Venus of Willendorf

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Venus of Willendorf
Venus von Willendorf 01.jpg
Material Oolitic limestone
Created c. 28,000 B.C.E – 25,000 B.C.E.
Discovered 1908 near Willendorf, by Josef Szombathy
Present location Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

The Venus of Willendorf, now known in academia as the Woman of Willendorf, is a 4.25-inch (10.8 cm) high statuette of a female figure estimated to have been made between about 28,000 and 25,000 BCE.[1] It was found in 1908 by a workman named Johann Veran[2] or Josef Veram[3] during excavations conducted by archaeologists Josef Szombathy, Hugo Obermaier and Josef Bayer at a paleolithic site near Willendorf, a village in Lower Austria near the city of Krems.[4] It is carved from an oolitic limestone that is not local to the area, and tinted with red ochre. The figurine is now in the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria.[5]

Venus of Willendorf is named after the site in Austria where it was unearthed.[6]

Several similar statuettes and other forms of art have been discovered, and they are collectively referred to as Venus figurines, although they pre-date the mythological figure of Venus by millennia.


Venus of Willendorf

After a wide variety of proposed dates, following a revised analysis of the stratigraphy of its site in 1990, the figure was been estimated to have been carved 24,000–22,000 BCE,[4] but more recent estimates have pushed the date back slightly to between about 28,000 and 25,000 BCE.

It is believed that the figure was carved during the Paleolithic Period, also known as the "Old Stone Age". This period of History started around 30,000 BCE.[6]


Very little is known about its origin, method of creation, or cultural significance, however, it is one of numerous Venus figurines or representations of female figures surviving from the Paleolithic period.[7]

The purpose of the carving is the subject of much speculation. It never had feet and does not stand on its own. Parts of the body associated with fertility and childbearing have been emphasized leading researchers to believe Venus of Willendorf may have been used as a fertility goddess.[7] The figure has no visible face, her head being covered with circular horizontal bands of what might be rows of plaited hair, or a type of headdress.[8]

The nickname, urging a comparison to the classical image of "Venus," is now controversial. According to Christopher Witcombe, "the ironic identification of these figurines as 'Venus' pleasantly satisfied certain assumptions at the time about the primitive, about women, and about taste."[9] Catherine McCoid and LeRoy McDermott hypothesise that the figurines may have been created as self-portraits.[10]

External video
Nude Woman (Venus of Willendorf), Smarthistory[11]

She was originally nicknamed la poire - "the pear" - on account of her shape. For Piette, the name "Venus" may have come to mind in this particular instance because of the emphatic treatment of the vulva's labia and the prominent, slightly protruding pubic area, which he tastefully refers to as "le mont de Vénus" - the mound of Venus (or mons pubis). "Venus" has since become the collective term used to identify all obese Palaeolithic statuettes of women.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nude Woman (Venus of Willendorf), Smarthistory
  2. ^ Antl-Weiser, Walpurga. "The anthropomorphic figurines from Willendorf". Niederösterreichischen Landesmuseum,. Retrieved 24 December 2012. 
  3. ^ The Testimony of the Spade, Geoffrey Bibby, Alfred A. Knoff, New York, 1956. P.139
  4. ^ a b Venus of Willendorf Christopher L. C. E. Witcombe, 2003.
  5. ^ Witcombe, Christopher. Venus of Willendorf. Retrieved on January 18, 2008.
  6. ^ a b Culture and Values: A Survey of the Humanities, 8th Ed.
  7. ^ a b Culture and values : a survey of the humanities. Belmont: Wadsworth. ISBN 9781133945338. 
  8. ^ "Woman from Willendorf". Her headdress replicates shell formations. Christopher L. C. E. Witcombe. 2003. "The rows are not one continuous spiral but are, in fact, composed in seven concentric horizontal bands that encircle the head and two more horizontal bands underneath the first seven on the back of the head."
  9. ^ "Name". Christopher L. C. E. Witcombe, 2003.
  10. ^ McDermott, LeRoy. "Self-Representation in Upper Paleolithic Female Figurines". Current Anthropology, Vol. 37, No. 2, April., 1996. pp. 227-275.
  11. ^ "Nude Woman (Venus of Willendorf)". Smarthistory at Khan Academy. Retrieved February 11, 2013. 
  12. ^

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 48°19′N 15°23′E / 48.317°N 15.383°E / 48.317; 15.383