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The Venus of Hohle Fels (also known as the Venus of Schelklingen; in German variously ) is an Upper Paleolithic Venus figurine found near Schelklingenmarker, Germanymarker. It is dated to between 35,000 and 40,000 years ago, belonging to the early Aurignacian, at the very beginning of the Upper Paleolithic, which is associated with the assumed earliest presence of Homo sapiens (Cro-Magnon) in Europe. It is the oldest undisputed example of Upper Paleolithic art and figurative prehistoric art in general.


The Swabian Albmarker region has a number of caves that have yielded mammoth ivory artifacts of the Upper Paleolithic period, totalling about twenty-five items to date. These include the lion-headed figure of Hohlenstein-Stadel and an ivory flute found at Geißenklösterlemarker, dated to 36,000 BP. This concentration of evidence of full behavioral modernity in the period of 40 to 30 kya, including figurative art and instrumental music, is unique worldwide and Conard speculates that the bearers of the Aurignacian culture in the Swabian Alb may be credited with the invention, not just of figurative art and music, but possibly, early religion as well. In a distance of 70cm to the Venus figurine Conard's team found a flute made from a vulture bone. Additional artifacts excavated from the same cave layer included flint-knapping debris, worked bone, and carved ivory as well as remains of tarpans, reindeer, cave bears, woolly mammoths, and Alpine Ibexes.

Discovery and significance

The discovery of the Venus of Hohle Fels pushes back the date of the oldest prehistoric sculpture, and arguably the oldest known figurative art altogether, by several millennia, establishing that works of art were being produced throughout the Aurignacian Period.

The figurine was discovered in September 2008 in a cave called (Swabian German for "hollow rock") near Schelklingen, some west of Ulmmarker, Baden-Württembergmarker, in southwestern Germany, by a team from the University of Tübingenmarker led by archaeology professor Nicholas Conard, who reported their find in Nature.The figurine was found in the cave hall, about from the entrance and about below the current ground level.


The figurine is a representation of a woman, putting emphasis on the vulva and the breasts. Consequently it is presumed to be an amulet related to fertility. It is made of a woolly mammoth tusk and had broken into fragments, of which six have been recovered, with the left arm and shoulder still missing. In place of the head, the figurine has a perforation so that it could have been worn as a pendant. Archaeologist John J. Shea suggests it would have taken "tens if not hundreds of hours" to carve the figurine.

See also

Notes and references

  2. Älteste Menschenfigur der Welt gefunden Südwestrundfunk 14 May 2009.
  4. The grid or cross-hatch patterns patterns found engraved at the Blombos Cave in South Africa, dating to 75,000 years ago, may or may not be considered "abstract art".
  5. by at least 5,000 years, if the 35,000 BP date is compared to that of the Venus of Galgenberg, or by as much as 10,000 years if the 40,000 BP date is accepted.

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