Sensual figurine from Stone Age censored by Facebook – Venus of Willendorf

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Naturhistorisches Museum (English Natural History Museum) hides one of the most famous archaeological findings in the World, Venus of Willendorf. This sensual figurine from Stone Age got to headlines when it was censored by Facebook. Beside parietal cave paintings from Altamira in Spain and Lascaux Cave in France, which depict local flora and fauna Venus of Willendorf is the most preserved and known piece of art from the Palaeolithic or Old Stone Age. This 11 cm high figurine of an obese, unclothed woman is around 30.000 years old. It was discovered in 1908 at a depth of 25 cm in a layer of sand and ash during the construction of the railway in Willendorf in Lower Austrian region of Wachau. It is made of Oolite, also called "egg stone", sedimentary rock consisting of small mineral spheres ooids, which is most likely from the Moravian deposit Stránska Skála near the town of Brno.

Venus of Willendorf is one of many Venus figurines from Palaeolithic discovered mainly in 19th and 20th century, which depict nude women with exaggerated sexual features. The figurine represents a naked, symmetrical female figure, with for that period unusual big head with a distinctive hairstyle and without face. The arms are thin and lie on the big breasts. The hips are strong, the belly and buttocks are very pronounced. The legs are shortened and the feet are missing. The original cultural meaning and purpose of these artefacts is not known. It is presumed that they are fertility icons, or direct representations of a mother goddess. The figurines representing women were very often at this period of history in Central Europe before the high point of the last ice age, where the food was lacking and the population density declined. At the end of this era, 20,000 years ago, Central Europe was completely abandoned by Homo sapiens.

Today you can see Venus of Willford at Natural History Museum. For a long time only one copy was exhibited in the museum. The original Venus was first shown to the public at the exhibition at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna in 1998. For the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of discovery it was displayed at Niederösterreichischen Landesmuseum in St. Pölten and at the day of the finding directly in Willendorf at the discovery locality. Since 2010 you can see it in Vienna, displayed at the high-security vault of Naturhistorisches Museum.

The exaggerated sexual features of statue led Facebook to censor and delete the photo posted by platform user and classify it as pornography. After intervention from the Museum, the company apologized and said that it will make an exception for statues.


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The author

Ogi Savic

Ogi Savic

I am Ogi. A journalist and economist, I live in Vienna and I am passionate about skiing, traveling, good food and drinks. I write about all these aspects (and more) of beautiful Austria.

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