Venus of Engen-Petersfels
Characteristics of "Lalinde-Gonnersdorf" Prehistoric Sculpture.

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Venus of Engen (Petersfels)
Near Lake Constance, Germany.
Dating to 13,000 BCE. Among the
earliest art ever found in Germany.

Venus of Engen-Petersfels (c.13,000 BCE)


Famous Venuses

For the world's earliest sculpture,
see: Oldest Stone Age Art: Top 100 Works.

For more about the chronology and locations of European
venus figures, see: Prehistoric Art Timeline (from 2.5 million BCE).

Aurignacian Art
(40,000-25,000 BCE)
Gravettian Art
(25,000-20,000 BCE)
Solutrean Art
(20,000-15,000 BCE)
Magdalenian Art
(15,000-10,000 BCE)


One of the few "Venus Figurines" to be made during the Upper Paleolithic era of Magdalenian culture, the Venus of Engen (also called the "Petersfels Venus" or "Frauenidol von Engen") is a tiny prehistoric sculpture carved from black jet, a type of hard black coal (lignite), that was discovered in the late 1920s at the Petersfels archeological site, near Engen in Germany. It bears a close resemblance to the Venus of Monruz-Neuchatel (c.10,000 BCE), which was found across the border in Switzerland. Another female figurine made from jet is the Venus of Pekarna (12,500 BCE), sculpted in Moravia, Czech Republic. The Engen figure is now part of the permanent collection of prehistoric art at the Stadtischen Museum in Engen. Several more, even smaller, venuses were excavated from the Petersfels site, all with the same general shape. They are on display in several museums including the Freiburg Archeological Museum, the Baden-Wurttemberg Landesmuseum and the Singen Museum. Other similar examples of Paleolithic art found in Germany and Austria include: the Venus of Hohle Fels (38,000-33,000 BCE), the Venus of Galgenberg (30,000 BCE) and the Venus of Willendorf (25,000 BCE).


The Petersfels site, a cave located in Engen near Lake Constance, is one of the most significant Palaeolithic sites in Central Europe. Occupied between about 13,500 and 8,000 BCE, it was used repeatedly during its early years as a base in the treeless tundra steppe, from which to intercept migrating reindeer herds during the autumn. Several other important Magdalenian camp sites are located nearby in northern Switzerland and southwest Germany, including Kesslerloch and Schweizersbild. Petersfels Cave was first excavated somewhat inefficiently, during the period 1927-32, by E. Peters, an amateur archeologist. As a result, not only were many valuable artifacts lost, but also some important stratigraphic features were ignored or misconstrued. However, he did recover several items of rock art including the Petersfels Venus along with several other tiny examples of sculpture, dating to the Upper Paleolithic. Later, between 1974 and 1979, the site was much more thoroughly re-excavated, by G. Albert, who unearthed a vast number of artifacts from the cave and from the debris of the earlier excavations. Among his finds were a large number of stone tools including burins, endscrapers, along with implements similar to Hamburgian shouldered points, as well as Zinken and Cheddar points. A variety of Stone Age art was also found, including whistles carved from reindeer bones, a number of ivory carvings and a few items of cave art including some small petroglyphs.

Since the 1970s excavations, archeologists and botanists from the University of Tubingen have recreated the topographical and botanical conditions of the late Pleistocene in the immediate vicinity of the cave. The woods at Petersfels were cleared, and a Late-glacial vegetation landscape of tundra steppe was established, which included an artificial bog in front of the Petersfels Cave.


The Venus of Engen is about 40 mm (1.5 inches) in height and is the largest of the female carvings found at Petersfels. Others range from 15 mm (about 0.5 inch) to 30 mm (about 1 inch) tall. Carved out of jet, a semi-precious stone, all these items of ancient jewellery art are stylized representations of nude women, and were probably designed as pendants or brooches. They belong to the so-called "Lalinde-Gonnersdorf" type of venus carving - sometimes referred to as "femmes sans tete" (females with no heads) - characterized by highly stylized female bodies, with elongated trunks, over-emphasized buttocks and underdeveloped breasts. (See for instance the Russian Venus of Eliseevichi, dating to 14,000 BCE.) Although they appeared most often as statuettes or similar forms of mobiliary art, these images also appeared as parietal rock engravings and relief sculpture on cave walls and ceilings. They have been found in numerous sites in France (such as Fontales, Gare de Couze, Lalinde), Belgium (Megarnie), Germany (Andernach, Gonnersdorf, Nebra, Oelknitz, Petersfels), Italy (Grotta Romanelli), Moravia (Pekarna), Poland (Wilczyce), and Ukraine (Mezin, Meziric).

Famous Venuses

Other famous ivory carvings and stone sculpture in this genre, listed by country/region, include the following:


Venus of Dolni Vestonice (26,000 BCE)
Ceramic figure found near Brno in the Czech Republic.

Venus of Moravany (24,000 - 22,000 BCE)
Ivory statuette discovered in Moravany nad Vahom, Trnava Region, Slovakia.


Venus of Monpazier (25,000 BCE)
Limonite figure found in the Dordogne in France.

Venus of Laussel (23,000 BCE)
Shallow relief carved in limestone; now in Musee d'Aquitaine, Bordeaux.

Venus of Brassempouy (23,000 BCE)
Mammoth Ivoryin the Landes department in Aquitaine in southwestern France.

Venus of Lespugue (23,000 BCE)
Ivory carving unearthed in the Haute Garonne region of France.


Venus of Gagarino (20,000 BCE)
Volcanic rock carving found by the Don River in southern Russia.

Venus of Kostenky (22,000 BCE)
Mammoth bone figurine found in the Don region of southern Russia.

Avdeevo Venuses (20,000 BCE)
Ivories found near Kursk in central Russia.

Mal'ta Venuses (20,000 BCE)
Ivory figures excavated near Lake Baikal in the Irkutsk region of Siberia.

Zaraysk Venuses (20,000 BCE)
Ivories discovered outside Zaraysk, southeast of Moscow.


• For more information about Stone Age art in Germany, see: Homepage.

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