Letter

Nature 459, 248-252 (14 May 2009) | doi:10.1038/nature07995; Received 24 January 2009; Accepted 17 March 2009

A female figurine from the basal Aurignacian of Hohle Fels Cave in southwestern Germany

Nicholas J. Conard1

  1. Abteilung für Ältere Urgeschichte und Quartärökologie, Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte und Archäologie des Mittelalters, Universität Tübingen, Schloss Hohentübingen, 72070 Tübingen, Germany

Correspondence to: Nicholas J. Conard1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to N.J.C. (Email: nicholas.conard@uni-tuebingen.de).

Despite well over 100 years of research and debate, the origins of art remain contentious1, 2, 3. In recent years, abstract depictions have been documented at southern African sites dating to approx75 kyr before present (bp)4, 5, and the earliest figurative art, which is often seen as an important proxy for advanced symbolic communication, has been documented in Europe as dating to between 30 and 40 kyr bp 2. Here I report the discovery of a female mammoth-ivory figurine in the basal Aurignacian deposit at Hohle Fels Cave in the Swabian Jura of southwestern Germany during excavations in 2008. This figurine was produced at least 35,000 calendar years ago, making it one of the oldest known examples of figurative art. This discovery predates the well-known Venuses from the Gravettian culture by at least 5,000 years and radically changes our views of the context and meaning of the earliest Palaeolithic art.

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