Saturday, August 5, 2006

Landmark I: Venus of Willendorf


One of the assignments I give my humanities students is a Landmark Journal - short free-writing exercises about seven landmarks from the various historical periods or cultural themes we explore as a group. I've decided - based on a conversation with Stephen - to create my own online version of the entries I have my students write about in class. Here is my offering of what a professor does when the tables are turned.

Venus of Willendorf
The Venus of Willendorf is a Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) statuette about 11.1 cm (4 3/8 inches) high. It was discovered by archaeologist Josef Szombathy in Willendorf, Austria, in 1908. It was carved from non-native limestone and tinted with ochre 22,000 to 24,000 years ago. It is currently housed at the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna.

Fertility charm? Good-luck fetish? Child's toy? We do not know what purpose the Venus had, if any, to the people who carved her. Her swollen belly, breasts, and vulva as well as her huge ass suggest a sympathetic magic ritual for abundance. Her face is hidden by rows of braids; her tiny arms fold over her breasts. Her small feet do not allow her to stand upright on her own.

Earth goddess? Mother to us all? When we understand her, we will understand ourselves.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post for me particularly as for the past month or so I've had opportunity to reflect upon fecundity--or more particularly, my lack thereof. Since reading your entry last night, I have been thinking about your statement regarding the understanding of Venus and ourselves. When S. and I headed out this morning on our walk, I was still pondering and thinking various deep and lofty intellectual thoughts, don't you know.

    My reverie was interrupted rudely by being forced off the sidewalk by a goddamn breeder who refused to cede an inch of cement so as not to impede the progress of his glassy-eyed gratitutious progeny in a double-wide stroller. With now wet sandals and feet, and filled with righteous indignant rage and uncharitable assumptions regarding this usurper's surely bottom-barrell inellectual capacity, we continued our walk.

    Granted, my discombobulation can be partially attributed to the final nail in the coffin of my fertility being firmly hammered into place (although technically, I can still produce the buns, but no longer have an oven--). However, I'm now thinking that someone should examine the contrast between the mysterious nature of Venus (as you say--possibly a fertility symbol, fetish, or toy?) and the current cold hard realities (and devoid of any mystery) of human procreation abundance (double-wide strollers, Britney Spears having children, people who refuse to hire a babysitter and inflict their children on others at movie theatres, restaurants, etc).

    What say you? Have I had too much coffee this AM?