35,000-year-old ivory carving found: Busty sculpture could be world's oldest
2009-05-14 0:00

Patrick McGroarty | The London Free Press




This figurine, found in 2008 in a cave in Schelklingen, southern Germany is allegedly the world's oldest reproduction of a human with an estimated age of at least 35,000 years. (AP/Daniel Maurer).



A 35,000-year-old ivory carving of a busty woman found in a German cave was unveiled Wednesday by archaeologists who believe it is the oldest known sculpture of the human form.

The carving found in six fragments in Germany’s Hohle Fels cave depicts a woman with a swollen belly, wide-set thighs and large, protruding breasts.

“It’s very sexually charged,” said University of Tuebingen archaeologist Nicholas Conard, whose team discovered the figure in September.

Carbon dating suggests it was carved at least 35,000 years ago, according to the researchers’ findings, which are being published Thursday in the scientific journal Nature.

“It’s the oldest known piece of figurative sculpture in the world,” said Jill Cook, a curator of Paleolithic and Mesolithic material at the British Museum in London.




Maria Malina, scientific employee, presents the photo of a carved ivory female figurine during its presentation in Tuebingen, southern Germany, Wednesday, May 13, 2009.


Stones in Israel and Africa almost twice as old are believed to have been collected by ancient humans because they resembled people, but they were not carved independently.

The Hohle Fels cave discovery suggests the humans, who are believed to have come to Europe around 40,000 years ago, had the intelligence to create symbols and think abstractly in a way that matches the modern human, Conard said.

“It’s 100 percent certain that, by the time we get to 40,000 years ago in Swabia, we’re dealing with people just like you and me,” Conard told The Associated Press, referring to the southern German region where the sculpture was recovered along with other prehistoric artifacts.

Conard believes the 2.4-inch-tall (6-centimeter) figure may have been hung on the end of a string. The left arm is missing, but Conard said he hopes to find it by sifting through material from the cave.



The Hohle Fels sculpture is curvaceous and has neither feet nor a head, like some of the roughly 150 so-called Venus figurines found in a range from the Pyrenees mountains to southern Russia and dating back about 25,000-29,000 years.

But Cook warned against trying to draw any connections between the Venuses and the Hohle Fels figure, saying that would be like comparing Picasso to a classical sculptor — too much time had passed.

“I wonder whether at this point we’re looking at figures which are unique within themselves and unique within the cultures that they’re arising in,” she said.

Archaeologist Paul Mellars, of the University of Cambridge, suggested a clearer continuum.

“We now have evidence of that sort of artistic tradition of Venus figurines going back 6,000 years earlier than anybody ever guessed,” he said.

Neanderthals also lived in Europe around the time the sculpture was carved, and frequented the Hohle Fels cave. But Mellars said layered deposits left by both species over thousands of years prove the sculpture was crafted by humans.

“Nothing within a million miles of this has ever been found in a Neanderthal layer,” Mellars said.

The archaeologists agreed the sculpture’s age and features invite speculation about its purpose and the preoccupations of the culture that produced it.

Cook suggested it could be symbol of fertility, perhaps even portrayed in the act of giving birth.

Mellars suggested a more basic motivation for the carving: “These people were obsessed with sex.”

Conard said the differing opinions reinforced the connection between the ancient artist and modern viewer.

“How we interpret it tells us just as much about ourselves as about people 40,000 years ago,” he said.



Related Articles
Prehistoric Pin Up
A female figurine from the basal Aurignacian of Hohle Fels Cave in southwestern Germany
Finds from the Hohle Fels cave
33 Weird Statues and Sculptures Around The World
Prehistoric cave carving hailed as 'one of most significant examples ever found in Britain'
Prehistoric 'Venus' carved on cliff in China


Latest News from our Front Page

Breaking: Google gives new meaning to “Orwellian”
2015-03-02 18:14
Becomes Ministry of Truth “…if all records told the same tale — then the lie passed into history and became truth.” (1984, George Orwell) The New Scientist has the stunning story (2/28/15, “Google wants to rank websites based on facts not links,” by Hal Hodson): “THE internet is stuffed with garbage. Anti-vaccination websites make the front page of Google, and fact-free ‘news’ stories ...
Boris Nemtsov, Putin Foe, Is Shot Dead in Shadow of Kremlin - A Staged Shooting?
2015-02-28 22:37
NY Times: Boris Nemtsov, Putin Foe, Is Shot Dead in Shadow of Kremlin Mr. Nemtsov, a former first deputy prime minister of Russia, was killed in central Moscow in the highest-profile assassination in Russia during the tenure of President Vladimir V. Putin. A Staged Shooting? ... Why does the dead body of fitness enthusiast Boris Nemtsov have a pot belly? The Anti-New York Times doesn't ...
Holocaust, Hate Speech and Were the Germans so Stupid?
2015-02-28 20:31
Description form YouTube: This is an updated version of the video which was taken down by YouTube following a spurious copyright-infringement claim. It addresses issues regarding claims that Zyklon B in liquid form gives off fumes at temperatures below 0º C. As the world approaches the brink of a new Middle East crisis this time involving Syria, clearly at the behind-the-scenes ...
The Jewish Roots of Leonard Nimoy and What the ‘Live Long and Prosper’ Hand Symbol Really Means
2015-02-28 0:20
Leonard Nimoy first saw what became the famous Vulcan salute, “live long and prosper,” as a child, long before “Star Trek” even existed. The placement of the hands comes from a childhood memory, of an Orthodox Jewish synagogue service in Boston. The man who would play Spock saw the gesture as part of a blessing, and it never left him. “Something ...
Baby born still INSIDE his amniotic sac is hailed a ‘medical miracle’ by doctors [Video]
2015-02-27 22:46
What an incredible miracle… Not only was the little boy three months early – he was born inside his amniotic sac. I’ve never heard of this happening before. If you look at the picture, you can see him clearly with his little arms and legs curled up. He was still being given oxygen by his mom until the sac was ...
More News »