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Venus Figurine Sheds Light On Origins Of Art By Early Humans

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Author Topic: Venus Figurine Sheds Light On Origins Of Art By Early Humans  (Read 647 times)
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« on: May 13, 2009, 10:53:09 pm »

The figurine, found in 2008 in a cave in Schelklingen, southern Germany
is thought to be the world's oldest reproduction of a human.

                               Venus figurine sheds light on origins of art by early humans

By Thomas H. Maugh II
May 14, 2009

A 40,000-year-old figurine of a voluptuous woman carved from mammoth ivory and excavated from
a cave in southwestern Germany is the oldest known example of three-dimensional or figurative representation of humans and sheds new light on the origins of art, researchers reported Wednesday.

The intricately carved headless figure is at least 5,000 years older than previous examples and dates from shortly after the arrival of modern humans in Europe. It exhibits many of the characteristics of fertility, or Venus, figurines carved millenniums later.

The figurine "radically changes our views of the context and meaning of the earliest Paleolithic art,"
its discoverer, archaeologist Nicholas J. Conard of the University of Tubingen in Germany, wrote in
the journal Nature.

Experts are excited about the find because of what it tells us about early humans -- and about ourselves.

"The origin and evolution of figurative art, portable art, appear on most lists of what constitutes modern human behavior," said archaeologist Daniel Adler of the University of Connecticut, who was not involved in the research.

"Any time you can push the clock back on some of these behaviors, we get a better understanding
of why these were important and were developed, where they were developed . . . and the roles
they played in the social glue that holds groups together," he said.

"For European archaeologists, it marks the appearance of behaviors they find familiar, modern human behavior," said archaeologist John J. Shea of Stony Brook University in New York, who was also not involved. "It suggests the same values and ways of seeing the world existed among the earliest
humans that migrated to Europe" as among humans today.

The figurine was excavated at Hohle Fels, a large cave in the Swabian Jura region about 14 miles southwest of the city of Ulm. The cave shows evidence of a long period of prehistoric occupation
and is probably best known for three ivory carvings previously discovered by Conard: a horse's or
bear's head; a water bird that may be in flight; and a half-human, half-lion figurine, all dating from
about 30,000 to 31,000 years ago.

The new figurine was found in September in six pieces about 9 feet below the cave floor. Nearby
were flint-knapping debris, worked bone and ivory, and remains of horses, reindeer, cave bears, mammoths and ibexes. Radiocarbon data indicate that the layer originated 35,000 to 40,000 years

The figure, about 2.4 inches tall, was carved from a mammoth tusk.

It has broad shoulders, prominent breasts and intricately detailed buttocks and genitalia, all grossly exaggerated.

Those features "are clearly more exaggerated than on others that come later," Adler said, "but many
of the basic features that are seen later are already there. . . . It's a prototype for what you see
later" from the Gravettian culture, which existed in France 28,000 to 22,000 years ago.

"The stylistic attributes are being carried on for many, many generations."

The figurine has two short arms with carefully carved hands resting on the upper part of the stomach; part of the left arm and shoulder are missing. One hand has five fingers, the other four.

The legs are short, pointed and asymmetrical, with the left noticeably shorter, typical of later Venus figurines. Also typical, the figure has no head. Instead, it has a carefully carved ring above the left shoulder. The polished surface of the ring suggests that the figurine was worn as an ornament around the neck.

The intricate detailing achieved with primitive stone tools indicates "the amount of energy these guys were willing to invest in these little objects -- tens if not hundreds of hours," Shea said. That suggests the objects were very important to them.

Many researchers believe that they were fertility totems, but their ultimate meaning may remain
a mystery.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2009, 11:07:11 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2009, 11:18:31 pm »

A grotesque carving in mammoth ivory is arguably the
world's oldest depiction of a human figure, scientists say.

                                                  German 'Venus' may be oldest yet 

By Jonathan Amos
Science reporter,
BBC News 
May 13, 2009

A grotesque carving in mammoth ivory is arguably the world's oldest depiction of a human figure, scientists say.

