Sunday, May 17, 2009

Press Coverage of Archeological Find Varies; Goddess Figure about 40,000 Years Old

An archeological find in Germany that some scientists say changes the way they view Paleolithic art received press coverage that varies from the fairly objective to the clueless and distorted.

One of the best articles, with an excellent pictures of the Goddess figure, appears in May 14 issue of The Science Daily and is titled, "Ivory Venus Figurine from the Swabian Jura Rewrites Prehistory." It begins:

The 2008 excavations at Hohle Fels Cave in the Swabian Jura of southwestern Germany recovered a female figurine carved from mammoth ivory from the basal Aurignacian deposit. This figurine, which is the earliest depiction of a human, and one of the oldest known examples of figurative art worldwide, was made at least 35,000 years ago. This discovery radically changes our views of the context and meaning of the earliest Paleolithic art.
Archaeologists have dubbed the figure the "Venus of Hohle Fels" and conclude that it is consistent with other carbon-dated finds to assume that it could be 40,000 years old. The Science Daily article continues:

Many of the features, including the emphasis on sexual attributes and lack of emphasis on the head, face and arms and legs, call to mind aspects of the numerous Venus figurines well known from the European Gravettien, which typically date between 22 and 27 ka BP. The careful depiction of the hands is reminiscent of those of Venuses including that of archetypal Venus of Willendorf, which was discovered 100 years earlier in summer of 1908. Despite the far greater age of the Venus of Hohle Fels, many of its attributes occur in various forms throughout the rich tradition of Paleolithic female representations.
(Note: BP=Before Present)

The figure will be on display in Stuttgart, Germany in an exhibit called "Ice Age Art and Culture." Science Daily gives no specific location for the exhibit.

Meanwhile, over at the The Times (of London), this important archeological find is compared to porn. In an article headlined, "Prehistoric female figure ‘earliest piece of erotic art uncovered’ ", the Times reporter writes:
A piece of Prehistoric pornography carved from mammoth ivory at least 35,000 years ago may be the oldest known example of figurative art. The female figurine, which stands 6cm (2.4in) tall, has outsized breasts, huge buttocks, exaggerated genitals and open legs.
He then quotes the equally clueless comment from Paul Mellars of the University of Cambridge, in the May 14 issue of Nature:
“The figure is explicitly — and blatantly — that of a woman, with an exaggeration of sexual characteristics, large, projecting breasts, a greatly enlarged and explicit vulva, and bloated belly and thighs, that by 21st-century standards could be seen as bordering on the pornographic.”
What are these people clueless about (possibly intentionally so)--is that far from being pornographic--or even erotic or bordering on porn--the figure is sacred sculpture from an era that honored the deity as female.To compare this (or similar) art to porn is insulting to women, shows ignorance of the knowledge of early religions we have from archeology and anthropology , and therefore is tantamount to comparing a depiction of Jesus' crucifixion to S&M.

The coverage over at the New York Times is a smidgeon more balanced than other Times, but still leaves a lot to be desired. Headlined, "Full Figured Statuette, 35,000 Years Old, Provides New Clues to How Art Evolved," the story begins:
No one would mistake the Stone Age ivory carving for a Venus de Milo. The voluptuous woman depicted is, to say the least, earthier, with huge, projecting breasts and sexually explicit genitals.
The article also quotes Mellars' porn comparison but also includes some of his less colorful commentary. This article is accompanied by a video of the Goddess figure, and gives us the information that the figure is less than 2.5 inches long, weighs less than an ounce, and is carved with a ring at the top in place of a head, leading to speculation that the object was worn as a pendant.

Though archeologists say this object is the oldest of its kind, an article in the current Spring/Summer issue of Goddess Alive! by Goddess scholar and artist Lydia Ruyle, titled
"The Acheulian Ancient Mother," is about a Goddess artifact found many many years earlier in the Golan Heights, Israel. Ruyle bases her conclusions on an article in The Journal of the Israel Prehistoric Society, Vol. 19, Jerusalem 1986 and includes a pic.


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At Tuesday, May 19, 2009 7:22:00 AM, Anonymous Glenys Livingstone said...

excellent ... thank you for this documentation! so I have referred to it:


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Judith Laura

More blogs about /goddess/feminist theology/spiritual feminism/pagan/feminist spirituality/.