Venus figures from the Stone AgeVenus figurines is an umbrella term for a number of prehistoric statuettes of women sharing common attributes (many depicted as apparently obese or pregnant) from the Aurignacian or Gravettian period of the upper Palaeolithic, found from Western Europe to Siberia. These items were carved from soft stone (such as steatite, calcite or limestone), bone or ivory, or formed of clay and fired.
I have used my own broad definition for Venus figures here. For convenience on these pages a venus figure is any sculpture or engraving of a male or female human from the Palaeolithic or earlier.
The Worshipper, called 'Adorant', is one of the oldest, most impressive and mystifying statuettes from the Ice Age. It was discovered in an ashy bone layer near a possible hearth at Geißenklösterle. The bas-relief of a human being with raised arms, who seems to be either saluting or threatening, can be distinguished. The raised arms might also be interpreted as an attitude of worship, so the statuette was named the 'Adorant'.
Avdeevo - Venus figures and other finds from this important archaeological site. The Avdeevo venus figures are quite variable, but most depict mature women in various stages of the reproductive cycle. Avdeevo is located on the Sejm River near the city of Kursk, Russia. Two oval living areas surrounded by semisubterranean lodges and pits have been identified at Avdeevo. Both were occupied between 21 000 and 20 000 BP. The tool inventory consists of Kostenki knives, shouldered points, and leaf points on blades.
The female figurine from Berekhat Ram, in Israel is the oldest known figurative carving in the world, and is somewhere between 233 000 and 800 000 years old, older than Neanderthal man, and probably carved by Homo Erectus. The original pebble bore a resemblance to a female, and this was enhanced by the carver, who cut grooves around the neck and along its arms. Microscopic analysis by Alexander Marshack has now made it clear that humans were responsible.
Balzi Rossi Venuses - the Grimaldi Venuses. On the Liguria coast are the entrances of the complex of the caverns of the Balzi Rossi (literally red leaps). The complex is composed of numerous coves and shelters. The first searches occurred in 1846-57, by the prince of Monaco, Florestano I. More recently, between 1928 and 1959, regular diggings were executed. Louis Alexandre Jullien discovered, between 1883 and 1895, about fifteen figurines, the greatest series ever found in only one place in Western Europe.
The Venus of Bedeilhac - also known as la Femme à la Capuche. It is formed from a horse canine tooth, pierced and sculpted. 47 mm long. Discovered in the Jauze-Mandement section, the third terrace. It was part of a necklace of perforated teeth. The sculpture represents a human head with eyes, a very large nose, and it seems amazed, the mouth partially open. The figure is framed by a sort of hood. There is a biconical transverse perforation through the neck. It was discovered by Joseph Mandement, who also made the first crossing of the Green Lake at Niaux. He was an amateur archeologist, and made many discoveries at Niaux, Mas d'Azil and Bédeilhac.
Brassempouy Venus - this miniature head, 36.5 mm high, 22 mm deep and 19 mm wide, was carved from mammoth ivory. Found at Brassempouy, Landes, France in 1892. It may be 25 000 years old. It is one of the few Ice Age figures with facial features and a detailed hairstyle. It is the original for the 'Ayla' head from Jean Auel's Earth Children series of books. Some doubt its authenticity, since it was recovered at a dig where the workers were paid by what they discovered.
The Brown Ivory Figurine, Figurine en ivoire brun, or Abrachiale, is a nearly complete female figurine made from partially fossilised ivory found at Balzi Rossi. The nearly circular head lacks any indication of facial features or hair and no arms or hands are present. The roughly hemispherical breasts are large and separated from each other by a deep groove. Protruding even more than the breasts is the oval-shaped enlarged abdomen.
The Venus called la figurine à la Ceinture or the figurine with a belt, from the Grottes du Pape, Brassempouy, displays the lower part of a human body. It is difficult to determine the sex. The belly is as flat as that of a man. The hips and thighs have female contours. The legs are pressed one against the other, and end in points. The sexual organs are not shown distinctly, and this suggests that they are not those of a man. This figurine never had feet. The vertical groove in the back is deep.
The Venus figure of Chauvet Cave is a conical pendant from the roof of the cave, and consists of a bison and an exaggerated depiction of a pubic triangle and a vulva, with rudimentary legs ending in points rather than feet. The rock pendant is seen by some as penis like. The whole ensemble is sometimes known as the sorcerer. Although not visible here, the bison is reported to include a human hand on its lower body.
