The Venus of Willendorf

The Venus of Willendorf is a small 11.1 cm (4 3/8 in) high figurine carved from oolitic limestone and tinted with red ochre.
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Chauvet cave paintings may be far more recent than generally believed

French archaeologists claim that prehistoric artwork thought to be 36,000 years old is actually 10,000 years younger.

Chauvet Cave is located near the village of Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, Ardèche in southern France. The cave was discovered in 1994 by a team of cavers led by Jean-Marie Chauvet, for whom the site was named. It was the most important cave painting find since the discovery of Lascaux by a group of teenagers during World War II. Continue reading

Ice Age art: arrival of the modern mind


Astonishingly lifelike, the 21,000 year old mammoth-ivory bison sculpture (right) is unquestionably the work of a talented artist. Excavated at Zaraysk in Russia in 2002, it is one of 130 portable art objects from the European Upper Palaeolithic featured in Ice Age art: arrival of the modern mind, which opens at the British Museum on 7 February. These have been set alongside a small selection of works by Henry Moore, Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian and other 20th Century artists. Exhibition curator Dr Jill Cook was unfortunately unable to include Genesis by Sir Jacob Epstein and works from the currently-closed Musée Picasso in Paris.
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The enigmatic “Venus” figurines of Upper Palaeolithic Europe

Female carvings are known throughout the European Upper Palaeolithic and are collectively known as Venus figurines, though they predate the Roman goddess by tens of millennia. They are chiefly associated with the Gravettian period, though they are also known from the preceding Aurignacian. The earliest currently known is the 35,000 year old Hohle Fels Venus, a mammoth-ivory figurine recovered in 2008 at Fohle Fels Cave in the Swabian Jura of south-western Germany.

Typically lozenge-shaped, these figurines are characterised by exaggerated sexual characteristics, with very large breasts, accentuated hips, thighs and buttocks, and large, explicit vulvas. Continue reading