The Venus of Hohle Fels and its diverse interpretations

This is aboHohle-Fels-1ut a mammoth-ivory figurine found in 2008 in the basal Aurignacian deposit at Hohle Fels Cave, Germany. It was made between 35-40,000 years BP. It is the oldest portable art piece found in Europe and one of the oldest artworks in general. Below are some hypotheses around the meaning of this piece (some of them are in turn applicable to most Paleolithic Venus!):

  • According to the traditional identification of these figurines as ‘Venus’, they are considered unfinished or abstract renderings of real or idealized women, which highlights the sexual attributes as an expression of fertility, probably with religious purposes.


  • Some authors hypothesize that the Venus figurines may have been created as self-portraits. The feet of most statues are not carved, which suggests that the piece was carried as the nomadic population was migrating. In the case of Hohle Fels, this would explain the little hole at the top of the figurine.
  • The striations over the Hohle Fels figurine are associated by some authors with modern customs of marking or tattooing that are nowadays used by various tribes like Masai.
  • These marks could represent either a confirmation of their bravery, a proof of their maturity, or a sign of punishment.


  • A curious hypothesis says that Hohle Fels and other figurines strikingly resemble the developmental stages of mushrooms: according to that, they could have been sculpted by prototypal mycologists to personify those stages as the mothers of the mushrooms they yielded. This surprising hypothesis compares some figurines with the local flora where they were found:

Venus of Willendorf

Venus of Lespugue


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