The Chiozza Venus was discovered in 1940 in the clay pit of Chiozza, near Scandiano, Italy. It was found in Holocene alluvial deposits, and it is not possible to objectively determine its age. It may be Palaeolithic. The statue is carved in Chiozza hard brown sandstone with a height of 205 mm, a maximum width of 50 mm and a maximum thickness of 60 mm. The head is subspherical, and carries no detail. The neck is thick and poorly marked; the torso, square, carries pendant breasts, but they are relatively flat, and the arms are completely lacking. This is a rather crude representation, whose general formation closely preserves the shape of the block of raw material. The style, without force and without originality, is not especially Paleolithic.
The Venus of Dolni Vestonice is a Venus figurine, a ceramic statuette of a nude female figure dated to 29 000 – 25 000 BP (Gravettian industry). This figurine, together with a few others from nearby locations, is the oldest known ceramic in the world, predating the use of fired clay to make pottery. It has a height of 111 millimetres (4.4 in), and a width of 43 millimetres (1.7 in) at its widest point and is made of a clay body fired at a relatively low temperature. The paleolithic settlement of Dolní Věstonice in Moravia, Czech Republic, has been under systematic archaeological research since 1924, initiated by Karel Absolon. In addition to the Venus figurine, figures of animals – bear, lion, mammoth, horse, fox, rhino and owl – and more than 2 000 balls of burnt clay have been found at Dolní Věstonice. The figurine was discovered on 13 July 1925 in a layer of ash, broken into two pieces.
In the Double Figurine, the artist has carved two bodies, back to back, symmetrically arched, and joined at the top of the heads, shoulders and lower body. One represents a woman; the other could be an animal. A hollow space separates the two heads, suggesting that the figurine was used as a pendant. With its back to the woman is the other figure, which has elongated, sinuous anatomical features that are difficult to associate with any known genre. Although the torso and lower body offer limited detail for interpretation, the face brings to mind a beast - real or mythical, we do not know. Carved on a fragment of greenish-yellow serpentine and highly polished, the piece is approximately 47 millimetres high.
The Engen (Petersfels) venuses are made of jet, or hard coal, and were found at the Petersfels site, near Engen in Germany. It is one of the most important Palaeolithic sites in Central Europe with an enormous number of important artefacts. It was a settlement site of the Magdalenian (late Upper Paleolithic), with many layers, towards the end of the last ice age, during the period 15 500-14 000 BP. The main activity here was reindeer hunting in autumn.
The Venus called la fillette or la poupée, from the Grottes du Pape, Brassempouy, is a figurine of a girl, made with just a few blows of the flint. It is a child's toy. She has no arms, and probably never had feet. She is naked, and her hair is long. The sex is shown.
The Venus of Frasassi was carved from a piece of stalactite in the Upper Paleolithic, between 28 thousand and 20 thousand years ago. Its color is pearl white.The face is barely shown. Breasts are large, and placed high on the chest. A navel is shown on the full abdomen, and the vulva is clearly shown in relief. Legs taper to about below the level of the knees, which are not shown, when they are broken off or were never carved. Most unusually, the forearms extend well in front of the body, as though they were used to hold something.
The Gagarino venus which is most well known is of an obese woman from the Gagarino site, located on the right bank of the Don River near the Sosna tributary. Here peasants discovered a house pit while excavating a silo trench. Zamiatinine, who excavated this site during 1926 - 1929, found a house pit roughly oval in outline about 5.5 metres long and 4.5 metres wide. The wealth of material remains found in this one house pit is seen in the recorded finds of some six hundred flint implements, over a thousand blades, and proportionately large numbers of cores and waste flints. Artefacts of bone as well as seven 'venus' figurines completed the roster of non-lithic material.
Galgenberg Venus - Fanny - Venus vom Galgenberg is the oldest figurine of a woman apart from the Berekhat Ram figure ever found, and was created around 30 000 B.C. Found on September 23, 1988 during the excavation of a habitation of palaeolithic hunters at Galgenberg near Stratzing (Lower Austria), broken into several pieces. 72 mm high figurine of a woman weighing 10 grams and made of greenish, very shiny amphibolite slate, the upper body is turned to the side, in a dancing position, and has a three-dimensional front, flat back, believed to have had cultic or religious significance.
