The New York Times has a fascinating report on the recent discovery of a tiny statue, believed to be 35,000 years old.
Nicholas J. Conard, an archaeologist at the University of Tübingen, in Germany, who found the small carving in a cave last year, said it was at least 35,000 years old, “one of the oldest known examples of figurative art” in the world. It is about 5,000 years older than some other so-called Venus artifacts made by early populations of Homo sapiens in Europe.
Another archaeologist, Paul Mellars of the University of Cambridge, in England, agreed and went on to remark on the obvious. By modern standards, he said, the figurine’s blatant sexuality “could be seen as bordering on the pornographic.”
Well, I suppose ...
But doesn't it make more sense that it would celebrate women's life-giving abilities, especially in an age when they couldn't put 1 + 1 = baby together?
The tiny statuette was uncovered in September in a cave in southwestern Germany, near Ulm and the Danube headwaters. Dr. Conard’s report on the find is being published Thursday in the journal Nature.
The discovery, Dr. Conard wrote, “radically changes our view of the origins of Paleolithic art.” Before this, he noted, female imagery was unknown, most carvings and cave drawings being of mammoths, horses and other animals.
I can remember studying this in art history many years ago, with the speculation being that such art was created by men -- naturally -- to illustrate their hunts or as some sort of spiritual tribute to the beasties being hunted.
Me, I always thought they were painted by women either to decorate the cave walls, entertain the kids or explain to them where daddy had gone.
To continue ...
The object reminded experts of the most famous of the sexually explicit figurines from the Stone Age, the Venus of Willendorf, discovered in Austria a century ago. That Venus is somewhat larger and dated about 24,000 years ago, but it is in a style that appeared to have been prevalent for several thousand years. Scholars speculate that these Venus figurines, as they are known, were associated with fertility beliefs or shamanistic rituals.
Perhaps. Or, more likely, they were representations of the Mother Goddess, the dominant figure of worship in these prehistoric close-to-nature matriarchal societies.
But then somebody did the math, which came out to nine months, and next thing everybody knew, it was a white guy sitting in the clouds and burning the occasional bush who was in charge.
That's my theory and I'm sticking to it.
UPPITY WOMAN DATE: Now this has to be the dumbest theory of all. That the statue reflects a prehistoric ''obsession'' with naked women, ie. early porn.
Um, I wasn't aware that, 35,000 years ago, clothing was much of an option, ya know?
The rest of the piece is interesting though.
The tiny statue is carved out of the tusk of a woolly mammoth and is less than 2.5 inches (60 millimeters) long. Instead of a head, it has a ring that scientists think meant it was worn as a pendant looped through string. Paleoanthropologist Nicholas Conard of Germany's Tubingen University reported the discovery in the May 14 issue of the journal Nature.
The oldest human art dates back much further, to between 75,000 and 95,000 years ago in Africa. But that art was abstract, and consisted of geometrical designs engraved on pieces of red iron oxide. This is the first known art to represent a woman, and possibly the first art to represent anything real at all. Another find, a simple drawing that may represent a half-man, half-animal, could be a few thousand years older, but the date on that is uncertain.
The jump from abstract art to representative art seems significant, and might reflect a leap in the cognitive capacity of the human brain around this time. Some experts think that the development might have gone along with a leap in the complexity of human language.
"Language is a symbolic system — words are symbols for things. And so is art," Mellars said. "Art is a glaring illustration of a capacity for symbolic thinking. Since symbolic thinking lies at the core of language, people have often tried to link the two."