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Ancient Bootie Discovered in Germany

May 14th, 2009     by Mir Verburg     Comments

The Globe & Mail reports that archeologists have unearthed the oldest depiction of the female form yet discovered.

“She doesn’t have a head, and her massive breasts balloon over a giant vulva.”

Also, she’s 35,000 years old and carved from a mammoth tusk. The lengths ancient civilizations would go to make sexually explicit material about women. For one thing, they had to kill a mammoth.

A carved ivory female figurine is presented in Tuebingen, southern Germany, Wednesday. The figurine, found in 2008 in a cave in Schelklingen, southern Germany is allegedly the world?s oldest reproduction of a human with an estimated age of at least 35,000 years. Associated Press

According to archeologist Paul Mellars, the sensual figurine, “could be seen as bordering on pornographic.”

Now my question is this: Just because our headless Venus is awesomely voluptuous, and indeed naked, does that automatically make her pornographic?

Aside from her prominent lady parts, she is not doing anything explicitly sexual. The Merriam-Webster dictionary (yes I use it because my name is part of the title) defines pornography as “the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement”.

Sometimes women’s sensual bodies and expressions are made pornographic by the opinions and cultural baggage of other people. In this case maybe the archeologists are defining ancient art as prehistoric smut on the basis of a resemblance to what modern western cultures consider explicit imagery.

This may sound like splitting hairs, but it’s irritating when a curvy naked lady is automatically considered pornographic. The fact is that archeologists don’t really know how that sculpture was received or used when it was contemporary. It just seems smutty because these days anything naked and curvy tends to be treated as such.

I am not arguing against the sensuality of the figure. But I do think that 35,000 years ago pornography as a product, and probably as a habitual approach to female bodies, did not exist as it does now. There was erotica, there were sexually explicit carvings used in ritual or for decoration, but as far as I understand it modern porn is a social and cultural construction that intends that sex be understood in the context of consumption and in which bodies are commodified as part of the sexual display.

I want to give this charming sculpture her due and not assume her function was pornographic. Maybe she was naked (and headless) for reasons other then immediate sexual gratification. Maybe her curves were designed to be held and touched with reverences, or for comfort? There are so many reasons that people love naked ladies, and the porn reason is only one, and to be honest it’s not my favorite.

Tags: body politics

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