The Woman with Goitre / Goiter from Grimaldi has only one torso and one head, but underneath, she has two pubic triangles and two opposite legs. The figure is made of ivory, and is 45 mm long. The face is ovoid, but there are no facial features shown, and no arms. The breasts are conical with the tips pointed down. There is a goitre at the neck. The belly is prominent, the hips are wide, and the buttocks flattened. The vulva is open, with a gynecological perspective. The legs are broken off below the vulva. The 'Woman with Goitre' was found between 3 and 4.2 m deep in a layer which is probably the final Epigravettian. A radiocarbon date of 14 110 ±150 BP (Gif-sur-Yvette A95074) may be allotted (with caution) to this layer. It may be that this figure is the same age
The Hermaphrodite Venus from Balzi Rossi is of translucent green soapstone. The surface is polished and worn, with remains of concretions in the concave parts. The neck, what remains of it, is shown clearly. The torso is very flat, with normal breasts hanging low. The belly is large. Under the stomach are three difficult to interpret features: the central feature is held to be an erect penis, but this is unconvincing. It takes a lot of imagination to distinguish the penis, which remains the essential element of the phallic representation. As for the roughly circular mass that is found below it, it could be a testicular pouch.
Hohle Fels Venus - The Venus of Hohle Fels is an Upper Paleolithic Venus figurine dated to between 35 000 and 40 000 years ago, belonging to the early Aurignacian, and is the oldest undisputed example of Upper Paleolithic art and figurative prehistoric art in general.
Impudique Venus - The Venus Impudique (Immodest Venus). Discovered in 1864 by the Marquis Paul de Vibraye at Laugerie Basse. It was the first Venus figure found in France. The Marquis was playfully reversing the appellation of "Venus pudica" ("modest Venus") that is used to describe a statue type of the Classical Venus which shows, in many statues the goddess attempting to conceal her breasts and pubic area from view. The inference the Marquis makes is that this prehistoric Venus makes no attempt to hide her sexuality. This ivory venus is 8 cm high, and has lost the head. The stomach is flat, and could be of a young girl.
The Kesslerloch Venus has been made from a piece of jet. The breasts have been shown by a V shaped notch in the upper part of the figure. In the same fashion, the legs are separated by a V shaped notch. The back of the figure mostly still shows the original surface. Overall, the whole figure is angular and unfinished. Perhaps this is only a work in progress. It was discovered in 1954 by W. Mamber in the old excavation of Jakob Nüesch. Kesslerloch is a Swiss cave discovered in 1873, west of Thayngen, in the canton of Schaffhausen, a Palaeolithic site, with many discoveries of stone, bone and reindeer antler.
Venus figures from the Kostenki - Borshevo region on the Don River. Kostenki is a very important Paleolithic site. It was a settlement which contained venus figures, dwellings made of mammoth bones, and many flint tools and bone implements.
Krasnyy Yar Venus - The Siberian Paleolithic site of Krasnyy Yar, located on the right bank of the Angara, about 200 km downstream of Irkutsk, which itself is 72 kilometres from the outflow of the Angara River from Lake Baikal, yielded in 1957, a highly stylised female figure. It is a small figurine of bone, carefully polished, whose size is 37mm x 11mm x 8 mm. The area at the time was an arid arctic steppe, and oil shale gathered nearby was used for fuel.
Lalinde / Gönnersdorf figurines and engravings are strictly stylised, overtly female forms with over-sized buttocks, long trunks, small or missing breasts, and no heads. These images have been found at sites such as Gönnersdorf in Germany, in Abri Murat and Gare de Couze in France, Pekárna in the Czech Republic, and Wilczyce in Poland.
The Venus of Laugerie Basse - the Supplicant. This venus is a tiny, broken, crudely carved statuette of reindeer antler, 44 millimetres long, depicting a faceless human bent forward as though in supplication, with arms raised as if in prayer or adoration.
Lausell Venus - The Femme à la Corne. This low relief venus is from Laussel, Dordogne. 44 cm (17.5 inches) high. The body swells out towards the viewer from this convex block of limestone. It formed one of a set, a frieze which included other female figures and a male figure. It probably dates to 27 000 - 22 000 BP. It was originally carved on a block of 4 cubic metres (140 cubic feet), and was originally covered in red ochre. The bison's horn and the series of 13 lines on it have often been linked with the moon or menstruation. The lines may represent the thirteen days of the waxing moon and the thirteen months of the lunar year.
Lespugue Venus - The Venus of Lespugue is a statuette of a nude female figure from the Gravettian period, dated to between 26 000 and 24 000 years ago. It was discovered in 1922 in the Rideaux cave of Lespugue (Haute-Garonne). Approximately 6 inches (150 mm) tall, it is carved from tusk ivory, and was damaged during excavation. Of all the steatopygous (large posterior) Venus figurines discovered from the upper Paleolithic, the Venus of Lespugue, if the reconstruction is sound, appears to display the most exaggerated female secondary sexual characteristics, especially the extremely large, pendulous breasts.
