Venus Figurine


Over 200 Venus figurines exist from the Upper Paleolithic and Neolithic periods. Mainly of females, they are mostly found in Europe and the far east and were carved by Stone Age sculptors from soft stone (steatite, calcite or limestone), wood, ivory and bone or ceramic clays.

A Venus called called the Lady of Villers-Carbonnel find comes from northern France and is believed to be over 6,000 years old. The 21 cm figurine was made from local clay and was found in five or six of fragments amongst the ruins of a neolithic kiln on a dig by French archaeologists led by Françoise Bostyn.

Here is a simple method to make a Venus figurine (based on the Lady of Villers-Carbonnel) of your own.

Materials & Tools:

  • Modeling clay e.g. Air-dry clay / FIMO (about the size of a normal grapefruit)
  • Cocktail sticks
  • Acrylic Paints (optional)
  • Plastic gloves (optional)
  • Plastic sheeting/newspaper (optional)
  • Hand wipes / soapy water (optional)

Preparation:

  • Provide each child / group with plastic sheeting/newspaper and plastic gloves
  • Remove or blunt sharp ends of cocktail sticks

 

Objective:

The best way to create the venus is in three stages (i) legs (ii) body (iii) head

  • (i) Start with the legs (note: there is no distinction between the right or left leg)
    • Take a piece of clay around the size of a golf ball and mould into a lollypop shape and gently flatten the larger (thigh) of section - the lower legs should not be too long - around 2-3cm (see stage 1)
    • Repeat for the second leg - they do not need to be perfect at this stage, as the venus will smoothed over at the end
    • Join the legs together at the thickest (thigh) section - depending on the type of clay it may be easier to insert a cocktail stick between both thighs (see stage 2)

  • (ii) For the torso take 2 golf balls size of clay
    • Separate 2 pea-size pieces and roll into two balls (these are the breasts)
    • Roll the remainder of the clay out until it is around 7-8cm long and 3-4cm wide
    • Gentle flatten this out and start to mould the clay so that the waist area is thinner than the upper torso area
    • For the arms, pinch out rounded stubs at opposite sides of the top of the torso - this should create a "T" shape
    • Add the breasts to the middle of the torso, just below the arms (see stage 3)
    • Join the legs and torso together - depending on the type of clay it may be easier to insert a cocktail stick between the torso and thighs (see stage 4)
  • (iii) For the head take grape size piece of clay
    • Roll out, so that one end is slight wider than the other
    • Join the head (at the widest end) to the top of the torso - depending on the type of clay it may be easier to insert a cocktail stick between the head and torso
    • Do not carve any features like eyes, nose, mouth, hair, belly-button into the venus, as these details were very rarely included
  • Once assembled, smooth over the entire body (you may need to add a little water, depending on the type of clay) to remove any joining marks / finger prints
  • Follow modeling clay instructions to allow it to fully harden
  • For an authentic appearance, paint your venus in a terracotta/earth/clay colour and add some darker highlights around any areas that have natural joins/creases (such as the buttocks)

 

Alternatives:

  • Natural clay could be used, however it will need to be fired to harden it (not covered in this project)

 

Further Activity Examples:

  • Discuss stone age venues:
    • Who would have made it & why ?
    • How would a goddess figure help a tribe ?
    • What different natural materials were they made from ?
    • Look at similarities between venues from different regions and periods
  • Discuss other forms of stone age art including Cave Paintings

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