Mystery Solved About the Origin of the 30,000-Years-Old Venus of Willendorf

New research method shows that the material likely comes from northern Italy
By: University of Vienna
 
VIENNA - Feb. 28, 2022 - PRLog -- The almost 11 cm high figurine from Willendorf (Austria) is one of the most important examples of early art in Europe. It is made of a rock called "oolite" which is not found in or around Willendorf. A research team led by the anthropologist Gerhard Weber from the University of Vienna and the two geologists Alexander Lukeneder and Mathias Harzhauser as well as the prehistorian Walpurga Antl-Weiser from the Natural History Museum Vienna have now found out with the help of high-resolution tomographic images that the material from which the Venus was carved likely comes from northern Italy. This sheds new light on the remarkable mobility of the first modern humans south and north of the Alps. The results currently appear in Scientific Reports.

(Download spectacular images never seen before here; details and copyright see below: https://medienportal.univie.ac.at/uploads/tx_univiemedienportal/zip/37563/images.zip)

The Venus von Willendorf is not only special in terms of its design, but also in terms of its material. While other Venus figures are usually made of ivory or bone, sometimes also of different stones, oolite was used for the Lower Austrian Venus, which is unique for such cult objects. The figurine found in the Wachau in 1908 and on display in the Natural History Museum in Vienna has so far only been examined from the outside. Now, more than a 100 years later, anthropologist Gerhard Weber from the University of Vienna has used a new method to examine its interior: micro-computed tomography. During several passes, the scientists obtained images with a resolution of up to 11.5 micrometres - a quality that is otherwise only seen under a microscope. The first insight gained is: "Venus does not look uniform at all on the inside. A special property that could be used to determine its origin," says the anthropologist.

Along with the two geologists Alexander Lukeneder and Mathias Harzhauser from the Natural History Museum in Vienna, who had previously worked with oolites, the team procured comparative samples from Austria and Europe and evaluated them. A complex project: Rock samples from France to eastern Ukraine, from Germany to Sicily were obtained, sawn up and examined under a microscope. The team was supported by the state of Lower Austria, which provided funds for the time-consuming analyses.

Scientific Contact
Univ.-Prof. Dr. Gerhard Weber
Department of Evolutionary Anthropology

HEAS – Human Evolution and Archaeological Sciences
University of Vienna

Djerassiplatz 1, 1030 Vienna, Austria

T +43-1-4277-547 01

M +43-664-602 77-547 77

E gerhard.weber@univie.ac.at

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