The Losange Venus, or Venus el Rombo, is made of green steatite. The head is pointed, with a lack of facial features. There is a groove marking the outline of the hair. The breasts are elongated and large. There are no arms. The protruding belly is circular in shape, and the venus has wide hips, and the buttocks are flattened. The vulva is open, and is shown from a gynecological perspective. The legs are tapering, and no knees are indicated. The legs finish or are broken off above the position of the feet.
Loewenmensch, Löwenmensch, formerly often called Lowenfrau, the Lion Lady Venus - carved from mammoth ivory, it is 30 cm high and 6 cm in diameter. It was found in the cave of Hohlenstein-Stadel in the Valley of Lone, Baden-Wurttemberg (Germany), in 1931, dated as Aurignacian, in a level recently dated to 40 000 BP, making it the oldest sculpture known. Although this is known in some places as the lion lady, it is now known to be male. The arms bear striations carved into the ivory. Years after the initial discovery the museum officials were presented with an ivory lion muzzle found in the cave. It was a perfect fit. Today it is pieced together from more than 1000 tiny pieces. This male 'venus' may be an attempt to capture the power of the lion.
A new venus figurine has been recognised from La Madeleine, a rock shelter located in the Vézère valley, in the Dordogne, France. It was discovered by Capitan and Peyrony at La Madeleine, and was described in 1928 as a dagger blade made of reindeer antler. I thought it was a venus figure when I saw it on display in Le Musée National de Préhistoire, Les Eyzies-de-Tayac in 2008, and it has now been described as such by Jean-Pierre Duhard in Paleo 21, 2009-2010.
The Linsenberg - Mainz venus figures were found at the archaeological site which occupies a height overlooking the city of Mainz. It is an open air site, and is buried in loess, the archaeological layer lying just above a bed of clay. Around 1920 E. Neeb and O. Schmidtgen collected two fragments of venus figures made of greenish sandstone, which are kept at the Archaeological Museum in Mainz. The first, with a height of 36 mm, includes only the lower limbs, with feet represented by a blunt point, and part of the pelvis, with the pubic triangle.
The Makapansgat pebble, or the pebble of many faces, is a 260-gram jasperite cobble with natural chipping and wear patterns that make it look like a crude rendition of a human face. The pebble is interesting in that it was found some distance from any possible natural source, in the context of Australopithecus africanus remains in South Africa. Though it is definitely not a manufactured object, it has been suggested that some australopithecine, or possibly another hominid, might have recognised it as a symbolic face, in possibly the earliest example of symbolic thinking or aesthetic sense in the human heritage, and brought the pebble back to camp, which would make it a candidate for the oldest known manuport at between 2.5 and 2.9 million years ago.
The Mal'ta - Buret' venuses and culture in Siberia - the site of Mal'ta, is composed of a series of subterranean houses made of large animal bones and reindeer antler which had likely been covered with animal skins and sod to protect inhabitants from the severe, prevailing northerly winds. Among the artistic accomplishments evident at Mal'ta are the remains of expertly carved bone, ivory, and antler objects. Figurines of birds and human females are the most commonly found items.
The Venus called La Manche de poignard, or dagger handle, 27 000 BP, is from the Grottes du Pape, Brassempouy . The breasts are cylindrical and pendant, the belly is large and hanging. The depression of the spine in the middle of the back is well shown. Huge protuberances of fat cover the hips and descend a little lower than the place where the buttocks should arise.
The Mask, or the Face, is a perforated oval disk in the form of a flattened face or mask. It is made of partially translucent green-yellow to yellow chlorite. Perforations create the eyes and a mouth. The eyes are circular, and small notches give them an animal rather than a human appearance. A series of incised lines radiates from the centre of the face across each cheek. The eyes, nose, and mouth have a vaguely feline appearance, but it may be either a stylised human or an animal. It may be more recent than the statuettes and have come from the rich Early Epigravettian deposits excavated by Jullien in the upper levels of the Barma Grande.
Sculpture of a female figure from Mas d'Azil, from the middle Magdalenian, discovered by Piette. This human bust, carved in the root of an incisor of a horse, shows a great mastery of sculptural technique. The nature, form and volume of material forced the sculptor to enclose the body within narrow limits. The originality of this sculpture is reinforced by the representation of the breasts, elongated and pendant, but not bulky. This secondary sexual characteristic allows us to identify it as a woman. There is also a second stylised venus figure, which is very reminiscent of the female/bird sculptures of Mezin.
