Venus of Willendorf,

the symbol and mascot of Obesity-Online

George S.M. Cowan, Jr., MD,

Obesity Wellness Center, University of Tennessee, 956 Court Ave., Ste A212, Memphis, TN 38163, U.S.A; Tel: 901-448-6781; Fax: 901-448-4688 or 901-725-0819;

Starting about twenty-five thousand years ago, Stone Age artists began to make sculptures of female figures, most of them obese; they are among the earliest known works of art by our species. Over one hundred of these have been found by archaeologists at sites stretching across the Eurasian land mass, from Siberia to Northern Spain. The Venus of Willendorf is believed to be the earliest of these sculptures. It was found early this century in a cave excavation near the Austrian village of Willendorf, which is located about thirty-five miles from Vienna. It consists of a beautifully modelled, morbidly obese female whose torso is accentuated at the expense of her very attenuated legs which lack feet. Her upper extremities are greatly reduced in size and rest upon her very large, dependent breasts; her wrists have a bracelet design, the earliest known such jewelry images. Her face is not visible, being covered with a decorative shell-like design. However, her torso appears accentuated together together with her genitalia. These characteristics are typical of most of the Venuses. The figure was carved from oolite limestone which, interestingly, is apparently not found in Austria. This little figure or its precursor material, therefore, must have been brought to the site; troubling to carry this stone between sites implies that it must have possessed some significant purpose. However, it's purpose is not known definitively but it most likely represents some sort of goddess-cum-fertility figure. The fact that other Venuses are so widespread has led some workers to believe that they may represent a cult image of some sort. Another worker seriously suggested that it could be the earliest example of "palaeo-porn". There are many other hypotheses possible. Perhaps you can come up with another one. Or, perhaps you may have a theory as to why someone would carve a morbidly obese Venus figure like this.

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