Culture Magazine

Upper Paleolithic Female Figurines

By Cris

Yesterday I spent a good portion of the day researching Upper Paleolithic “Venus” figurines. These female figurines began appearing in the Danube corridor about 35,000 years ago, and from that time forward become increasingly widespread in time and space. They have drawn more than their fair share of scholarly attention, and anyone interested in the subject can find it covered from just about every angle, ranging from straightforward archaeology to esoteric symbolism.

They are fascinating objects and most researchers think they are linked to fertility beliefs. Having come of age in the 1980s when Bananarama was hot, I do not find this hard to believe. Who can forget this scintillating video:

Out of the dozens of articles I examined, one in particular stood out in terms of providing a comprehensive overview that was well organized (and which includes a large number of high quality photographs). Somewhat surprisingly, this paper was not published in a journal or book. It was written by an undergraduate honors student at Texas State University and is available on their e-Commons site.

Published in 2008 by Karen Diane Jennett, “Female Figurines of the Upper Paleolithic” is an incredibly helpful summary and great place to start. I think we sometimes forget that undergraduates are capable of some really fine work and an advanced degree is not a prerequisite to publishing something that can be cited by others. I will be using Karen’s thesis and citing to it accordingly.


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