Mauern Venus - Die Rote von Mauern is a venus statuette in limestone, 27 000 years old, covered with red ochre when found at the Weinberghöhlen caves near Mauern, Bavaria. Lothar Zotz, on 24th August 1948, found the 72 mm tall limestone venus figure on the outer slope between cavities two and three of the Weinberghöhlen. During 1937-38, 1947-49, 1967 and 1974 bone fragments and traces of mammoth, cave bear, woolly rhinoceros, reindeer and 20 other different animals were found at the caves, as well as high quality Blattspitzen or leaf points of Mousterian / Neanderthal origin.
Venus of Menton, a figurine in yellow steatite (soapstone), Grimaldi. The figure is naked, breasts, abdomen and buttocks are prominent, the pubis and vulva are well marked. The arms are fused with the torso. The head is in the form of a ball, and extends down the back via the hair. It resembles many other venus figures from the upper European Palaeolithic. Found in 1880 in the Barma Grande and acquired by Salomon Reinach in 1896 for the French MNA.
The Venus of Milandes is a phallic shaped venus figure from the Dordogne valley, apparently of Paleolithic age. It was found by a five year old boy in a field, and taken home as one of a number of curiosities found that day. It was shaped from a silicified iron bearing limestone pebble, already with a phallic - feminine shape, and further altered to accentuate this interpretation. The object has a maximum height of 77.3 mm to a maximum width at the hips of 39.0 mm. The object weighs about 90 grams.
Monpazier Venus - The Venus of Monpazier was collected in 1970 on the surface of a freshly ploughed field by M. Elisée Cérou. It has a well drawn vulva. The pronounced buttocks and the projecting belly gave it the name Punchinello, but some see in it a woman about to give birth. Carved in limonite, a yellowish brown ore of iron. Often confused on the internet with the Polichinelle Venus.
Moravany Venus - the Venus of Moravany is 76 mm tall, and was discovered when it was found in a ploughed field by a farmer in 1938 in the area of Moravany nad Váhom, a village near the spa resort Piestany in Slovakia. It is officially dated 22 800 B.P. and belongs to the shouldered points horizon (Willendorf-Kostenkian or Upper Gravettian).
Nebra Venus - The site of Altenburg in the Stone Age was a particularly favorable place to settle. Excavations have uncovered a settlement of the Magdalenian hunters (about 17 000 BP). The tent-like dwelling was visited repeatedly over a number of summers. Floor plans and post holes of residential buildings have been identified. The most well known discovery is the 'Venus of Nebra', one of three sculptures in ivory approximately 7 cm high.
The Negroid Venus Head, in slightly fibrous green soapstone, has a surface which is polished and worn, especially the face. The base is polished and worn, which suggests that the object was already an isolated head in the Paleolithic. The piece measures 24 mm in height, 24.5 mm front to back and 15 mm maximum width, and is therefore relatively flat and has a protruding chignon of hair. The facial features are strikingly represented: there is a receding forehead with massive eyebrows and deep eye sockets. The cheekbones are strong. The coiffure, largely destroyed, is represented by a net or grid consisting of a series of incisions starting at the forehead, over the bun or chignon and back down onto the neck, cut by transverse incisions, the first of which form a kind of band above the forehead.
The Nun Venus, or the Flattened Figure is a Balzi Rossi or Grimaldi figurine which has been carved on a flat oval pebble of dark green chlorite and is about 44 mm high. The arms merge into the outer mass of the pebble, and the form brings to mind a female with a quasi-religious and hieratic bearing. The enveloping cape adds an air of mystery.
The Venus called la figurine à la pèlerine, or figurine dressed in a cape, from the Grottes du Pape, Brassempouy, consists of a fragment of the torso of a figure wearing a cape. The arm in bas relief is folded across the chest. Sculptors had recognised how fragile arms are when they are detached from the trunk, and they used bas relief to represent them. The arm tapers in thickness from the shoulder to the elbow.
The Venus of Parabita is 90 mm high and 20 mm wide, and is made from a splinter of bone from an aurochs or horse. There are no features on the face, while the chin and neck is crossed by two parallel curved incisions, creating the impression of a collar or hood. From here the two sloping shoulders continue into arms, which become thinner, then thicker, and finally come together under a prominent abdomen, perhaps indicating pregnancy. A second venus is smaller, 61 mm high and 15 mm wide, and has different stylistic features.
The Venus of Parrano, or Venere di Parrano shows a figure with some sort of woven or wrapped head dress, with slits to denote eyes, eyebrows, and mouth. No nose is shown. The neck is well defined, There are no breasts shown at all, the arms and hands are indicated by shallow carving on the green stone. The abdomen is shown with what appears to be a navel, and there may be a foetus shown below the abdomen. The carving shows no sign of deterioration, there are no chips off it, nor is it highly polished. It could have been carved yesterday.
