To see the rest of the Art History 101 series, click on the links below: Part IB (400-1399 CE) Part IIA (1400-1499) Part IIB (1500-1599) Part III (1600-1799) Part IV (1800-1899) Part V (1900-Present) For a list of the greatest works of visual art organized by rank, that is, with the artworks on the most lists at the top, go here. Robert Wetzel was excavating caves in the German Alps where people of the Aurignacian culture lived 45,000-35,000 years ago during the Upper Paleolithic Era when he noticed something unusual.In the Stadel-Höhle Cave in Hohlenstein, Wetzel and Otto Völzing found approximately 200 fragments of ivory from a mammoth tusk that showed signs of carving, but they had little time to study their find, due to the outbreak of World War II.The purpose of the Venus of Willendorf and other Venus figurines is debated, but the sculptor’s emphasis on the female body’s sexual and childbearing characteristics has led many to conclude that this and other such figurines were fertility goddesses or otherwise played a role in fertility rituals.
No further study occurred for 30 years when, in 1969, Dr.
Joachim Hahn was able to reassemble the ivory fragments into a standing figure with the characteristics of both a human and an animal (specifically, a cave lion). Carbon dating of nearby organic material placed the approximate date of the figurine at 30,000 BCE.
As for the purpose of the figurine, scholars have put forth various theories – some say it represents a man-lion god; others say it is a charm for hunting or avoiding predation; others believe it represents a shaman wearing a lion mask – but there is no consensus.
The figurine is now in the Ulmer Museum in Ulm, Germany.
The highlight of the Gravettian period is a red and black painting of two spotted horses (see first image).