Long celebrated as one of the oldest known works of art, the "Venus of Willendorf," provokes a sense of wonder: How did the Stone Age sculptor render obesity that was so life-like?
While other ancient artifacts are mere stick figures or stylized images, the Venus of Willendorf, believed to be more than 28,000 years old, gives people the sense that it was drawn from real life. So, too, do other figurines of obese women recovered from Paleolithic sites.
"She has a quite unformalized vitality," the archaeologist and historian Nancy Sandars wrote in her book, Prehistoric Art in Europe of the Venus of Willendorf. "She does not impress us as an abstraction, an idea, or ideal of the female and the fecund; rather one feels in spite of facelessness and gross exaggeration, that this is actual woman."
In an era when countless advocates of a "Paleo" diet argue that the Paleolithic way of life was optimized for human health, it's worth wondering what these figurines are telling us: Could some of the "cavemen" have been fat?
To be sure, no one knows why these images were carved. Were they related to fertility gods or beliefs, as some have suggested? A hope for plentiful food? Or are they, as some have proposed, a form of Paleo porn? The answers so far seem to be a matter of speculation. But whatever the purpose of the figurines, their anatomical correctness indicates that the sculptors must have seen fat people, some experts say, meaning that obesity was not unknown to the Paleolithic peoples, however harsh their lives may have been in general. [...] The Washington Post
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