The Woman with the Perforated Neck, also known as the 'Janus' because the face is depicted on both sides of the flattened figurine, is one of the venuses from the Barma Grande in the Balzi Rossi caves. It is 62 mm long, of dark green steatite. The head is flat and circular, with the eyes and mouth carved on the front and back of the head. There are no forearms, and the breasts are oval-shaped. There is a prominent belly, and the buttocks are flattened. A small open vulva has been carved, and the knees and feet are indistinct or absent. It is perforated through the neck.
The Venus of El Pendo Cave, Camargo, province of Santander, may be of modern manufacture. It is in the form of a spear straightener or baton de commandement, made of deer antler, variously dated to the Solutrean or the upper Magdalenian, excavated by Abbé Jesus Carballo at El Pendo Cavern. Of interest is the form of the handle, which evokes the feminine form. This 'Venus' was discovered in the Solutrean layer of the El Pendo Cave. It is made of deer antler, and its form evokes that of a woman, with arms raised and with large hips.
The Petersfels (Engen) venuses are made of jet, or hard coal, and were found at the Petersfels site, near Engen in Germany. It is one of the most important Palaeolithic sites in Central Europe with an enormous number of important artefacts. It was a settlement site of the Magdalenian (late Upper Paleolithic), with many layers, towards the end of the last ice age, during the period 15 500-14 000 BP. The main activity here was reindeer hunting in autumn.
Placard Venus - La grotte du Placard is a decorated cave in the commune of Vilhonneur in Charante, 30 km east of Angoulême. It has been extensively researched and has levels dating from the Middle and Upper Paleolithic, especially the Magdalenian and Solutrean.
La Poire is a figurine of mammoth ivory of which only the corpulent torso survives, found in 1892 in the 'Grotte du Pape' at Brassempouy. The name 'Venus' for this figurine was subsequently adopted by Édouard Piette (1827-1906). She was originally nicknamed la poire - 'the pear' - on account of her shape. For Piette, the name 'Venus' may have come to mind in this particular instance because of the emphatic treatment of the vulva's labia and the prominent, slightly protruding pubic area, which he tastefully refers to as 'le mont de Vénus' - the mound of Venus (or mons pubis). 'Venus' has since become the collective term used to identify all obese Palaeolithic statuettes of women.
Polichinelle Venus - The Venus of Polichinelle, carved in green steatite, length 61 mm, 27 000 years old, found at Grimaldi. The pronounced buttocks and the projecting belly gave it the name Punchinello, but some see in it a woman about to give birth. Punchinello, or Polichinelle in French, is the short fat buffoon or clown in an Italian puppet show. Often confused on the internet with the Monpazier Venus.
The Red Ochre Venus or Dame Ocrée is a female figurine made from mammoth ivory. The oval face has no facial features and the head and torso were originally covered with a very thick layer of red ochre. The hair forms a thick coiffure framing the face and tapering to two points that end on the backs of the shoulders, which may be interpreted as being braids. Although the upper arms are clearly carved at the sides of the figurine, there is no trace of forearms or hands.
The Venus of Roc-aux-Sorciers was found in an Upper Paleolithic rock shelter site dating to the mid-Magdalenian cultural stage, ca 14 000 BP, made famous by its relief wall carvings. The south-facing rock-shelter is composed of two geologically distinct sections; below is the Abri Bourdois, a classic rock-shelter site beneath a slight overhang, and above is the Cave Taillebourg, a deeper vestibule. The art of Roc-aux-Sorciers is in two distinct categories - a 20 metre long frieze, still standing, not open to the public, and a series of sculptures, formerly on a wall of a collapsed section of the site.
Savignano Venus - The Venus of Savignano is from the north Italian plain, and is 220 mm high. It is made of serpentine, and arms are indicated only, across the breasts. Found in 1925 at Savignano sul Punaro, near Modena.
Sireuil Venus - The Venus de Sireuil was collected in 1900 in the Dordogne. It is made of translucent calcite. It was found in 1900 by M. Prat, on a road to a stone quarry, where a cartwheel which ran over it in the muddy rut where it lay unfortunately amputated the head and left hand which were not recovered. The material of the object is of amber calcite, slightly translucent, measuring 92 mm in height. Aurignacian flint was found 150 metres from the statue, in a quarry. It is estimated to be 27 000 years old.
