It’s dubbed the Venus of Brassempuy, and it is, without a doubt, one of the most amazing figurines ever discovered not only because of its beauty but because of its meaning.
A very ancient figurine
Thought to have been carved around 25,000 years ago, the strange yet beautiful figurine was discovered in France in 1892. A consequent analysis revealed the figurine dated back to between 23,000 to 26,000 years.
In fact, it is so old that experts claim it is the earliest known realistic representation of a human face, one of the main reasons why it is so important.
The figurine was discovered in southwest France, in a cave near the village of Brassempouy. There are two caves near Brassempouy. The two caves–Gallery of the Hyenas and Pope’s Cave–are among the earliest explored Paleolithic caves in France.
The figure was found in Pope’s Cave in 1894, together with eight more human figurines, and which may have been examples of still unfinished works.
Carved from Ivory
The Venus of Brassempouy was carved from mammoth ivory, and as noted by archaeologist Paul Bahn, the head is “unsexed, although it is usually called a ‘Venus’ or a ‘lady.'”
Having a triangular-shaped face, the head of the figurine measures 3.65 centimeters high, is 2.2 centimeters deep, and 1.9 centimeters wide.
The ancient artists who created the figurine did so in great detail. Despite the fact that the forehead, nose, and brows are carved in relief, the mouth on the figurine is absent.
The hair of the figurine is another intricate but strange detail. The artist created a kind of checkerboard-like pattern that was meant to illustrate either the hair of the figurine or a hood with curios, geometric decorations.
According to researcher Randall White, writing in the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory (December 2006), “The figurines emerged from the ground into a colonial intellectual and socio-political context nearly obsessed with matters of race.”
Experts argue that given the facial representations of the figurine, and although they are quite realistic, the proportions of the head of the Venus of Brassempouy do not seem to correspond to any known human population of the present or past.
The figurine has been found to be more or less contemporary with the other Palaeolithic Venus figurines, such as those of Lespugue, Dolní Věstonice, Willendorf, etc.