A Comparison of the Woman of Willendorf and the Lion Human Sculpture

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This research will begin with the statement that two pieces that have survived thousands of years to provide scholars with references to human existence during the Paleolithic period are the Woman of Willendorf figure and the Lion Man of Hohlenstein-Stadel. Each figure is rendered with surprising detail, even though they are not detailed to the extent of realism. The Woman of Willendorf is one of the best examples of the small ‘Venuses’ that have been found, suggesting that her purpose was a part of a cultural set of beliefs about women and fertility. The Lion Man, on the other hand, is a unique find that relates to the composite figures that are documented from other cultures within which the associated mythologies have been discovered. The Lion Man, however, has no known mythology that is available in known written history. The two pieces suggest a mystery about the Paleolithic era, acknowledging a sense of religion and ritual that was a part of the lives of those who lived in that era, and informing modern scholars on some aspects of the people of that era. The Woman of Willendorf figure, discovered in Austria, is a small sculpture that measures only 4 ½ inches in height. The piece is between 25,000 and 30,000 years old, making it among one of the earliest pieces of art discovered and is most likely an image of fertility. The work was carved from limestone with evidence that some form of paint pigment was then applied. Her details are not sculpted in detail, however, with no face defined but with small curls covering her head. She is fleshy and round, her breasts large and her belly hanging large below them. She is one of a number of figures that most likely were used as fertility charms and they are of a size that suggests that they might have been held in the hand to invoke their power. All of the similar figures have the same kind of large breasts, belly and buttocks as seen on the Woman of Willendorf. The indications that the piece represents is that sex and art have always had a close relationship (Honour and Fleming 2). The Hohlenstein-Stadel Lion Man was discovered in southern Germany and is a larger piece than was more often found from the period that it was made. The piece was made around 32,000 BCE, making it also one of the earliest known pieces of sculpture and measures at about 11 ? inches tall (Haarmann 62). The piece was not intact when it was discovered in a cave near Hohlenstein-Stadel Germany and has been carefully restored so that its beauty can be appreciated. The work was done out of mammoth ivory and is representative of a human formed feline for which the sex is debatable, although it is most often called the ‘Lion Man’. In the ancient near East and in Egypt the composite human and animal figure is well documented and the associated mythologies have been discovered to put the figures in context with the culture. However, the figures of people of the Paleolithic era have left no known texts with which to understand how the figures fit into the cultural landscape (Gardner and Kleiner 17). From the perspective of personal observation, the ‘Lion Man’ does appear to be male, especially if it is put into context with the female figural pieces that have been found from the Paleolithic period. The shoulder construction and the elongation in the lower center suggest male anatomy. As well, the ‘Venuses’, as they were nicknamed by the 19th century archeologists who discovered them, were primarily full bodied with their gender clearly indicated. The questions about the sex of the figure likely stem from the fact that most of the figures from the period represent women, making this an unusual piece if it does depict a male figure. As well, the figures that are male are more often quite specifically male with a strong phallic representation, making the subtly of this one unusual – although it is possible that a section or piece is missing. One of the more interesting observations that can be made is