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One question about the Venus Figurines.

January 1, 2014

Without a carriage vehicle of invention, we travel no faster today than we did in Prehistoric times. The twin turbos that we use for propulsion today are the identical means of locomotion for archaic Homo sapiens and all other pre evolutionary bipedal hominid species. One foot forward and away we go. A healthy human can cover a significant distance daily. An unhealthy, injured or obese human would have been a burden to a nomadic tribe. The harshest of survival conditions was the daily template. But travel we did and with the proliferation of similar types of weapons, tools, objects of art and recurring theme cave art, the artefactual evidence reveals that early technological advancement were shared or plundered. For 25,000 years (35,000 B.C.E. to 10,000 B.C.E.) the Palaeolithic humans of Europe and Asia spread their early culture across the habitable edge of the great northern glacier. No doubt there was plunder of one tribe from another which expanded the change of ideas. The early seeds of conquest grew alongside of the early seeds of trade and commerce. No doubt that each new meeting of clans and what transpired between them, the full or empty stomach was a contributing factor. Slowly I’m getting to the point for sure, but since nomadic travel appears essential to surviving Palaeolithic life, how could creating the image of corpulent, steatopygous or pregnant females (Venus figurines) become part of that culture for millennium after millennium?

The conundrum of speculation is that human interaction, peaceful or of conflict, happened repeatedly over this epoch. There is no other way to explain the distinctly stereotypical features of the current collection of Venus figurines found to date. For this phenomenon to have arisen independently in multiple locations at the same time without interaction is just not plausible.

The first argument to extrapolate is nomadic travel. Our ancestors obviously hunkered down in caves for long periods of time. These caves may have been the first fortresses to defend or base camps for successive raiding parties. The earliest known settlements that exist outside a cave would be the Huts of Mammoth Tusks & Rocks discovered at Dolni Vestonice in the Czech Republic dated at 23,000 B.C.E., and the small scattered settlements of the Kostenki-Borshevo sites in Russia which date in various layers from 36,000 B.C.E. to 22,000 B.C.E.. And discoveries of other settlements do not show up in great numbers for another 10,000 years. Habitable caves would have been the prizes for early bands of our species. Estimates of our population from 40,000 B.C.E to 10,000 B.C.E. are just about impossible to find and any attempt by me or others to come up with a figure will be imprecise. At 10,000 B.C.E. there are many sources that estimate the homo sapien population to be anywhere from 1.3 million to as high as 4 million globally. Africa, the rest of Asia, Australia and the early inhabitants of the Americas would most likely account for as low as 500,000 to as high as 2.5 million ancestors (50% to 60% of global population). It stands to reason that the early populations of Homo sapiens from the Atlantic to central Asia (the other 40% to 50% that lived on the edge of the northern glacier) would have been a significant number. The rate of population would not likely be higher than 1 person per kilometer. Tribe size would most likely comprise cooperatives of 10 to 50 members. And not all could live in caves. Nomadic travel would have been the norm for a better than 50% to 75 %, or more, of the Palaeolithic tribes in this sector of the globe. The bulk of the figurines date between 30,000 B.C.E. to 12,000 B.C.E., thus for 3000 to 3500 generations, a fascination with this style of carving existed. Finds in other parts of the habitable Palaeolithic have uncovered little or no renditions similar to the Venus style of carving. The models for these figurines would not have been prime nomadic candidates. Were the models for these figurines sedentary? If yes, than certain tribes that occupied caves for extended periods of time could have produced the models. A moral code within the culture would have arisen to care and protect women of corpulent size. Extend this argument to the more nomadic bands and it would seem less likely that a slower moving member of this tribe would be part of the collective.

Predominantly nude, and mostly corpulent women, portable figurines are without a doubt one of the most fascinating artifacts our ancestors have created. Why did they do it? In my next post I will pose all the questions, cite sources, and do the best ethnography I can from all the information available on the Venus figurines. 

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