Did you know that over the last couple of centuries, archaeologists turning up the soil across a three thousand mile stretch of Europe reaching from the Iberian Peninsula to beyond the Urals in quest of a clearer picture of our cultural development down the millenniums find plenty of carved male and male figurines—including many thought to be religious in nature—down to the level of some twelve thousand years ago?
But deeper than that, all the way to down to about forty thousand, the only references to the male are a few isolated phalli—that is, not in association with any of the hundreds of female figurines discovered at those greater depths—some hunting scenes painted on cavern walls, a depiction of a shaman, presumably male, wearing a horned headdress while performing some kind of ritual, and a depiction of a hunter being gored by a bull.
And the female figurines? Well, have a look. The chart below lists ten examples, determined by archaeologists to have been produced during Paleolithic times, or as it’s more commonly known, the Old Stone Age.
Note that our chart reveals that these particular figurines, carved of mammoth ivory and a variety of relatively soft stones—or in one case, fashioned of clay and subsequently baked into hard ceramic—were discovered across a range reaching from Spain to Siberia; and that they date from around forty thousand years ago up to twenty thousand—or over a thousand generations, counting twenty years to each.
Why would we rearrange our concept of time here to think in terms of generations? Because for most of us, ‘forty thousand years’ is just a number that doesn’t quite compute in terms of our own brief lives; while here, we would make clear as much as possible the fact that the people who left these figurines behind, no matter how far back in time, weren’t of some alien tribe, but of course, well within our own, human lineage.
You’ll also notice that they’re referred to by the chart-maker as ‘Venuses’: the name loosely given to these mysterious artifacts by the first puzzled archeologists to study them —since they were thought to be associated in some way with fertility—and then duly applied to the many more that would ultimately follow. Here, however, we shall refer to them more cautiously as simply depictions of a woman.
So now let’s examine the figurines themselves. We shall follow the chart, save in the case of the Brassempouy piece, and will also add a few.
Found in a German cave of the same name. Carved of mammoth-ivory. Less than an inch in height—and so we should take notice of the small loop at the top, in lieu of a head; apparently, the object was meant to be worn as a pendant.
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From lower Austria. Carved of serpentine—a mottled, dark green mineral historically coveted for its marble-like appearance. Estimated to have been produced five to ten thousand years after the Hohle Fels piece.
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From around the same period, but unearthed in Moravia in the modern Czech Republic. About seven inches in height, it’s made of fired clay, and as such, is the oldest known surviving ‘terracotta’ or ceramic piece in the world. Of even more interest to us would be the fact that several hundred fragments of similar figures at the site of its discovery indicate that it was actually mass-produced there. We must wonder why.
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This ivory carving was badly damaged during its excavation from the floor of a cave in the French Pyrennes; alongside, an artist’s rendering of what it probably looked like whole. Looks almost modern, doesn’t it, with its treatment of mass and volume—this artwork of your ancestors and mine, some 1,200 generations ago.
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A limestone figure discovered amid the remains of a mammoth-hunter’s camp along the banks of the Danube near the modern village of Willendorf, Austria. Bears traces of red ochre, with which it appears to have been originally smeared. About four inches tall, most likely carved out of a rock small enough to be held in the carver’s other hand.
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Our chart also lists an ivory piece from Mal’ta, near Lake Baikal in lower Siberia. More than thirty of these enigmatic objects have been discovered at this site to date. The two on the left are much older than the other and are carved of stone; the one on the right is our ivory work, and should be of interest to us for two reasons: (1) unlike any figure that we’ve encountered so far, it bears an ever so slight attempt to include some facial detail; and (2), note the hole at the bottom: was this object too, only about an inch and a half in height, meant to be worn as some kind of pendant?
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From Slovakia. Carved of mammoth-ivory, about four inches tall. Not very well executed, headless, and badly worn over time, but nonetheless appearing on our chart, so we shall at least give it honorable mention here.
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This eighteen inch tall bas relief carving is from the wall of a cavern in France. Note its residual smears of red paint.
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Three of more than a dozen nameless figurines unearthed to date at a small, twenty thousand year old mammoth hunters’ village near Adveedo, on the Russian steppe.
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Three more of these objects, from Kostienko, another mammoth-hunters’ village in Russia; closely related to the find at Avdeevo.
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One of many similar figurines found at various points throughout this site, also in Russia.
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From northern Italy. Carved of serpentine. Almost nine inches in height, it’s the tallest of all the figurines found to date. The point at the bottom suggests that it was meant to be stuck into the ground.
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Some of the thirteen carvings turned up in the Balzi-Rossi caves in northern Italy. Several are less than an inch in height, and again, apparently functioned as some kind of pendant.
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So now let’s expand a little on what we’ve learned so far.
