Venus of Gagarino (c.20,000 BCE)
See also: Russian Art (c.22,000 BCE - 1920).
The Venus of Gagarino is an important example of prehistoric sculpture from the Voronezh region of Russia. It belongs to the series of mysterious European venus figurines that proliferated during the era of Gravettian art (c.25,000-20,000 BCE). In fact, the term "Gagarino Venus" is a misnomer, since - like the "Venus of Kostenky" - it refers to a group of six quite different venuses found at the site of Gagarino. See also the Avdeevo Venuses (c.20,000 BCE). The Gagarino figurine shown (left) resembles the Venus of Willendorf found not far from the Danube in Lower Austria, but other Gagarino figures are taller and thinner. All the Gagarino statuettes have been indirectly carbon-dated to about 20,000 BCE. Prehistoric art has been recovered from many other archeological sites in the Don Region and the Ukraine, including: Amvrossievka, Avdeevo, Borchtchevo, Brynzeny, Dubovaya Balka, Eliseevichi, Kaistrovaya Balka, Kievo-Kirillovskaya, Klimaoutzy, Kosseoutzy, Kostenky, Mejiritch, Murakovka, Ossokorovka, and Starye Duruitory, to name but a few. Other famous examples of Paleolithic art from Russia include the Mal'ta Venuses discovered near Lake Baikal in Siberia, the Zaraysk Venuses (c.20,000 BCE), the Venus of Eliseevichi (14,000 BCE) and the Kapova Cave paintings in the Urals. In addition, check out Russia's oldest ceramic art, which spread across the border from China - see: Amur River Basin Pottery (from 14,300 BCE).
The six Venus figurines of Gagarino were discovered by farm workers in a prehistoric "house pit", while they were digging a silo trench to store fermented feed for livestock. Situated near the edge of a ravine on the right bank of the Don River, the oval-shaped pit - some 18 feet long and 14 feet wide - contained bones and tusks from numerous animals as well as several hundred flint tools. In fact, Gagarino was among the larger prehistoric sites in the Don region that were repeatedly occupied by Stone Age hunter-gatherers during the Gravettian or "Willendorf-Kostenki" culture.
Standing 6 centimetres in height, this heavily obese female (see image, above left), carved out of volcanic rock, has a featureless "golf-ball"-style head, pendulous breasts, swollen belly, well-defined pubic area and legs severed in mid-thigh. In its patterned head and caricature of the female form, it is like the famous Austrian stone sculpture known as the Venus of Willendorf.
The five other venuses found in the pit can be identified as follows:
Very Tall-Very Thin Venus
Gagarino Double Venus
Seen by most archeologists and scholars as a type of fertility symbol celebrating the mystery and importance of childbirth, this extraordinary style of mobiliary art typically depicts an obese female nude with exaggerated breasts, buttocks and vulva. It appeared first during the period of early Aurignacian art, became widespread during the period of Gravettian culture and disappeared during the Magdalenian. The best known venus figurines include: the "Venus of Hohle Fels" (ivory), the "Venus of Dolni Vestonice" (ceramic clay), the "Venus of Monpazier" (limonite), the "Venus of Willendorf" (limestone), the "Venus of Savignano" (serpentine), the "Venus of Moravany" (ivory), the "Venus of Brassempouy" (ivory), the "Venus of Lespugue" (ivory), the "Venus of Kostenky" (ivory) and the "Venus of Mal'ta" (ivory).
For more about parietal works, see: Cave art (40,000-10,000 BCE).
For more about rock carving, see: Petroglyphs.
For more about parietal art, see: Cave Painting (40,000-10,000 BCE).
For more about prehistoric sculpture in Russia, see: Homepage.
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF STONE AGE