It is on show at the Museum of Natural History in Vienna, alongside the Venus of Galgenberg.

23,000 BCE
Image source: Wikimedia commons
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The ‘Venus de Laussel‘ is a 46 cm bas-relief in limestone, painted with red ochre. She holds a cornucopia supporting the notion that her purpose was fertility; though some believe it to be a bison horn. The notches on this object are said to indicate a lunar or menstrual cycle of some sort.

It was discovered in the Dordogne France and is at the Musée d’Aquitaine in Bordeaux, France.

23,000 BCE
Image source: Wikimedia commons
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The ‘Venus of Petřkovice‘ is carved from haematite or iron ore. At just 4.5cm high, it was found in Ostrava, Silesia in Czechia, beneath a mammoth molar. It appears to be intentionally headless. It is on show at the Archeological Institute, Brno, Czechia.

22,800 BCE
Image source: pinterest.co.uk
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The ‘Venus of Moravny‘ was found in Moravany nad Váhom, Slovakia. Fabricated in mammoth ivory. There is a replica on show at the Bratislava Castle exposition of the Slovak National Museum.

23,000-18,000 BCE
Image source: donsmaps.com
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The ‘Venus figurines of Kostenki‘ were discovered in the Don river valley in the Khokholsky District, Voronezh Oblast of Russia. This ivory version is on show at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.


23,000-16,000 BCE
Image source: donsmaps.com
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The thirteen ‘Venus figurines of Balzi Rossi‘ were discovered in caves near Grimaldi di Ventimiglia Italy. The one pictured is 38 cm high and carved in green soapstone. No archaeological context has been found, so the dates are an estimate.

Eight are on show at the Musée d’Archéologie Nationale at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris.

23,000-16,000 BCE
Image source: biologus.eu
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The ‘Venus of Savignano‘ is oddly biconical, and at 23cm high is one of the largest found. No hands or feet were included, but the breasts and buttocks are more typical. It is fabricated in Serpentine Rock and was discovered near Savignano sul Panaro, Italy.

It is on show at the Pigorini National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography in Rome Italy.

21,000 BCE
Image source: fardoise.eklablog.com
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The ‘Venus of Renancourt‘ was found near Amiens France. Fabricated in chalk it too offers little by way of arms, but beyond the typical fleshy parts, it gives detail to the navel and has hatch marks for her hair or headwear.

21,000 BCE
Image source: Wikimedia commons
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The ‘Venus of Brassempouy‘ is a 4cm high mammoth ivory fragment found in a cave near Brassempouy in Landes, SW France. It is also known as the Lady with the Hood and is the earliest (find to-date) realistic depiction of a human face, though no mouth is shown.

It is on show at Musée d’Archéologie Nationale at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris.

21,000 BCE
Image source: siberiantimes.com
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The ‘Venus figurines of Mal’ta and Buret‘ were sometimes clothed and thus termed ‘Venus in Furs’ – Mal’ta is in Irkutsk Oblast, Russia, aka Siberia! But the pictured ivory version is a little more anatomically specific, yet without a face.

13,000 BCE
Image source: Wikimedia commons
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A more abstract approach was adopted by the makers of ‘Venuses at Gönnersdorf‘, near Koblenz in the Rhineland-Palatinate. This array is 15,000-11,000 years BP, from the Magdalenian period. Fabricated from bones, antlers and tusks they are clearly representing the female form.

13,000 BCE
Image source: pinterest.com.au
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The ‘Venus figurines of Petersfels‘ were found in the Petersfels caves near Engen, Baden-Württemberg Germany. They are dated as 15,000- 11,500 BP, the largest is the ‘Venus of Engen’

They are on show in the Museums of Freiburg im Breisgau and Engen.

13,000 BCE
Image source: Wikimedia commons
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The ‘Venus of Monruz‘ aka ‘Venus of Neuchâtel’, was discovered during a motorway construction near Neuchâtel in Switzerland, It is fabricated from black jet and is just 18mm in height.

It is very similar in design to the Venus figurines of Petersfels.

6,000 BCE
Image source: louvre.fr
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The ‘Venus figurine of Tel Halaf‘ was created in Mesopotamia between 6,000-4,000 BCE. It is fabricated in terracotta. Similar figurines have been discovered across Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. This figurine is at The Louvre.

3,000 BCE
Image source: orkneyjar.com
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The ‘Orkney Venus‘ or ‘Westray Wifie’ was heralded as the first Scottish depiction of a human. Discovered in the midden of a farmhouse, it is just 41mm tall, 31mm wide and 12mm thick. It has eyes and scratches that might be hair on the top and back of the head. But there are no exaggerated hips and breasts that are features of European Venuses.


3,000 BCE
Image source: wikimedia commons
Fertility figurines from Mehrgarh in the Indus Valley. The one featured is terracotta and 9.5 cm tall. The hair was probably painted black and the body with brown ochre, with a yellow necklace. The hair is complicated and a feature of the region was to have arms folded beneath the breasts.

Forward to 1.1.1.3 Selected Sculptures
Back to 1.1.1.1 Urge to Etch and Sketch – Back to 1.1.1 Art in Antiquity index

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