Altogether, more than two hundred of these enigmatic carvings have been found to date, with most turned up across the three thousand mile range—think across the entire width of the mainland United States—shown below.
More than half were carved of mammoth ivory; the remainder were carved from bones, antlers, various kinds of stone, or in one case, made of ceramic. A few of the miniature ones actually turn out to have been carved from teeth!
Ranging from from less than an inch in height to almost nine, the oldest were discovered in caves, or occasionally in open air sites. Many of the mid-size ones were discovered in long-buried prehistoric settlements—whose primitive hut interiors, especially in Russia, were often found to include wall niches specially created for their display.
So what do they all have in common?
- They’re all portrayed as naked, though there’s plenty of evidence that our European forebears wore animal skins back then, particularly in winter and at high altitudes.
- They all emphasize the breasts, and in fact sometimes exaggerate them to the point of absurdity.
- They all depict the vulva, too—although some photographs display them at such an angle as to ‘protect’ us from that ungodly sight.
- Save for a few carvings from Siberia, the figure of our mystery woman is consistently depicted sans facial features.
Are they faceless because people’s talent for carving wasn’t yet developed to the point where they could include a face? You be the judge.
Does this ivory carving (an attempted portrait?) of a young woman—our aforementioned Brassempouy piece, found in France, here accompanied by a male head from Dolni Vestonice—leave any doubt that our artistic ancestors even as far back as twenty-five thousand years ago could easily have added facial detail to their figurines had they been of a mind to?
But remarkably, they didn’t—not one of them that we know of. Could it be because these figurines really didn’t represent ‘a woman’ as much as simply the ‘spirit of womanhood’—or more to the point, given their emphasis on her birthing orifice and breasts, the spirit of motherhood?
And finally, one thing sticks out so starkly in all this that it can’t possibly be ignored by anyone who would seriously study the history of human culture—and especially of religion.
You see, as previously indicated, there’s been no comparable find of male figurines from that twenty thousand year period—anywhere across that three thousand mile expanse.
Just think about that for a moment: across a range of thousands of miles, it was the same; and for more than a thousand generations, it would remain the same!
And now we must pause to recall that around the turn of the twentieth century, cultural anthropologists doing research among the aboriginal peoples of Australia, New Guinea, and the Trobriand Islands reported that their subjects didn’t recognize any connection between babies and sex. Of course, they were quickly followed by others who guffawed at this news and proclaimed their observation preposterous—and in that mindset, promptly set out for the region themselves to disprove it.
And after spending some time among the various peoples in question, their cautiously worded report found that while their subjects’ ideas about the making of babies were rather strange, they did understand that at some point, in one way or another, “a male had to be involved.” Not exactly a resounding rebuttal of the original finding—which though still controversial, has to this day never been completely blown out of the water; while of course, since then the people in question have become as sexually sophisticated as you or I.
And speaking of you and I, we might note that the etymology of the word ‘uncle’ is given in every English dictionary as having originally meant—listen closely—mother’s brother.
Why only the mother’s brother? For the simple reason, one must assume—and I personally believe—that back when people first coined that word, there was no notion of fatherhood.
Rather, our Stone Age ancestors appear to have developed cerebrally just enough to have reached the point where they no longer saw things only in a cursory way, as any animal might, but were beginning to reason about what they saw; and recognizing that all new life issued from the female—but not yet understanding what that was all about, since their steadily evolving mind hadn’t yet come to associate copulation with conception—went on to not only glorify woman, but to reason that all the world must have originated with some female: a divine female, then, the Great Mother; nowadays reduced to something ever so traditionally remembered as simply Mother Nature, in something called mere folklore.
And the bottom line here? Well, all of the available evidence indicates that most likely, for the first thirty thousand years, or fifteen hundred generations of our recorded history, the
Creator Creatrix of the world was perceived to be female.
Wikipedia, Venus Figurines https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_figurines
Wikipedia, List of Stone Age Art https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Stone_Age_art
Ancient History Encyclopedia, Venus Figurines https://www.ancient.eu/Venus_Figurine/
1: Wikipedia https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_figurines
2: Don’s Maps https://www.donsmaps.com/galgenbergvenus.html
3: Wikipedia https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_figurines
5: Don’s Maps https://donsmaps.com/willendorf.html
6: Don’s Maps https://www.donsmaps.com/malta.html
8: Wikipedia https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_of_Laussel
10: Don’s Maps https://www.donsmaps.com/kostenkivenus.html
11: Don’s Maps: https://www.donsmaps.com/gagarino.html
12: Don’s Maps https://www.donsmaps.com/savignanovenus.html
14: Wikipedia https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_of_Brassempouy & Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/pin/108719778478819606/?lp