The “2” Original Spiritualities
Observing a timeline affords some interesting speculations. It is interesting to observe the immense collection of Venus figurines that have been found throughout Europe and Asia. While there are a few examples of Venus figurines that date back more than 200,000 years ago, most of them were made between 40,000 and 12,000 years ago. For the most part, the vast majority depict an exaggerated feminine form. There are figurines of males and some children, but the numbers found to date are predominantly mature female forms. Why carve figurines that collectively portray obesity, pregnancy and steatopygia? In prehistoric times women did not live much past 30, so examples of obesity would have been rare. What does this collection tell us? Is this a clue to the original spirituality? The venerated form of the pregnant female suggests what? Venerated is a fair term to use because these figurines are found over a large portion of the habitable Palaeolithic, but seem to come to an end in the Mesolithic. Why did the practise of carving an exaggerated feminine form come to an end as we developed more permanent settlements and eventually cities? Were they early pornographic art? Not likely, but it cannot be ruled out. The creator of the piece may have carved it for his or her own personal pleasure. Fertility icons are a plausible explanation. Palaeolithic humans would have been marvelled as we can be today with the pregnant female. Additional hands in the tribe would have been a great enhancement to the tribe’s survival. What would be of more importance to tribal survival, another male or a child bearing female? Were they depictions of a Mother Goddess or an early form of currency between nomadic tribes? There is evidence that they were displayed. The majority of the figurines have no feet. A common feature is a tapering of the legs to a point for sticking into an earthy base. Thus to say that they were venerated idols is a plausible explanation and an assessment that must find its way to the top of the explanation chart versus all other claims. After researching all the Venus figurine information available, I have come to the conclusion that this was one of the two original spiritualities.
I personally approve of Edouard Piette’s 1892 adopted term of “Venus Figurines” to denote the distinct stone, bone, ivory and clay artifacts of this 25,000 year Palaeolithic epoch. Call them something else…why? To this person’s mind and eyes they are beautiful, universally very similar and they were not used as tools. They were definitely portable and an obvious prized possession of the owner. Reasons to define them by some other term are just semantics best left un-discussed.
The second spirituality involves food. Also found throughout Europe and Asia over the same epoch (40,000 to 12,000) are cave paintings of the fauna of the day. Mostly the megafauna that is now extinct. Fauna is painted on top of fauna. The artistic quality in a large number of them is stunning. The animal form is portrayed magnificently by the great artisans of that epoch. Beautiful renditions of bison, deer and mammoths adorn walls of caves that would have required amazing artistic skill and technological ability to bring light to the dark depths of these caves. Rarely is the full human form displayed. Many examples of a stencilled hand or a stick form of a human are portrayed. The larger animals were revered. The artistic creator was painting his or her idols. And this makes perfect sense to a Palaeolithic tribe whose survival depends on the ability to provide for the tribe. A counter argument recently put forth by archeologists points to the evidence found in the strata of several of these famous caves that the bones of the animals consumed were small fauna—not the mega fauna displayed on the cave walls. I would argue that the bones of the mega fauna had a greater purpose outside the cave. They were used for creating shelters and a host of other tools. Left to the elements, most of these bones would become decomposed soil. Smaller fauna would have been easier to catch, kill and consume. Take a rabbit snack deep into a cave, versus a leg of auroch, plus painting supplies and lighting. Easy counter argument for the lack of megafauna bones in the cave floor strata.
FOOD! Food and the pregnant female were the original two spiritualities. What supplanted these two spiritualities? I’ll leave that topic open for future discussion.