Tosca Snijdelaar: Venus Figurines. Anchor Point between Primatology and Archaeology


In this article the socio-sexual behaviour of the mostrecent common ancestor of non-human primates and Homo sapiens is seen as the source of an apotropaic – invocatory, calming, and/or threatening – meaning of Upper Palaeolithic Venus figurines. This thesis is based on characteristic behaviours of these primates and draws on insights from human ethology. The meanings of socio-sexual behaviour are phylogenetic or transmitted culturally and were transferred to Venus figurines during the Upper Palaeolithic era. Transferring a meaning to an object became possible as a result of an increasing ability to think in terms of symbols. It is primarily the genitalia, breasts, and buttocks, which are the bearers of meaning in these small sculptures.

[Venus figurines, primatology, archaeology, apotropaic meaning, genitalia]