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Oldest Human Sculpture of Europe


Image: ivory carving of a human from the Aurignacien.

The oldest known human picture is a very small ivory plate with an humanoid engraving on one side. It was found 1979 in the Geißenklösterle near Blaubeuren. The material is mammoth ivory and it was dated 35,000 years old. This is 2,000 years older than the  lionheaded figurine from the Stadel im Hohlenstein in the  Lone valley. It is still the oldest human sculpture ever found in Europe.

The human figure is carved as a relief, staning upright with bent knees and arms pointing upright. Its obviously male, with rather imposing genitals. Some archaeologists see a cultic gesture supposing a believer who is praying or a priest performing a ritual. However, this pose is rather unusual. Comparable figurines are at least 20,000 years younger from the Magdalénien period.

The figurine was most certainly weared as an amulet and has mysterious engravings on the back. The meaning of this engravings is still unclear.

A recent work by Michael A. Rappenglück interprets the amulet as a kind of star map. The figure is interpreted as a visualization of the constellation Orion.

"Orion, in astronomy, major constellation..., named for the Greek mythological hunter. Orion is one of the most conspicuous constellations and contains many bright stars." Encyclopædia Britannica

The constellation Orion is represented by a human (male) figure standing with bent knees until today. The proportions are not completely correct, but they fit the location of the stars 32,000 years ago, which we are able to reconstruct. The dots on the back could be used to aim at the stars and thus orientate using the stars of the Orion. The amulet could be interpreted as an early predecessor of the compass.


See also


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