Venus Figurines: Pre-Historic Goddesses?
Venus the goddess of love and beauty. Feminine energy has been worshipped throughout human history. From the Egyptian goddess Isis to the Germanic goddess Nerthus. But are these ‘Venus figurines’ humanities earliest example of a matriarchal religion?
“In the beginning there was Isis: Oldest of the Old, She was the Goddess from whom all Becoming Arose.”– Merlin Stone When God was a Woman
‘Venus’ is a nickname given to figurines of naked women from the upper Paleolithic period (50,000-10,000 years ago) found scattered across Europe. The figures were called Venuses because of the Roman goddess of beauty, though this belief took place much later. The female attributes of the figures- such as breasts, stomach and hips, were emphasized, leading many to believe that they were fertility symbols. Many art historians also believe that the Venuses were religious talismans. Were women worshipped as life bringers in the stone age?
As there were no written records left from this pre-historic era, we sadly will never know.
Venus of Willendorf
This famous Venus has been recently been the centre of Facebook controversy when the image was censored as it was deemed “dangerously pornographic”. Though Facebook has since apologised, the censorship has catalysed debates on the sexualization of the female form and restrictions on art.
Standing at 4 inches high the Venus of Willendorf was found in Willendorf, Austria in 1908. Carved into limestone, this voluptuous masterpiece was created between 28,000-25,000 BC. Her female parts are very detailed and exaggerated and her face and hands (areas not used in the reproductive process) were not emphasised. This may suggest that she was a fertility talisman, easily transported by nomadic cultures that existed at this time.
The Venus of Laussel
Found in South-West France, this Venus was created between 25,000-20,000 BC. She shares many of the same characteristics as the Venus of Willendorf except that she is holding a bison horn and gesturing at her belly. The horn as 13 lines which some art historians believe could represent the 13 moons per year, or could be representative of a ritual or matriarchal power.
The Venus of Hohle Fels
Created 35,000-40,000 years ago, this is the oldest example of Upper Paleolithic art. She is carved out of woolly mammoth tusk and belongs to the early Aurignacian culture. Her large breasts have caused many art historians argue over whether she is an example of a female fertility symbol or “prehistoric pornography”.
The Venus of Dolní Věstonice
Found near Brno, she was created 29,000 years ago and is one of the earliest known use of ceramics. Her large breasts and hips and relatively small head also suggest that she was used as a symbol of fertility. As childbirth may have been difficult during this time, having a reproductive talisman to ensure fertility is not far reached.
Goddesses or Prehistoric Porn?
We know virtually nothing about the purpose of these Venus figures as there are no written records left from this period. These figures were small and made to be held, carried and as holes through many figurines suggest, even worn as jewellery. Females have been worshipped in various forms over human history and these Venuses could be a part of the first source of religion.
“At the very dawn of religion, God was a woman. Do you remember?” – Merlin Stone When God was a woman
The truth behind what these figures meant, whether they were symbols of goddesses, fertility talismans or pre-historic pornography, is lost to time.
Tell us your theories on what you think these figures meant in the comment section.