The Venus of Willendorf


  • Age: Around 25,000 BCE
  • Material: Oolitic Limestone
  • Found: Willendorf (Austria) in 1908
  • Present Location: Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna (Austria)
  • Length: 10.6cm
  • Width: 5.7cm
  • Depth: 4.5cm

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The Venus of Willendorf was one of three such figurines recovered from Palaeolithic archaeological sites at Willendorf in Austria, which were temporary settlements of the Gravettian culture. A characteristic of the Paleolithic "Venus" figurines exhibited by the Willendorf figurine is the lack of any detail of a face and the lack of feet below the ankle.

She was carved from a fine porous oolitic limestone, not locally found and therefore must have been imported to the area. It is impossible to determine if the carving was local to the area or not. The Venus was originally painted with red ochre and is sometimes described as a Mother Goddess. There is some debate regarding decoration on the figurines head, as to whether it is a basketwork or woven headress or an elaborate braided hairstyle.

(© Libor Balák, Antropark - with kind permission)

She was unearthed by worker Johann Veran, about 30m above the River Danube, during the Wachau railway construction in 1908, then identified by Austrian archaeologist Josef Szombathy. Wilendorf had already been known as a Palaeolithic site for over 20 years before systematic excavations by Josef Szombathy, Josef Bayer and Hugo Obermaier began.

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