The distorted sculpture, which portrays a woman with huge breasts, big buttocks and exaggerated genitals, is thought to be at least 35,000 years old.

The 6cm-tall figurine, reported in the journal Nature, is the latest find to come from Hohle Fels Cave in Germany.

Previous discoveries have included exquisite carvings of animals, and an object that could be a stone "sex toy".

Moreover, the range and sophistication of similar materials found across the Schwabian region of southern Germany has led some researchers to believe cave complexes such as Hohle Fels could have been early artists' workshops.

The Venus of Hohle Fels was found in six fragments in September 2008. It is still missing its left arm and shoulder, but researchers are hopeful these will emerge in future excavations of the cave's sediments.

The figurine does not have a head. Rather, it has a carefully carved ring located off-centre above its broad shoulders.

The polished nature of the ring suggests the Venus was probably suspended as a pendant.

The hands have precisely carved fingers, with five digits clearly visible on the left hand and four on the right hand.

The pronounced breasts, buttocks and genitals familiar in later Venuses are usually interpreted to be expressions of fertility.

The Venus shows no signs of having been covered with pigments. It is, though, marked by a series of cut lines.

The Hohle Fels object is of an age where radiocarbon dating techniques become somewhat uncertain. Scientists say, however, that it is unquestionably older than previous finds associated with, for example, European Gravettian culture.

These typically date from between 22,000 and 27,000 years ago, with the most famous item probably being the Venus of Willendorf which was discovered in 1908.

Professor Nicholas Conard, from the department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology, at Tübingen University, is the author of the scientific paper reported in Nature magazine. He has described many of the extraordinary finds at Hohle Fels.

He says the Venus is perhaps the earliest example of figurative art worldwide.

"The most noteworthy figurative representations of roughly comparable age outside Swabia are limited to the schematic, monochrome, red paintings on rock fragments from Fumane Cave in northern Italy; the standing figurine from Stratzing in the Wachau of Lower Austria; and the impressive paintings from Grotte Chauvet in the Ardeche in southern France," he writes.

« Last Edit: May 13, 2009, 11:21:29 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2009, 07:39:43 am »

                                    Sexy "Venus" may be oldest figurine yet discovered

May 13, 2009

– A sexually suggestive Venus figurine with oversized breasts and thighs dates back at least 35,000 years and shows ancient humans had sex on their minds, researchers said on Wednesday.

The 60-millimetre-long figurine may be the oldest piece of its kind yet discovered and suggests Palaeolithic art was far more complex than many had thought, Nicholas Conard of Tubingen University in Germany wrote in the journal Nature.

Radiocarbon dating indicates the figure excavated from an archaeological dig in southern Germany, near the Danube valley, was at least 35,000 years old, the researchers said.

"The discovery predates the well-known Venuses from the Gravettian culture by at least 5,000 years and radically changes our views of the context and meaning of the earliest Palaeolithic art," Conard wrote.

"Before this discovery ... female imagery was entirely unknown."

The figurine's enlarged breasts, bloated belly and thighs also make clear that sexual symbolism was alive and well tens of thousand of years ago, Paul Mellars of the University of Cambridge, wrote in a commentary.

"The feature of the newly discovered figure that will undoubtedly command most attention is its explicitly, almost aggressively, sexual nature, focused on the sexual characteristics of the female form," he wrote.

"Whichever way one views these representations, it is clear that the sexually symbolic dimension in European (and indeed worldwide) art has a long ancestry in the evolution of our species."

(Reporting by
Michael Kahn;

Editing by
Julie Steenhuysen)
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« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2009, 07:41:12 am »

Side and frontal views of the Venus of Hohle Fels show off the
35,000-year-old figurine's highly exaggerated sexual features.

                                                 She's still a pin-up after 35,000 years

                                     Exaggerated Venus-like figurine found in cave in Germany

By Jennifer Viegas
Discovery News
May 13, 2009

VIDEO's still a pin-up after 35000 years

An ivory figurine with prominent breasts and buttocks and other exaggerated sexual characteristics is the world's oldest known depiction of a woman, and likely that of any human being, according to research published in this week's issue of the journal Nature.

