Goddesses are first recorded in the year 25,000 BC and have been found on caves, mountaintops, and home altars. They have been carved out of stone, modeled from clay, and etched in plaster. They have been traced from Siberia to South Africa, Indus to Ireland, and all over the New World. The goddess' roles ranged from guardian of childbirth, to source of wisdom, to healer, to a woman of prophecy, to keeper of death.
Back to Foraging Society Chronology
Although each culture certainly would have had their own specific ideas about their particular figure, common characteristics remain true through most cultures. The main use of the goddesses is for the fertility of crops, animals, and humans. For this role, the figure was seen as the Great Mother/ Earth Mother whose magical powers assured food supply and the continuation of the human race.
This assumption that the goddesses were used for fertility can be made based on the physical appearance of the figures found today. Most figures were faceless or even headless for that matter. This shows the universality of the figure. Rather than being a figure of one particular woman, the figures depict womankind. A number of figures also lacked feet symbolizing that the figure came straight from earth. Earth is exactly what these goddesses were expected to fertilize.
The Woman of Laussel
The most common characteristic depicts the figure unclothed with unusually large breasts, belly, and buttocks as seen in the Laussel Woman who was chiseled onto a flat slab. She adheres to the characteristics of most goddesses. Often little attention would be giving to other body parts such as arms. In fact, the arms were used to help emphasize the prominence of the other body parts. The arms may rest on the large belly or placed underneath the breasts as if to showcase them. The prominence of the breasts, belly, and buttocks symbolized her power over the fertility of the crops and their success or failure. Many of these same characteristics can be found in the Venus of Willendorf.
Of all these attributes, goddesses were seen as the chief magical power over both the spiritual and material, mainly for the use of fertility. Although the goddesses did not represent a realistic view of what women actually looked like, they did provide a depiction of the beliefs of the spiritual realm and how that accounted for their day-to-day lives.
Barnstow, Anne L. The Prehistoric Goddess. Ed. Carl Olson. New York: Crossroad, 1983
Downing, Christine. The Goddess: Mythological Images of the Feminine. New York: Crossroad, 1984
Tansey, Richard G., and Fred S. Kleiner. Gardner's Art Through the Ages. Fort Worth: Harcourt, 1996
Image From: http://users.hol.gr/~dilos/prehis/prerm4.htm