Saturday, December 5, 2020

Venus Figurines: Humanity's Oldest Sculptures May Be Linked to Climate Change, Diet



One of world's earliest examples of art, the enigmatic `Venus' figurines carved some 30,000 years ago, have intrigued and puzzled scientists for nearly two centuries. Now a researcher from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus believes he's gathered enough evidence to solve the mystery behind these curious totems.

The hand-held depictions of obese or pregnant women, which appear in most art history books, were long seen as symbols of fertility or beauty. But according to Richard Johnson, MD, lead author of the study published today in the journal, Obesity, the key to understanding the statues lays in climate change and diet.

‘Venus’ figurines, the earliest known artwork, have baffled scientists for centuries. Most believe they are beauty or fertility symbols but CU Anschutz researchers now suggest they were created during times of food scarcity and symbolized an idealized female body image, one needed to carry a pregnancy to term under difficult circumstances


Credit: 

"Some of the earliest art in the world are these mysterious figurines of overweight women from the time of hunter gatherers in Ice Age Europe where you would not expect to see obesity at all," said Johnson, a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine specializing in renal disease and hypertension. "We show that these figurines correlate to times of extreme nutritional stress."

Early modern humans entered Europe during a warming period about 48,000 years ago. Known as Aurignacians, they hunted reindeer, horses and mammoths with bone-tipped spears. In summer they dined on berries, fish, nuts and plants. But then, as now, the climate did not remain static.

As temperatures dropped, ice sheets advanced and disaster set in. During the coldest months, temperatures plunged to 10-15 degrees Celsius. Some bands of hunter gatherers died out, others moved south, some sought refuge in forests. Big game was overhunted.

It was during these desperate times that the obese figurines appeared. They ranged between 6 and 16 centimeters in length and were made of stone, ivory, horn or occasionally clay. Some were threaded and worn as amulets.

Johnson and his co-authors, Professor (ret.) of Anthropology John Fox, PhD, of the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, and Associate Professor of Medicine Miguel Lanaspa-Garcia, PhD, of the CU School of Medicine, measured the statues' waist-to-hip and waist-to-shoulder ratios. They discovered that those found closest to the glaciers were the most obese compared to those located further away. They believe the figurines represented an idealized body type for these difficult living conditions.

"We propose they conveyed ideals of body size for young women, and especially those who lived in proximity to glaciers," said Johnson, who in addition to being a physician has an undergraduate degree in anthropology. "We found that body size proportions were highest when the glaciers were advancing, whereas obesity decreased when the climate warmed and glaciers retreated."

Obesity, according to the researchers, became a desired condition. An obese female in times of scarcity could carry a child through pregnancy better than one suffering malnutrition. So the figurines may have been imbued with a spiritual meaning - a fetish or magical charm of sorts that could protect a woman through pregnancy, birth and nursing.

Many of the figurines are well-worn, indicating that they were heirlooms passed down from mother to daughter through generations. Women entering puberty or in the early stages of pregnancy may have been given them in the hopes of imparting the desired body mass to ensure a successful birth.

"Increased fat would provide a source of energy during gestation through the weaning of the baby and as well as much needed insulation," the authors said.

Promoting obesity, said Johnson, ensured that the band would carry on for another generation in these most precarious of climatic conditions.

"The figurines emerged as an ideological tool to help improve fertility and survival of the mother and newborns," Johnson said. "The aesthetics of art thus had a significant function in emphasizing health and survival to accommodate increasingly austere climatic conditions."

The team's success in amassing evidence to support its theory came from applying measurements and medical science to archaeological data and behavioral models of anthropology.

"These kinds of interdisciplinary approaches are gaining momentum in the sciences and hold great promise," Johnson said. "Our team has other subjects of Ice Age art and migration in its research sights as well."

 
 

Contacts and sources: 
David Kelly
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus



 

1 comment:

  1. Omg I Finally Got Helped  !! I'm so excited right now, I just have to share my testimony on this Forum.. The feeling of being loved takes away so much burden from our shoulders. I had all this but I made a big mistake when I cheated on my wife with another woman  and my wife left me for over 4 months after she found out..  I was lonely, sad and devastated. Luckily I was directed to a very powerful spell caster Dr Emu who helped me cast a spell of reconciliation on our Relationship and he brought back my wife and now she loves me far more than ever.. I'm so happy with life now. Thank you so much Dr Emu, kindly Contact  Dr Emu Today and get any kind of help you want.. Via Email emutemple@gmail.com or Call/WhatsApp +2347012841542

    ReplyDelete