Museum of the Origins of Man


The production of representations of naked women (Venuses) is divided into three phases: - from 400,000 to 200,000 years ago (Acheulean and Middle Clactonian); - from 200,000 to 40,000 years ago (Acheulean and final Clactonian and Mousterian); - from 40,000 to 12,000 years ago (Upper Paleolithic). The typology of the sculptures consists of female statuettes, naked and without feet ("Venuses") which have the sexual attributes highlighted.
The most ancient has absolute dating (Fig. 8.1) and is the only one known from the Lower Paleolithic. All the other "Venuses" found in the 20th century have had different cultural attributions, the most ancient of which was Aurignacian and which is currently, for some authors, attributed to the Gravettian.
In this classification some "Venuses" are attributed to the Middle Paleolithic, that is to the Mousterian(Fig. 8.3), as they have the facial features or head of Neanderthals and moreover have a hood or perhaps a conic hairstyle, and often are represented gazing upwards.
The "Venuses" of the Upper Paleolithic generally have the head bent downward, looking down, and show a well-ordered hairstyle (Fig. 8.6).
In Italy (Balzi Rossi) was found a bicephalic "Venus" (Fig. 8.7). The discovery dates back to the 19th century, so the generic cultural attribution is the Aurignacian.
The "Venuses" continue in the Neolithic, and often are in terracotta; they assume new forms and different names: Goddess of Fertility, Mother Goddess, Great Mother, etc. In Mexico we find an abundance of "Venuses" with bicephalic heads, and also "Venuses" with two heads.

Fig. 8.1) Anthropomorphic stone sculpture carved from a pebble of red tuff (drawing). It represents a naked woman. Found by Prof. NAAMA GOREN-INBAR in 1980. These types of sculptures were called "Venuses" by the first discoverers, as it was thought they represented a feminine ideal for Paleolithic men; subsequently, a fertility cult was attributed to them and they were considered "idols" they are "divinities", but despite this enormous change of meaning, the name "Venus" has remained!
This Venus is the oldest and smallest known. Like the other "Venuses" the sexual attributes are well-represented, but hands, feet and facial features are not represented. This one has no legs.
Dimensions: height: 1.3 inches; width: 0.98 inch.
Origin: Berekhat Ram, northern Golan, Israel.
Material culture: Upper Acheulean.
Absolute dating: from 233,000 to 800,000 years ago; other dating from 330,000 to 800,000 years ago. (One paleoethnologist states 233,000 another 330,000 years.)
The following experts have studied this sculpture: Prof. A. Marschack, Prof. F. D'Errico, Prof. A. Nowell, Prof. A. Pelcin, Prof. P.G. Bahn, Prof. Vertut, and of course Prof. Goren-Inbar.

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Fig. 8.2) Anthropomorphic stone sculpture representing a human figure with a hood or conic hairstyle and with a human head on his/her back. It is the only sculpture of this type we know of. We are not calling it a bicephalic representation, but that is not entirely excluded. It could be, albeit a bit precocious, the representation of a woman carrying on her back a skull, following a ritual still present in African ethnography, where a young girl(Fig. 3,23) carries tied on her back the skull of a deceased relative. An additional hypothesis is that it can be considered a maiden, based on the pointed head, found in other "Venuses" but also, if it's a representation that narrates a funeral rite, that would explain the absence of sexual attributes present in other "Venuses". The head or skull carved on the back has a downward gaze.
From the head, neck and shoulder, it seems to represent a Homo sapiens neanderthalensis.
Height: 9.4 inches.
Origin: Tiglieto, Genoa, Italy.
Material culture: Mousterian.
Collection of the Museum of the Origins of Man.

Fig. 8.3) Anthropomorphic stone sculpture representing a naked woman with all the sexual attributes in evidence, and wearing a hood or conic hairstyle. This is the "Venus of Savignano", the most famous of the Italian "Venuses". It was found in 1925 during construction excavations, completely out of any cultural context. For over 70 years it has been attributed to the Aurignacian; now there are those who would attribute it to the Gravettian; we attribute it to the Mousterian, since the head, neck and shoulder seem to us to depict a Homo sapiens neanderthalensis. A similar hood, neck and shoulder are found in the sculpture of Tiglieto (Fig. 8,2).
Height: 8.6 inches.
Origin: Savignano sul Panaro, Modena, Italy.
Material culture: Mousterian.
Location: Luigi Pigorini National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography, Rome.

Fig. 8.4) Anthropomorphic stone sculpture representing a naked woman with all the sexual attributes in evidence. It is looking upwards and has a pointed hood or hairstyle. Based on the profile of the head, the human type is Homo sapiens neanderthalensis.
Height: 2.3 inches.
Origin: Balzi Rossi cave, Imperia, Italy.
Material culture: Mousterian or Upper Paleolithic (Aurignacian).
Location: Musée d’Archéologie nationale (National Archaeological Museum), Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Paris.

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Fig. 8.5) Anthropomorphic stone sculpture representing a naked woman with pronounced sexual attributes. It was found by P. Gaietto in 1969 in the same area of discovery of the famous “Venus of Savignano” (Fig. 8.3).
This sculpture is obtained from a stone slab 0.39 inch thick, and is fluted at the edges from alluvial rolling. For the back and the pointed head it can be considered a Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, with characteristics similar to the other "Venus of Savignano" and to the "Venus of Balzi Rossi" (Fig. 8.4). It is as fat as the "Venus of Willendorf"(Fig. 8.6).
Height: 5.3 inches; width: 0.39 inch.
Origin: Savignano sul Panaro, Modena, Italy.
Material culture: Mousterian.
Collection of the Museum of the Origins of Man.

Fig. 8.6) Anthropomorphic stone sculpture. She's the world-famous "Venus of Willendorf". This color photo is of a cast, a copy of the original sculpture. The original has small incisions in the area of the hands which integrate the sculpted part. It has a beautiful hairstyle that could also be a shell headdress (see headdress of shells of the Arene Candide burial Fig. 3.22); it does not have facial features, is without a face and the head is looking downward. Probably it represents a Homo sapiens sapiens.
Height: 4.4 inches.
Origin: Willendorf, Austria.
Material culture: Upper Paleolithic.
Location: Naturhistorisches Museum (National History Museum), Vienna, Austria.

Fig. 8.8) "Venus of Laussel". It depicts a naked woman with a horn in one hand. The face, or perhaps the hair, no longer exists because it has been destroyed. Often female images do not have a face. This "Venus" is carved from limestone and painted with red ochre.
Height: 17.5 inches.
Origin: Laussel, France.
Material culture: Upper Paleolithic.
Location: Archaeological Museum of Aquitaine, Bordeaux, France.




Page translated from Italian into English by Paris Alexander Walker.

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