Named the Venus of Hohle Fels after the cave in southwestern Germany where it was recently excavated,
the object dates to at least 35,000 to 40,000 years ago, based on more than 30 radiocarbon measurements conducted at the site.

Although tiny — just over 2 inches long — the intentionally headless figurine is remarkably detailed, with pronounced genitalia visible between open legs.

"As one male colleague remarked, nothing has changed in 40,000 years," Nicholas Conard, who reported the find and led the project, told Discovery News. "It is the oldest example of figurative art in any class, making it all the more surprising that the figurine presents such a powerful, sexually aggressive image," added Conard, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Tubingen.

Conard and his team recovered the artifact in six pieces at the cave site, where the scientists had previously found miniature statues of a horse, diving waterfowl and a human-like lion with male sexual features. The bones of various animals, including cave bears, deer, rhinos and horses, were also excavated.

The scientists attribute all of these finds, including the ancient Venus, to one of the earliest human populations in Europe — the Aurignacian culture — suggesting that figurative art is a European phenomenon that arose before Neanderthals went extinct, when modern humans may have been evolving more complex linguistic, representational skills.

Conard said there are striking similarities between the Hohle Fels figurine and other "Venuses" that appeared 5,000 years later in the Gravettian period, so there may have been a shared cultural tradition.

"All place an emphasis on sexual attributes and lack emphasis on the legs, arms, face and head, made all the more noticeable in this case because a carefully carved, polished ring — suggesting that the figurine was once suspended as a pendant — exists in place of a head," he said.

The carver, who painstakingly shaped the object out of a mammoth tusk, included fingers on the hands and even a navel. Deeply incised horizontal lines, which Conard thinks might have represented clothing or straps, were cut over the bulging abdomen.

Paul Mellars, a University of Cambridge archaeologist who is currently at Stony Brook University's Turkana Basin Institute, wrote a commentary about the Venus that appears in the same issue of Nature.

Mellars told Discovery News that he fully agrees with Conard's analysis of the object, which he described as "remarkable" and "an archaeological discovery of considerable significance."
« Last Edit: May 14, 2009, 07:48:09 am by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2009, 08:09:28 am »

                               Obsession with Naked Women Dates Back 35,000 Years

By Clara Moskowitz,
LiveScience Staff Writer
13 May 2009

If human culture seems obsessed with sex lately, it's nothing new. Archaeologists have discovered the oldest known artistic representation of a woman — a carved ivory statue of a naked female, dating from 35,000 years ago.

The figurine, unearthed in September 2008 in Hohle Fels Cave in southwestern Germany, may be the oldest known example of figurative art, meaning art that is supposed to represent and resemble a real person, animal or object. The discovery could help scientists understand the origins of art and the advent of symbolic thinking, including complicated language.

"If there's one conclusion you want to draw from this, it's that an obsession with sex goes back at least 35,000 years," University of Cambridge anthropologist Paul Mellars told LiveScience. He was not involved in the new finding. "But if humans hadn’t been largely obsessed with sex they wouldn’t have survived for the first 2 million years. None of this is at all surprising."

The fixation wasn't just for naked women, though. Early carvings of phalluses appeared in Europe at about the same time.
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« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2009, 08:10:29 am »

Little 'Venus'

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."

Mellars pointed out that there isn't enough evidence to really understand how complex human language was at this point, though.
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« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2009, 08:11:34 am »

Sex on the brain

The statue is notable not just for its symbolism, but for its style — particularly its sexuality.

"The figure is explicitly — and blatantly — that of a woman, with an exaggeration of sexual characteristics (large, projecting breasts, a greatly enlarged and explicit vulva, and bloated belly and thighs) that by twenty-first-century standards could be seen as bordering on the pornographic," Mellars wrote in a commentary essay in Nature.

Scientists guess that it may have represented female fertility, or been related to shamanistic rituals and beliefs.
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« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2009, 09:47:43 am »

A little boy in the bathtub notices his genitals.

