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The Mystery of Prehistoric Venus Figurines

All the above pictures show what is known as “Venus figurines.” They are statuettes of women created by people who lived around 25,000 years back in Europe. The interesting thing about them is that such figurines were found from Western Europe to Ukraine and so one has to ask the academic question, “What’s the deal?.” Why did prehistoric people create such anatomically exaggerated statuettes? Obviously it meant something to them and they created and reproduced this art form many times. But why?

Prehistoric art gives us insight into the world of people who lived in caves and were ignorant about farming. Even though their life was different, they too indulged in art like creating such figurines and by painting on rock like the one seen in Chauvet caves.There are few theories about these European Venus figurines

  1. They represent powerful fertile women and represent goddess worship in a matriarchal society.
  2. This is stone age pornography. They were made by men to touch and fondle. (Yes, it is a theory)
  3. These are self portraits
  4. These are stone age dolls
  5. They are related to fertility – either as a talisman or to give solace to women giving birth.

We don’t know which one is true. Each of these theories may reflect our thinking than the real motivation behind the figurines. Since these belong to the prehistoric period, guessing is what we can do. But as we move to India, many millenia later, we can eliminate some possibilities.

Figurines found at Inamgaon (via HD Sankalia)

Figurines found at Inamgaon (via HD Sankalia)

In India, we don’t see figurines dating to 25,000 years Before Present. Similar looking female figurines of clay were found at Inamgaon and Nevasa near Pune dating to around 1400 – 1000 BCE. They were found buried under a house floor and probably was a goddess connected with fertility, childbirth or the welfare of children. It is the fact that they were found buried under a house that gives a clue that it was connected with an important household ritual.

Reference:

  1. Lecture 3 by Prof. Matthew Herbst at UCSD for MMW 11
  2. Singh, Upinder. A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century. 1st ed. Prentice Hall, 2009.
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