Photo of the Venus of Willendorf from google images. This ancient figurine is small enough to fit in the human hand. The genital area was originally covered in red ochre.
This masterpiece dates to between 24,000 and 22,000 BP and was found in a loess deposit near the Danube River, Austria in 1908. Over a dozen figurines similar to the Venus of Willendorf have been discovered in central Europe and most date to this time period. The existence of these figurines inspires two questions that archaeologists may never be able to answer. What did the figures symbolize, and how did the models get so fat in a pre-agricultural society?
During this time period there was no written language. Writing and numbers weren’t invented until agriculture became well developed, and the political powers needed a method of dividing the harvest equitably or, more often, in favor of the elite. Without a written record we can only guess what the figurines meant. There are several lines of conjecture. Some think the figurines symbolize a queen-based matriarchal society. Others believe they symbolize mother earth. A third possibility is that they represent charms for women hoping to get pregnant. I reject all of these ideas. I doubt there was a society then organized enough to consistently be matriarchal. The myth of a mother earth probably didn’t exist until the ancient Greeks began to form a civilization. And I don’t think primitive women were eager to become pregnant then because there was a high rate of deaths and no relief from the pain. Instead, I believe they represent sex objects, probably even sex slaves. I’ll explain this further in the next paragraph because it also involves care and feeding.
Archaeologists are certain the Venus of Willendorf was sculpted using a real model. It’s anatomically accurate and only a person familiar with a real fat woman would be capable of sculpting such a figurine. This is astonishing. 22,000 years ago, all humans on earth were hunter/gatherers. Most of them, especially the women must have been scrawny. A few tribes in Africa and South America still live as hunter/gatherers, and none of their women come close to approaching the corpulence of the Venus of Willendorf. Ice Age people in central Europe lived on a diet of mostly lean wild game, fish, and wild plant foods. It must have taken a considerable effort for a group of men to fatten a woman to this size before bread, cakes, and other high carbohydrate foods were invented. I propose that the men in a tribe chose their best looking or most congenial woman and kept her penned in a dwelling, perhaps one of the houses they made from mammoth bones or more commonly wood. Here, she lived a sedentary lifestyle, while the men hunted and gathered for her, and they gave her the choicest most fattening foods available to them–the brains, liver, and marrow of large mammals; bear lard; whole salmon and its caviar; sacks of hazlenuts; wild honey; etc. The men shared her–some stayed with her, while the others searched for food and vice versa. They took turns searching for the choicest foods. In exchange for bringing her food she gave them sex. The men, whose turn it was to look for food, carried the figurine of her with them and used it to fantasize and maturbate around the campfire. If they met strange men from other tribes, they showed them the figurine and promised to share her in exchange for quality food. The more men belonging to this club, the fatter the woman would get.
This arrangement gave this culture a survival advantage, at least for awhile. A well nourished woman would be more likely to survive childbirth and bear healthy children. There’s a probability that the men kept her lactating as well and could nurse milk for extra nutrition. Perhaps that’s a contributing factor of why most Europeans evolved the capacity to digest milk as adults. Eventually, this culture disappeared but it may be a precursor to the modern cultural expectation that men should be the family provider.
A modern day Venus. A fat tummy is no longer considered attractive by most men but the big boobs and buttocks are still popular. Photo from google images.