(Venus of Willendorf on display at the Natural History Museum in Vienna, Austria)
The Venus of Willendorf is a 4.4-inch figurine made around 28,000 years ago, a famous example of “Venus figurines” from the Old Stone Age (Upper Paleolithic). (Archeologists associate this period with the earliest appearance of modern humans — this is where “Paleo diet” comes from, also called caveman diet or hunter-gatherer diet).
The “oldest undisputed example of a depiction of a human being yet discovered” is the Venus of Hohle Fels dating as far back as 40,000 years ago.
These figurines, no more than a few inches high, are carved from stone, ivory, or molded from clay. Many depict women with exaggerated sexual features, faceless heads and missing arms and legs. Their use and meaning are naturally subject to much speculation and nobody will probably ever know.
The exact purpose of the carvings aside, it is worth noting that they show such detail and craftsmanship. It is mind-boggling that such artifacts of great creativity and symbolism already existed in the Stone Age, a manifestation of culture at the dawn of human history.
The Venus of Willendorf, like other Venus figurines, is unusual. But maybe we can also take pride that our species is truly unusual too.