Icons of fertility in the Paleolithic and Neolithic

During the last glacial period (Würm / Wisconsin glaciation, 100.000-20.000 BC), when snow and ice covering the north of Europe, Asia and North America, the man was forced to face very harsh living conditions, focusing especially in the lack of food and the close relationship between resource scarcity and poor conditions for reproduction. These basic needs were recorded in the cave paintings allude to the animals that provided sustenance and female figurines (Paleolithic Venus) that symbolized the woman as a generator of life. In all these figures are women with bulky bodies magnify the pelvic outline, the steatopygia, abdomen, breast and vulvar folds, highlighting the abundance and in combination with the pregnant belly, symbolizing the primary receptacle of life. In almost all cases, these images do not represent the hands or feet, or facial features or expressive gestures that can be identified. They are not referring to anyone in particular link is concerned with a fundamental need.

Chronologically are located in the Upper Paleolithic, between the Aurignacian and Magdalenian – 27.000 and 20.000 years B.C. They are universal symbolic icons with ways in which lies a message that had to be recognized by members of the pre-historic communities and now it is, by contemporary eyes.

A few centuries later (10.000-8.000 BC) in the Neolithic, when the man set, built camps, developed a way of life that consumes what it produces; cultivated cereals and domesticated some animals for food and clothing, continuous representation female images.

In this period include the figures found in Çatalhöyük (Çatal höyük or Çatal Hüyük) an ancient human settlement that is among the most important prototypes of urban Neolithic and Bronze Age, is located south of the Anatolian peninsula in the Konya Plain, near the modern city of Konya Turkey. This settlement dates back to around 7.500 years BC in the lower layers and older.

The female representations found in these excavations also highlights the lush body shapes suggestive of pregnancy, similar to the figures of the Paleolithic but due to the ease offered by the clay, there is more detail in the faces, hairstyles, factions and even in certain facial ornaments. There are models of scenes of childbirth and female figures with children. For its part, the carved stone were drifting in bodily representations schematic, flat triangular shapes oriented in which the base of the triangle is allusive to the extent of women’s hips. This form of the female archetype outline will probably reach its peak on the icon of Tanit.

The form and function of female body has been an existential concern for man from the Paleolithic. The bodies of women of ethnic Khoi that show the prints of the early nineteenth century are evidence that these pre-historic female images could represent real visions.

The image is a form of visual transmission of thought, associated with magic, transmits the expression of abstract thought. In primitive societies who practice a basic concept of religion, which “delegates” of supernatural power can be persuaded to intervene in human affairs, the images serve as instruments to bring about benefits or magical spells. In this type of magic – sympathetic magic – the image should be similar or linked to the situation or individual who is expected to act.

Under this concept, the “Venus” Paleolithic and Neolithic objects could be used to invoke, a supernatural way, better living conditions and abundance of resources, to be consumed without restrictions would increase the volume of the female figure in the regions that naturally accumulate tissue fat. Energy reserve would be necessary for success in pregnancy and lactation, resulting in better conditions for the survival of the newborn.

A basic concept that relates the abundance of resources, with the greatest availability of energy that fertility requires.




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