May 14, 2009

35,000-year old female figurine from Hohle Fels Cave

This is said to be the oldest currently known depiction of the human form. There is also a free video in the Nature site; see also a BBC story with more pics.

From the paper:
The new figurine from Hohle Fels radically changes our view of the origins of Palaeolithic art. Before this discovery, animals and therianthropic imagery dominated the two dozen figurines from the Swabian Aurignacian. Female imagery was entirely unknown2, 15. With this discovery, the widespread notion that three-dimensional female depictions developed in the Gravettian can be rejected

Nature doi:10.1038/nature07995

A female figurine from the basal Aurignacian of Hohle Fels Cave in southwestern Germany

Nicholas J. Conard


Despite well over 100 years of research and debate, the origins of art remain contentious1, 2, 3. In recent years, abstract depictions have been documented at southern African sites dating to approx75 kyr before present (bp)4, 5, and the earliest figurative art, which is often seen as an important proxy for advanced symbolic communication, has been documented in Europe as dating to between 30 and 40 kyr bp 2. Here I report the discovery of a female mammoth-ivory figurine in the basal Aurignacian deposit at Hohle Fels Cave in the Swabian Jura of southwestern Germany during excavations in 2008. This figurine was produced at least 35,000 calendar years ago, making it one of the oldest known examples of figurative art. This 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.



pconroy said...

Looks like the Pamela Anderson of the Aurignacian culture...nice!

eurologist said...

Could be anything from 35,000 to 40,000 years old...

The time span over which Venus figurines with clear stylistic conventions were made is just mind-blowing. Taken together with the other figurines (lion-man, mammoth) and flute found in the Swabian Alb caves, it is clear that this type of Aurignacian art work was not all that different from that of the Gravettian. I have to read up on recent work - seems less and less like there was a deep cultural revolution between these two periods.

Kepler said...

There is an interesting article on Der Spiegel (in German) as well:,1518,624618,00.html
There are more pictures there of other "interesting objects", the pictures don't need explanation.

Onur Dincer said...

Looks like the Pamela Anderson of the Aurignacian culture...nice!

It is more like a chicken (yum yum!) with female human breasts!!!

eurologist said...

On a more serious note, I could very well imagine these being worn by skilled midwifes. To me, this example radiates the "uplifting" and readiness of child birth more than that of conception - which in a skilled artist's mind could have elicited all kinds of other images and their representation.

Also, a ring does not a pendant make. This could easily have been hung in front of a tent entrance.

Woman's care, child births, and sex ed, Inc.

mathilda said...

Those look like stretch marks across her belly- Looks like some kind of birthing female to me.

Mother goddess maybe?

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