The Venus of Tolentino is a figure carved with a chisel on thin chert, height about 13 cm. The drawing depicts a woman with zoomorphic features. It has legs, breasts, and a geometric vulva, but the body is surmounted by a cow's head (or a herbivorous animal, bovid or equid). The Venus de Tolentino has been dated to a period between 5 000 and 12 000 years ago, between the Pleistocene and Neolithic, when agriculture developed in Europe. The stone on which the Venus is carved was probably used as a tool striker, or to crush seeds. Both ends are chipped from use.
Le Torse - this Gravettian venus figurine was found during the 1896 excavations by Édouard Piette and J. de Laporterie at Grottes du Pape, Brassempouy. It was found in the upper part of the figurines layer, 4 or 5 cm above a fireplace. Dimensions: 94 mm high, 51.5 mm wide, 48 mm thick
The Trasimeno Venus is a venus figure from the Paleolithic, found in Italy. It is about 3.7 inches high and carved in soapstone. It was found during excavations at Lago Trasimeno and is on display at the Museo Nazionale preistorico Etnografico Luigi Pigorini in Rome.
Tursac Venus - The Venus of Tursac is a calcite figure from 25 000 years BP. It was discovered on 5th August 1959 by M. Henri Delporte at Tursac, a village in the Perigord, near Sarlat, in the summer of 1959 at 'l'Abri du Facteur'. It is a treasure, a figurine made from a block of translucent calcite measuring 8 cm high and weighing 57.4 grams. While it lacks a head, arms and breasts it is still a very rare and important find.
The Woman with Two Heads, or Bicéphale, one of the Grimaldi Venuses, has a body made up of a narrow torso, no arms, projecting breasts and belly, and legs that taper to a point at the knees. The breasts are pointed, extremely large, projected forward, and extend laterally beyond the edge of the torso. Unlike the right breast, the left breast has two grooves circling it and a hole pecked in the tip, presumably representing a nipple. It has a flat back with a faint groove indicating the spine, a narrow waist, and wide hips. The centre of the abdomen is protruding and almost perfectly round and has a small navel in the centre. The large and circular buttocks are marked by a crease at the top and there is a pit carved at the approximate position of the anus. The very large pubic area contains a vulva that is indicated by a vertical groove.
The Undescribed Venus of Balzi Rossi is of opaque green soapstone. The oval head and the torso are of normal form and proportions, but the facial features are sketchy, with just sockets for eyes and the outline of a nose. The neck is well formed, the breasts, highly elongated from top to bottom, are separated from each other and the rest of the chest by very deep incisions. The material has changed in nature, and in part has converted to iron hydroxide, while maintaining the fibrous appearance of the original rock. The lower part is broken, we can not know if the statue was in a semi-sitting or standing position, or what was the form of the legs. The surface of the piece is less polished than others in the series, and is also much encrusted with iron concretions.
The Vogelherd Venus, with a length 69 mm, depth of 10.5 mm, and a width 19 mm is carved from ivory, carved in fact on one side only and is quite clumsily made, although the flattened head and trunk are relatively well treated. The line of the back, the shape of the small of the back and the gluteal projection are shown. The body has two rows of small cupules and a series of incisions whose meaning remains enigmatic. The world-renowned ivory carvings from Vogelherd originate from the Middle Aurignacian period.
Willendorf Venus - The Venus of Willendorf, I, II and III. The Venus of Willendorf I is a superbly crafted sculpture of a naked obese woman from the stone age. It is made of oolitic limestone, and was covered with red ochre when found in 1908. The vulva is particularly well carved, by someone with a good knowledge of anatomy. The feet are rendered as very small, with no indication of ankles. Opinion is divided about the pattern around the head. Some say it is braided hair, others say it is a woven (or crocheted) hat pulled low over the face. There is evidence for woven textiles from that time. It could also be basketry.
The Yeliseevichi venus, or Elisseevichi venus, is a finely modelled 15 cm tall figure depicting a shapely woman with no feet, head and hands, carved of mammoth tusk. The figurine has prominent buttocks and legs. The Yeliseevichi site was discovered in 1930 and it is located on the river Sudost, the right tributary of the Desna, in the Briansk Province, Russia. Most of the prehistoric artefacts were found in a heap of mammoth skulls piled next to a residential house.
The Zaraysk Venus is not voluptuous, which puts it with the 'thin' Kostenki - Avdeevo venuses, but in this case there is one difference, that the legs are not placed together, which is also the case for the Willendorf venus. This testifies to the uniqueness of the Zaraysk site, which has features of both the Kostenki and Avdeevo cultures. Zaraysk or Zaraisk or Зарайск is an important Paleolithic site from the Ice Age in Russia, and is the northernmost example of the Kostenki - Avdeevo culture.
