Thursday, 26 July 2012
The Venus of Dolni Vestonice
I have been asked to put together another tour by the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society for May next year. This time I will be taking them to South Moravia, which is an area of spectacular archaeology. The most remarkable site is at Dolni Vestonice and the Palava Hills, where archaeologists discovered the camps of Paleolithic mammoth hunters protected by a layer of dust blown over the site by glacial winds.
As part of my research my husband and I visited the small museum in Dolni Vestonice. From the outside it seemed that there will be little to see, but the museum was like the tardis. This is no local museum, but one dedicated to one of the most important paleolithic sites in the world. Archeaologists have been excavating the sites around the town and neighbouring Pavlov since 1925 and thousands of objects have been discovered, including stone tools, animal bones and several burials.
Traditionally it was believed that "advanced" technologies - firing ceramics, polishing stones and weaving - didn't appear until 20,000 years later with the Neolithic revolution. That was until finds at Dolni Vestonice proved otherwise. Impressions of woven fabric on clay revealed that the mammoth hunters were already weaving (probably nettle fibres used by the Czechs for some traditional fabrics).
Archaeologists discovered approximately 2,300 clay figurines which had been fired in the hunters' fire. The animals are recognizably lions, mammoths, bears, and wild horses. The most famous figurine is of a woman - the Dolni Vestonice Venus. Dated to 29,000 to 25,000 BC and discovered in 1925, the figure is the oldest ceramic representation of the human figure discovered. In 2004 a scan of the figure discovered a finger print of a child in the clay. Suddenly you are transported back to a hut made of mammoth bones, branches and hides where a child picks up a still damp figure that one of the adults has just sculpted. Perhaps the child is told off, the figure is probably an offering to the gods. Later as night falls the hunters gather around the hearth and place the venus into the fire and the fingerprint is preserved.