The Venus of Willendorf is one of the earliest images of the body made by humankind and is in the collection of the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna. The sculpture is an 11 cm high statuette of a female figure estimated to have been made between 27,000 BC to 20,000 BC.
It was discovered in 1908 by archaeologist Josef Szombathy at a paleolithic site near Willendorf, a village in Lower Austria near the city of Krems. It is carved from an oolitic limestone that is not local to the area, and tinted with red ochre. Several similar sculptures of this kind and have been discovered and are collectively referred to as Venus figurines.
The apparent large size of the breasts and abdomen, and the detail put into the vulva, have led many scholars to interpret the figure as a fertility symbol. The figure has no visible face, her head being covered with circular horizontal bands of what might be rows of braided hair or a type of headdress. Other differing theories of the Venus figurines and their purposes have ranged from the figurines being examples of Paleolithic art representative of the various population phases and periods of the Aurignacian culture to the figurines as goddess’s or symbols of a matriarchy in the hunter gatherer tribes.