Venus of Hohle Fels
The Venus of Hohle Fels (also known as the Venus of Schelklingen; in German variously Venus vom Hohlen Fels, vom Hohle Fels; Venus von Schelklingen) is an Upper Paleolithic figurine of a woman hewn from the ivory of a mammoth tusk that was found in 2008 near Schelklingen, Germany. It is dated to between 35,000 and 40,000 years ago, belonging to the early Aurignacian, at the very beginning of the Upper Paleolithic, which is associated with the earliest presence of Cro-Magnon in Europe. This female figure is the oldest undisputed example of human figurative prehistoric art yet discovered. In terms of figurative art only the lion-headed, zoomorphic Löwenmensch figurine is older. During 2011, the Venus figurine was still being researched in the University of Tübingen, although there are plans to house it and other discoveries from the region in a new museum planned in Swabia.
The Swabian Alb region of Germany has a number of caves that have yielded many mammoth-ivory artifacts of the Upper Paleolithic period. Approximately twenty-five items have been discovered to date. These include the Löwenmensch figurine of Hohlenstein-Stadel dated to 40,000 years ago, and an ivory flute found at Geißenklösterle, dated to 42,000 years ago. This mountainous region is located in Baden-Württemberg and is bounded by the Danube in the southeast, the upper Neckar in the northwest, and in the southwest it rises to the higher mountains of the Black Forest.
This concentration of evidence of full behavioral modernity, including figurative art and instrumental music among humans in the period of 40 to 30 thousand years ago, is unique worldwide and its discoverer, archaeologist Nicholas Conard, speculates that the bearers of the Aurignacian culture in the Swabian Alb may be credited with the invention, not just of figurative art and music, but possibly, the earlest religious practices as well. Within a distance of 70 cm to the Venus figurine, Conard's team also found a flute made from a vulture bone. Additional artifacts excavated from the same cave layer included flint-knapping debris, worked bone, and carved ivory as well as remains of tarpans, reindeer, cave bears, woolly mammoths, and Alpine Ibexes.
|, Nature - an extensive discussion of the artifact by two team members who discovered and study the figurine|
The discovery of the Venus of Hohle Fels by the archaeological team led by Nicholas J. Conard of Universität Tübingen Abteilung Ältere Urgeschichte und Quartärökologie pushed back the date of the oldest known human figurative art, by several millennia, establishing that works of art were being produced throughout the Aurignacian Period.
The remarkably early figurine was discovered in September 2008 in a cave called Hohle Fels (Swabian German for "hollow rock") near Schelklingen, some 15 km (9 mi) west of Ulm, Baden-Württemberg, in southwestern Germany, by a team from the University of Tübingen led by archaeology professor Nicholas Conard, who reported their find in Nature. The figurine was found in the cave hall, approximately 20 m (66 ft) from the entrance and 3 m (10 ft) below the current ground level. Nearby a bone flute dating to approximately 42,000 years ago was found, the oldest known uncontested musical instrument.
The figurine was sculpted from a woolly mammoth tusk that has broken into fragments, of which six have been recovered, with the left arm and shoulder still missing. It is estimated that "tens if not hundreds of hours" would have been necessary to carve the figurine. In place of the head, the figurine has a perforated protrusion, which may have allowed it to be worn as an amulet.
The discoverer, anthropologist Nicholas Conard, has said: "This [figure] is about sex, reproduction... [it is] an extremely powerful depiction of the essence of being female". Another anthropologist, Paul Mellars at Cambridge University, has suggested that—by modern standards—the figurine "could be seen as bordering on the pornographic", Anthropologists from Victoria University of Wellington have suggested that such figurines were not depictions of beauty, but represented "hope for survival and longevity, within well-nourished and reproductively successful communities", reflecting the conventional interpretation of these types of figurines as representing a fertility goddess.
- List of Stone Age art
- Löwenmensch figurine
- Prehistoric art
- Venus of Berekhat Ram
- Venus of Tan-Tan
- Venus of Willendorf
- Venus of Dolní Věstonice
Notes and references
- Benz, Otto, CDU und Freie Wähler wollen einen „Steinzeitpark“, www.schwaebische.de, news story (in German), July 7, 2011
- Älteste Menschenfigur der Welt gefunden Südwestrundfunk 14 May 2009.
- Maugh II, Thomas H. (May 14, 2009). "Venus figurine sheds light on origins of art by early humans". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-05-14.
- "Prehistoric pin-up". Nature. Retrieved April 16, 2013.
- The grid or cross-hatch patterns found engraved at the Blombos Cave in South Africa, dating to 75,000 years ago, may or may not be considered "abstract art".
- by at least 5,000 years, if the 35,000 BP date is compared to that of the Venus of Galgenberg, or by as much as 10,000 years if the 40,000 BP date is accepted.
- Henderson, Mark (2009-05-13). "Prehistoric female figure ‘earliest piece of erotic art uncovered’". The Times. Retrieved 2009-05-13.
- Conard, Nicholas J. "A female figurine from the basal Aurignacian of Hohle Fels Cave in southwestern Germany" (PDF). Nature 459 (7244): 248–252. doi:10.1038/nature07995. PMID 19444215. Retrieved 2009-05-13.
- "The Cave Art Debate". The Smithsonian. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
- "Full-Figured Statuette, 35,000 Years Old, Provides New Clues to How Art Evolved". 2009 (New York Times). Retrieved 23 October 2013.
- Dixson, Alan. "Venus Figurines of the European Paleolithic: Symbols of Fertility or Attractiveness?". 2011. Journal of Anthropology. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
- Cook, Jill (2013), Ice Age Art: the Arrival of the Modern Mind; [... to accompany the exhibition of the British Museum from 7 February to 26 May 2013]. London: British Museum Press. ISBN 978-0-7141-2333-2
- The Earliest Pornography? at Science
- Obsession with Naked Women Dates Back 35,000 Years at LiveScience
- Nature Magazine