Venus figures, paintings, carvings or engravings which are or may be male
The Worshipper, called 'Adorant', is one of the oldest, most impressive and mystifying statuettes from the Ice Age. It was discovered in an ashy bone layer near a possible hearth. The bas-relief of a human being with raised arms, who seems to be either saluting or threatening, can be distinguished. The raised arms might also be interpreted as an attitude of worship, so the statuette was named the 'Adorant'.
A carving of a phallus and an engraving of one on stone from Abri Blanchard, Castel-Merle, also known as Vallon des Roches located near the town of Sergeac on the Vézère River between Lascaux and the shelter of Moustier, near Les Eyzies-de-Tayac
The head, torso and left arm are all that survives of the male ivory statuette found in an upper Palaeolithic (Pavlovian) burial at Brno near Dolni Vestonice. There is a correctly proportioned stump of a penis at the base of the torso. Around 26 000 years BP.
There are two images of men pierced with spears in the Grottes de Cougnac caves near Gourdon, Lot. The site consists of two caves separated by 200 metres. The first contains many concretions, some very fine, called soda straws. The second is a decorated cave from the Paleolithic. The cave has many prehistoric paintings dated to the upper Paleolithic. Depictions include deer, megaceros, the ibex, and mammoths as well as various schematic human figures. The paintings corresponded to at least two clearly distinct phases: one around 25 000 BP, the other about 14 000 years before the present.
A sculpted and polished phallus found in a German cave is among the earliest representations of male sexuality ever uncovered. The 20cm-long, 3cm-wide stone object, which is dated to be about 28 000 years old, was buried in the famous Hohle Fels Cave near Ulm in the Swabian Jura. The prehistoric 'tool' was reassembled from 14 fragments of siltstone. Its life size suggests it may well have been used as a sex aid by its Ice Age makers, scientists report.
The dead man with a bird's head. This is one of the most studied and argued about paintings in Lascaux. It is in what is known as the Well, or the Shaft, and is reached by climbing down a ladder from the Apse. The main scene includes a disembowelled bison, a man with a bird's head who appears to have been felled by the bison, a spear, and a bird on a pole. Was the man a shaman with a bird as totem? Did the painter believe that dead people became birds? We shall never know.
The Venus of Laugerie Basse - the Supplicant. This venus is a tiny, broken, crudely carved statuette of reindeer antler, 44 millimetres long, depicting a faceless human bent forward as though in supplication, with arms raised as if in prayer or adoration.
Lowenfrau, Löwenmensch, the Lion Lady or Lion Man Venus - carved from mammoth ivory, it is 28 cm high and 6 cm in diameter. It was found in the Stadelhöhle am Hohenstein, a rocky cliff in the Lonetal valley above Asselfingen, Baden-Wurttemberg (Germany), in 1931, dated as Aurignacian, in a 32 000 year old level. Although this is known in some places as the lion lady, it is by no means certain that it is female. The arms bear striations carved into the ivory. It is pieced together from more than 200 tiny pieces. This 'venus' may be an attempt to capture the power of the lion.
Man confronts a bear, Mas d'Azil. This is a stunning work. It consisted originally of a disk, with an engraving on each side. On one side of the disk, we have a human male with an erect penis confronting a bear, with a heavy stick over his shoulder, and on the other side, a man being struck down by a bear. He appears to be shown lying face down, and uniquely, there is no other palaeolithic representation of a man in such a position. If the disc is tipped upside down on this face, a horse may be seen. An ornately carved ivory phallus has also been found at Mas d'Azil.
The mask of Roche-Cotard is a flint object with a striking likeness to a human face. It may be one of the best examples of art by Neanderthal man ever found. The 'mask', which is dated to be about 35 000 years old, was recovered on the banks of the Loire in France. It is about 10 cm tall and wide and has a bone splinter rammed through a hole, making the rock look as if it has eyes. Commentators say the object shows the Neanderthals were more sophisticated than their caveman image suggests.
Grotte du Sorcier - representation of a human with an erect phallus, located on the roof in the deepest part of the cave. The man has a narrow thorax, distended abdomen, extended upper limbs, and the head is round. The engraving is on limestone, the surface of the rock is affected by falling flakes primarily in the ventral part. There is also a head with a bestial face, turned to the right, as well as the head of a man. The top of the skull is high, with no indication of hair, the forehead is high and convex. The nose is heavy and convex and continues with a meandering line indicating the nostril and an open mouth. The ear is formed by two lines of which one extends to the thin neck. The eye is shaped with an elliptical shape, with an extension to the left.