DOI link for Early Civilizations
Early Civilizations book
The emergence of modem humans, Homo sapiens sapiens, occurred about 40,000 years ago. The process by which they evolved remains controversial, but their appearance is known to have coincided with the development of·more varied and efficient tools. The new tool kit of Homo sapiens sapiens, which included fish hooks and needles fashioned from bone, also featured carved patterns that appear to be decorative but possibly had a symbolic significance. This was soon followed by the manufacture of objects that did not have an immediate
As one would expect from their nomadic lifestyle, the artistic endeavors of early humans were for the most part portable. Remains from this early phase in the development of representational art are mainly small statuettes of animals and women made from local materials such as stone, terracotta, bone, or ivory. The carved figures of women show little
facial detail and obviously were not intended as portraits. But their exaggerated breasts and buttocks clearly identity them as female. It is generally assumed that the figures served as some form of fertility symbol and, as a result, they are often called "Venus" statues. Many of them were unearthed with a high polish, however, indicating that frequent handling was fundamental to their purpose. Some of them incorporate a conspicuous vulva, a feature also found incised on the walls of caves, and their function may have been related more to the pleasurable aspects of sex than to procreation. Whatever the true purpose
of these carved figures, the uncertainty highlights the problems one faces in attempting to understand the origins of art.