This figurine is known as a "Venus" statue. They litter the ancient world. So what makes this one unique? It may be the oldest known example of figurative art (art that is supposed to represent and resemble a real person, animal or object). Unearthed in September 2008 in Hohle Fels Cave in southwestern Germany, this discovery could help scientists understand the origins of art and the advent of symbolic thinking, including complicated language.
(AP Photo/Daniel Maurer)
This paleolithic "Dolly Parton" statue is carved out of the tusk of a woolly mammoth and is less than 2.5 inches long. Paleoanthropologist Nicholas Conard of Germany's Tubingen University reported the discovery in the May 14 issue of the journal Nature.
Here is a great video describing the discovery: "Prehistoric Pinup"
Technical paper: Nicholas J. Conard, "A female figurine from the basal Aurignacian of Hohle Fels Cave in southwestern Germany," Nature 459, (14 May 2009), 248-252.
So, you may be wondering: What's the connection between this top-heavy curvaceous figurine and the development of language? Since both language and art represent symbolic thought, experts have frequently linked the two. From the standpoint of Reasons To Believe's testable creation model, expressions of abstract thought, such as language and art, might be reasonably construed as evidence for the uniqueness of humanity as being made in the "image of God" (Gen. 1:26-27).
[Short aside: Assuming that the date for this figurine is correct - 35,000 years old - that would mean that humanity had already migrated out of Mesopotamia by at least that point. According to Hugh Ross' flood model, that would mean Noah would have lived prior to that time. The question is, could a primitive paleolithic culture have built a large ark? And how does the paleolithic record compare with Noah's world as described in the book of Genesis?]
Essay idea: Differentiate between the behaviors of Neanderthals and humans. How does this discovery support the biblical view that the descendants of Adam and Eve are unique from the animals?
UPDATE (5/15/09): I asked Dr. Fuz Rana whether this artifact was older than the "Lion-Man" statue we discussed on Creation Update a while back. Here is his reply: "This statue is very close in age to the Lion Man, maybe slightly older. Both were found in caves in Germany." I believe the "Venus" statue dates to about 35,000 years ago, while the "Lion-Man" comes in at around 32,000 years ago.
UPDATE (5/19/09): Dr. Fuz Rana now has a "Science News Flash" podcast posted on the RTB web site responding to this discovery.