Friday, June 12, 2009
What does the image above look like to you? Pretty womanly, right? Estimated to be approximately 35,000 years old, the discovery of this ivory female figure was made public a few weeks ago in the journal Nature, according to this New York Times article (which is also a few weeks old).
Found in a cave in southwestern Germany, the explicit form stands apart from other extant examples of Paleolithic art. The emphasis on the breasts and vulva makes it clear that the person who carved this object was celebrating the role of women in reproduction.
There have been several similar discoveries in the same region over the past 70 years. Archaeologist Paul Mellars, as quoted by The Times, said of the region and the artifacts it has yielded, it is “a veritable art gallery of early ‘modern’ human art . . . [which] must be seen as the birthplace of true sculpture in the European — maybe global — artistic tradition.”
This dovetails with my review of Miri Rubin's Mother of God, which you can read over at The Rumpus. Rubin’s fascinating book elucidates how images of Mary were used to spread Christianity, very much based on her unique status as a human vessel for the divine. I approached the book from the Madonna of the Toast perspective. The tropes and trends Rubin identifies as the major factors in establishing Mary’s allure fit with the stories I relay here. How? Because no matter what you believe, these are human stories, all of which can be distilled to archetypes, like this curvy carving.