"Mommy are these my brains?"

Mommy replies "Not yet"!

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Logic rules.

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« Reply #8 on: May 14, 2009, 11:30:17 am »

Oh, Q!!!


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« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2009, 08:32:00 pm »

                                   Sex, sex, sex: We've had single-track minds for 35,000 years

By Nigel Farndale
16 May, 2009

                                                            Venus of Hohle Fels:

                                                 An ancient sculpture with a familiar form

 Exactly 35,000 years ago – archaeologists are strangely precise about these things – a caveman in what was
to become southern Germany started whittling away at a tusk. He was about to create one of the first sculptures
in the history of art. But what would his subject be? A bison? A mighty redwood?

No, of course not.

It was a woman with large breasts.

An expert at Cambridge University has described this newly-discovered figurine as "bordering on the pornographic". She is being called the Venus of Hohle Fels, after the region in which she was found.

Little is known about the budding Rodin who carved her, other than, and I am quoting from official sources here, "he definitely had the horn".

Contemplating this Stone Age Jordan, I had an epiphany of sorts. Not a profound one, I admit, but an awareness of a fundamental truth about the human condition nonetheless. It really is all about sex, isn't it? Sex, sex, sex. We hide our shameful nakedness under layers of clothing and pretend that we have better, more cerebral things to think about, but sex is always there, lurking in the shadows of our unconscious minds. It is the great secret we all share, the dark continent, the subject of subjects. Sex is, moreover, the psychological thread that takes us back to the caveman, via Freud, Boucher and Socrates (who reckoned the male libido was like being chained to a madman).

I remember Auberon Waugh having a similar revelation and, from that moment on, finding a way to have the word "sex" printed somewhere on the cover of every issue of Literary Review. He understood that sex is the motivation behind all our actions, what makes us robots – or rather hairless proboscis monkeys – servicing the interests of our selfish genes.

The money we make, the music we listen to, even the politicians we vote for, all is to do with sex. Think of Clement Attlee… OK, perhaps not a good example, but how about Barack and Michelle Obama? They had sex appeal as a couple before they moved in to the White House. But now? Kissinger said power was the great aphrodisiac, and he was right. It is the reason, the only reason, John Major and John Prescott can be mentioned in the same sentence as Jack Kennedy and Bill Clinton.

Then there is Sir Tim Berners-Lee to consider. He invented the most magical, potentially creative tool in history – the World Wide Web – and what was the first thing mankind did with it? Searched for ****.

We can't help it. According to Nature magazine, within a second or two of a heterosexual man and woman being introduced, their brains will have made a thousand tiny calibrations about whether they want to procreate with each other. Not that we are shallow or anything.

Joanna Lumley. She's another good example. Even the high-minded Charles Moore has been swooning. And when John Major first sat in the Cabinet Room after becoming Prime Minister, he asked his aides: "So I can invite anyone I want for lunch… even Joanna Lumley?" Would the Gurkhas' cause have been as popular had Susan Boyle been their champion?

* Anyway. Croquet. A game so good not even an association with John Prescott can diminish its appeal. But as well as bringing out a player's competitive side, it also makes him or her homicidal. A new book about Bonnie and Clyde reveals that the couple once tried to steal a car from four old ladies who were playing croquet. When they demanded the keys, the old ladies attacked them with their mallets so viciously that the bankrobbers had to run away. Anyone who has ever played croquet will know how this could happen.

* Incidentally, there is more to Joanna Lumley than sex appeal and a breathy voice. She has great wisdom and tact, too – as I discovered in 2002 when I said something to her that still makes my toes curl. She had been shrewd to quit Absolutely Fabulous while the show was at its peak in 1996, I suggested, rather as John Cleese had done with Fawlty Towers. Because I don't watch television much, I hadn't realised that she had recently done a whole new series of Ab Fab – one that had not been a ratings triumph. Instead of embarrassing me by pointing this out, she just smiled graciously and steered the conversation away. Such charm. And the other reason she brings out the caveman in Charles Moore.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2009, 08:35:19 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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