Essay on Venus of Willendorf

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This paper will discuss relative points and insights relating to sculpture of the Paleolithic era, specifically the Venus of Willendorf, through the essays of Christopher Witcombe.

Venus is a term that has long been associated with artwork, most specifically the classical forms of beautiful women. The term Venus has also come to represent female sculptures of the Paleolithic era. The most notable of these female sculptures is the Venus of Willendorf, 24,000-22,000 BCE. The age of the figurine has been changed several times. Originally when found the date was estimated to be 15,000 to 10,000 BCE. During the 1970's the time period was adjusted to 25,000 to 20,000 BCE; the date was again recalculated in the 1980's to 30,000 to 25,000 BCE;
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(Witcombe, sec. 3) The Venus of Willendorf has achieved renown because the work is believed to be the earliest known sculpture of a human being. The statuette clearly depicts an overweight female with braided hair or a woven hat, large breasts, ample abdomen, prominent pubic area, unproportionately thin arms and no feet. The absence of feet is significant for two reasons. The first reason is that if the statuette is a fertiliy symbol, only body parts needed to bear and rear children would be accentuated; the second reason is the presumption that if the image had no feet it would not be able to move away from its owner (Witcombe, sec. 3). The head shows no face but uncharacteristic care was worked into the hair or headpiece. Witcombe explains that hair, more specifically, the scent associated with hair was very important in attracting a mate. The detail in the sculptural braiding of the hair area may have been considered just as erotic as the breast and pubic areas.

Considering the time period the statuette was created, it is difficult to imagine that the Venus of Willendorf represents the typical female. Food was not readily available to allow the human population to grow so rotund, therefore, Witcombe suggests the statuette represents either a woman of significance or possibly a fertility idol . Both assumptions are plausible given that a person of power would most certainly

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