Locating 12). Some archeologists suggest because the pubic

Locating a piece of work from the Before Common Era
age (BCE) as well as not having any background information is rather
intriguing. Venus of Willendorf is an example of this, as no one knows where it
was originated or by whom. Venus of Willendorf is also known as the “Woman of
Willendorf” or even the “Nude Woman” (Kuiper, 1).  No one has been about to tell which year it
was created. The reason for this is because it is made of oolitic limestone and
archeologists are only able to reveal the age of the stone not the time it was
actually carved, which is not too helpful to examiners as the carving could
have been completed centuries after the stone was formed (Zygmont, 10). This figurine may be evidence of an
undiscovered society that archeologists and historians have overlooked. Throughout
my research, I have found several different time frames that experts have
speculated when it was built, the years range from 30,000-22,000 BCE (Upper Paleolithic
period) making this one of the oldest and most famous works of art still
preserved today.

 In 1908 the figurine
was discovered outside an Austrian village in Willendorf by Josef Szombathy, an
Austro-Hungarian archeologist (Zygmont, 9). The name came from the village it
was found in, Willendorf— “”Venus” is a name of the Roman goddess of love and
ideal beauty” (Zygmont, 10).

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            There is constant debate about
whether the Venus of Willendorf is a structure of a naked obese woman from the
Stone Age or as a symbol of fertility (Colman, 1; Hahn, 2)). In my opinion,
both of these accusations would make sense because in the sculpture, when a
woman is pregnant the three positions a by stander notices from them are either
hands supporting the back, arms supporting the bottom of the stomach, or the
arms on top of the breasts. In this figurine, there are lines on the top of the
breasts indicating her forearms. Also, noticing the size of the breasts could
indicate that the woman is capable of nursing a child (Zygmont, 12). This
famous work of art is carved out of oolitic limestone and it is tinted with red
ochre pigment (Colman, 1; Zygmont, 12). Some archeologists suggest because the
pubic area is emphasized and with the red ochre pigment all over the body and
especially in the pubic area, the pigmentation is meant to symbolize as
menstrual blood which would mean that the Venus of Willendorf is not in fact
fertile (Hahn, 2).

            When observing the sculpture, the
spectator will notice right away that it is not very large—it is about four and
a half inches tall (Zygmont, 9). Archeologists concluded that the size of this
is because this figure was made to be carried by hand and made its way to
Willendorf via its carrier (Kuiper, 2). In this figurine, looking closely one
would be able to notice scratching’s made all throughout. Examining “the
breast, stomach and thighs were first modelled by deep vertical scratching,
later smoothed out of horizontal scraping.” Looking at the knee, one can notice
the vertical scratching once again. Lastly, on the back it shows traces of
horizontal smoothing (Colman, 16).

            The artist of the figurine sculpted
her without a face, no eyes, no nose, and no mouth. Instead of a face, there
are seven horizontal bands that wrap around the head. Some suggest that it’s a
knitted hat pulled down over her face and others say its braided or beaded hair
and that her face is pointed down at the ground (Zygmont, 13). Aside from the
theory of a knitted cap or braids or beads, there are some speculations that
her head could be decorated with woven textiles since this style of art was
found during the period of this creation as well (Colman, 4). Some insist that
the artist used seven rows because seven is known as a magic number used to
bring good luck (Hahn, 2). Since the number seven is supposed to bring good
luck, and the fact that the Venus of Willendorf is small enough to carry, archeologists
assume that men would carry it around while they hunted to bring them success
(Hahn, 2).

            Observing the figurine, one would be able to tell that
she appears to be in a relaxed stance. If she were a free-standing sculpture,
she would be leaning back slightly. Due to the Venus of Willendorf not having feet,
this observation cannot be proven. Since she does not have feet, many have come
to the conclusion that this figurine “was not meant to be free-standing but
rather to be held or placed lying down” (Zygmont, 13).

Coming from the Upper Paleolithic period, there are
two types of art that have survived; the first “can classify as permanently
located works found on the walls within caves” (Zygmont, 5), and the second type
“may be called portable since these works are generally of a small scale—a logical
size given the nomadic nature of Paleolithic peoples” (Zygmont, 6). Clearly,
Venus of Willendorf would be classified with the second category of Upper
Paleolithic art considering that she is small in size and that archeologists
believe she was carried to Willendorf, Austria, and not created there. One example
of the first category of Upper Paleolithic art is “The Panel of Bison” created
in the Chauvet Cave. In this painting, it exhibits several bison where the
outlines are emphasized with shadings and engravings. Since this painting was
dated around 29,000 BCE, comparing it to the Venus of Willendorf there are many
different characteristics (“Chauvet Cave Paintings (C. 30,000 BCE)”). There are
many different characteristics between the paintings and the Venus of
Willendorf. For one, “The Panel of Bison” incorporates different shadings and
engraved marks. The only shadings done on the figurine of the Nude Woman is the
pigmentation with the red ochre, which is hard to see now as experts decided to
“clean it up” before placing it in the museum which removed a majority of the
ochre (Colman, 25).

In conclusion, this figurine may be evidence of an undiscovered society
that archeologists and historians may have overlooked at the time. When the
artist carved the limestone, he/she exhibited the female body in ways that complement
each structure of the body. The representation of the figurine being either pregnant
or obese is well defined; however, during this time, the supply of food was so
limited due to the fact these were mainly hunter-gatherer societies in this
era. Personally, I do not believe it was possible for anyone to be obese during
this time period. Considering no one is aware of where the Venus of Willendorf
originated from, one cannot make any speculations regarding the anything about
the figuring with the excepting of the material and technique used.