Female Figurines of the Upper Paleolithic
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Those depictions of the human female figure found in association with Upper Paleolithic cultures commonly called “Venus figurines” are an extremely varied class of artifacts. Hundreds of these figurines have been found across the Eurasian continent from France to Siberia and have been dated to around 25,000 B.C.E. Generally the Venus figurines are thought to be small, stone sculptures of nude women with pronounced sexual characteristics who are either voluptuous or pregnant with no face, arms, or legs. Although some of the figurines can be stereotyped this way, there are numerous overlooked examples with drastically different features. The overwhelming variety and diversity among the figurines themselves is reflected in the theories that have developed about them. Since the late nineteenth century, the meaning and purpose of these Venus figurines have been interpreted over and over again. Some of the theories directly reflect the biased thoughts of their time, some are religious and symbolic, and still others have a narrowed scientific focus and rely upon detailed technological analysis. The variety of both the figurines themselves and their interpretations has been overlooked as an important part of understanding these very old and widespread carvings of women.