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VENUS of Brassempouy

Updated: Aug 16, 2023


25.000 BCE, Landes, France


Venus of Brassempouy

  • also "Lady with the hood" or "Prehistoric Mona Lisa"

  • seize: 3,6 cm,

  • material: mammoth ivory

  • Found: Grotte du Pape, cave in Brassempouy, Southwest France

  • found in 1894

  • from the Gravettien time (29 000-22 000 v. Chr.)

  • checkerboard-like pattern that seems to cover head

  • Special feature: so far the oldest known realistic representation of a human face.



„Lady with the hood“

The headgear raises questions: Some experts saw in it hair tied into braids, others a shell net or even a hood.

The latter hypothesis also gave the statuette the nickname "Dame à la capuche" (lady with the hood).


In his reconstruction, the artist imagined a net over the hair, which could represent both a cap and braided hair.


Face

Only the head of this little figurine has been preserved, which is the oldest known representation of a human face.


The face is heart-shaped and tapers off narrowly towards the chin. The eyes and nose are well defined, while the mouth is missing. In this type of representation, the Venus of Brassempouy is unique and clearly differs from other figurines of prehistory. According to archaeologist Paul Bahn, the head "is genderless, although it is usually referred to as" Venus "or" lady".


Finding history

The cave "Grotte du Pape" in Brassempouy was discovered in 1880 during road works. Between 1894 and 1897, professional excavations were carried out by Édouard Piette and Joseph de la Porterie. In 1894, the "Dame à la capuche" was discovered in a three-meter-deep layer, which is now attributed to the Gravettian period, and thus to an age of more than 21,000 years. The excavation would initiate a debate of more than a century on the interpretation of the figurines from the Stone Age.







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