« What happens when materials take tiny hits? | Home | Avocado Hugger »

December 7, 2018

Oldest known realistic depiction of a human face


Pictured above and below, the Venus of Brassempouy.

From Atlas Obscura:



This beautiful and haunting sculpture of a woman's head was carved from mammoth ivory during the Ice Age.

At over 25,000 years old, the figurine is the oldest known realistic depiction of a human face.

The Venus of Brassempouy (also called the Lady of Brassempouy or "La Dame de Brassempouy") was carved from a fragment of mammoth tusk and is estimated to have been made during the Upper Paleolithic period.

It was interpreted as a woman based on the feminine shape of the chin and apparent hair or headdress.


Nothing is known about the creator, and the meaning of this effigy remains a beguiling mystery lost in the eons of time that have passed.

Indeed, the only thing that can be inferred is what the landscape in which her creator lived and died would have looked like.

The European continent was in the grip of the last glacial period of the Ice Age at the time, and thus the landscape would have been covered in sheets of ice for as far as the eye could see.

The climate would have been brutally cold for the sparse human populations which clung on to survival in the refuge of caves, swaddled in the fur skins of animals and huddled around campfires to keep warm.

But not even in the caves were people truly safe, and they would have had to contend and compete with large and ferocious predatory species such as the cave bear, cave hyena, and cave lion, which would have looked on humans as easy prey.

Meanwhile, the search for food likely meant hunting formidable beasts capable of causing fatal injuries, such as the woolly mammoth, wooly rhinoceros, bison, or the equally dangerous strategy of scaring off cave lions or wolves from their kills to scavenge on leftovers.

It's a wonder such a beautiful figurine was sculpted amid these living conditions, and all the more remarkable that it's been preserved over the millennia.

The figurine was discovered in a cave known as la Grotte du Pape in the village of Brassempouy in 1894.

It is now housed at the Musée des Antiquités Nationales (National Archaeological Museum) in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, just outside of Paris.

December 7, 2018 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


Wow, that is cool to see! Thanks for sharing. A lot of beauty in that simple figurine.

Posted by: Susan Ishida | Dec 7, 2018 3:34:04 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.