This interesting card was sent to me by Daniela from Austria. The Venus of Willendorf, now known in academia as the Woman of Willendorf, is an 11 cm (4.3 in) high statuette of a female figure estimated to have been made between 24,000 and 22,000 BCE. It was found in 1908 by a workman named Johann Veran or Josef Veram during excavations conducted by archaeologists Josef Szombathy, Hugo Obermaier and Josef Bayer 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. The "Venus of Willendorf" is now in the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria.
Several similar statuettes and other forms of art have been discovered, and they are collectively referred to as Venus figurines, although they pre-date the mythological figure of Venus by millennia.
After a wide variety of proposed dates, following a revised analysis of the stratigraphy of its site in 1990, the figure has been estimated to have been carved 24,000–22,000 BCE. Very little is known about its origin, method of creation, or cultural significance.
The purpose of the carving is the subject of much speculation. It never had feet and does not stand on its own. The apparent large size of the breasts and abdomen, and the detail put into the vulva, have led 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 plaited hair, or a type of headdress.
The nickname, urging a comparison to the classical image of "Venus," is now controversial. According to Christopher Witcombe, "the ironic identification of these figurines as 'Venus' pleasantly satisfied certain assumptions at the time about the primitive, about women, and about taste." Catherine McCoid and LeRoy McDermott hypothesize that the figurines may have been created as self-portraits.