If human culture seems obsessed with sex lately, it’s nothing new. Archaeologists have discovered the oldest known artistic representation of a woman – a carved ivory statue of a naked female, dating from 35,000 years ago.
The figurine, unearthed in September 2008 in Hohle Fels Cave in southwestern Germany, may be the oldest known example of figurative art, meaning art that is supposed to represent and resemble a real person, animal or object. The discovery could help scientists understand the origins of art and the advent of symbolic thinking, including complicated language.
“If there’s one conclusion you want to draw from this, it’s that an obsession with sex goes back at least 35,000 years,” University of Cambridge anthropologist Paul Mellars told LiveScience. He was not involved in the new finding. “But if humans hadn’t been largely obsessed with sex they wouldn’t have survived for the first 2 million years. None of this is at all surprising.”
The fixation wasn’t just for naked women, though. Early carvings of phalluses appeared in Europe at about the same time.
The tiny statue is carved out of the tusk of a woolly mammoth and is less than 2.5 inches (60 millimeters) long. Instead of a head, it has a ring that scientists think meant it was worn as a pendant looped through string. Paleoanthropologist Nicholas Conard of Germany’s Tubingen University reported the discovery in the May 14 issue of the journal Nature.
The oldest human art dates back much further, to between 75,000 and 95,000 years ago in Africa. But that art was abstract, and consisted of geometrical designs engraved on pieces of red iron oxide. This is the first known art to represent a woman, and possibly the first art to represent anything real at all.
via Obsession with Naked Women Dates Back 35,000 Years.