Clifford C. Richey
It might be helpful to read: http://www.scribd.com/doc/125076415/Universal-Prehistoric-Depicted-Sign-Language t when reading this paper as it explains the use of Form, Imagery, Gesture signs, Stance, allusion and position as used in composing glyphs.
Illustration 1: Venus of Willendorf
c. 26,000-24,000 years old limestone 43/8 inches (11.1 cm) high (Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna)
Illustration 1: Total Form, A Body
The Willendorf Venus figure relates, albeit indirectly, to Venus this during a time period when Venus was viewed as Male. The figure was more directly related to the female-earth and her considerable girth which was probably intended to indicate her fecundity. Many ancient cultures not only related to the earth-female as the source of life in their cosmologies but also to a male sky (the early rationale for Venus being considered male as it was part of the male sky). This division gave about equal attention to both genders. There was also a middle world (the surface of the earth) where humans, animals, plants, and just about everything had their abode.
Illustration 2: Color Coded Angle View
Illustration 3: Angle View
Her Face, Her Appearance --The Face of the Earth
In this paper we will attempt to show that the rather odd, to our eyes, obese shape of the figurine was not based on any idealized female of the time but rather the use of gesture signs for the basis of the composition. Everything about this figurine was consciously thought out in order to compose and communicate a definite cosmological meaning. We may not be able to be aware of all the associations that went into the form of the figure but we can show some of the how and why of its construction. One of the reasons for Figure's Head having no Face is because it was her Body, see the red outline, that was, her Face (meaning, her appearance). The “face of the earth” is a phrase still in use today. Also, a Body was commonly used as an underlying template for ancient compositions. The Bodies need not be human as they could also be based on animals, insects, or even plants and objects. There was even a rationale for the earth's overly Large Eyes as the Eye was the (Great, relative size) Eye of the Sun otherwise known as the Great-Star (Venus) among other metaphors. These Large Eyes (blue-gray) alluded to the
normal position of the eyes on any face. The signs placed over the position of the eyes could appear eye-like or not depending on the message. Here they seem to be in the Form of an Egg meaning, the great one, relative size, the one who will emerge. There was a set of rather complex rules that needed to be followed when creating a composition otherwise any communicational value would have been lost. This is the reason for the often strange, constricted or distorted imagery often found in ancient compositions. This Figure was intended to be manipulated as it was read. Because it is three dimensional subtle differences in meaning may arise when viewed from different angles. For example, the (blue gray) Breasts appear as an (right side) an Egg while the Form of the Left Breast,from this angle forms a male-spirit sign. The male-spirit, the one who will emerge. The (green) “V” positioned over the Elbow was maybe viewed a sort of Hinge on a doorway that opens and closes. The Arms and Hands were positioned as on the Breasts or the metaphorical hills of the earth. This concept was further enhanced by the Form of the (red) Triangle meaning the earth-female. This positions the Arms and Hands as on the sides of the hills of the earth. These Arms and Hands have the same meaning as those found around the Waist of the Figure which will be discussed below. The warrior-priests, their spirits, on the hillsides. There is another pair of Arms and Hands on the figure which will be shown and explained below.. The earth-female has no, observable, Feet (the sign for a walk or journey) because she was not thought of as moving on her own. However, Her upper (blue-green) Legs are in the Form of Large Water Drops, great particles of water. Her lower Legs are in the (blue) Form of the sign for a male-spirit. The (black) Eyebrows as Severed Fingers pointing a direction, here, on the sides. In the original Figure the Fingers can be seen as pointing toward each side of the Face of the earth-female. This indicates that Venus appears on both sides of the earth (the east and west). Her Ears allude to orifices or holes, positional, on the sides, of the earth (her face). It was, presumably, the spirits and, in a metaphorical parallel,Venus that descended into the underworld and ascended from it via these holes. (The black) Hair on the Head of the earth-female is the sign for growth or development. The count of the levels of the (green) vertical-place signs is Five. The number Five indicates the four directions plus the center. This was viewed as a cosmological center of the earth often referred to as the navel of the earth –its center. The Blank Head (alluding to the position of a Face) has several signs that are not not entirely clear but we can see the five levels of vertical-place signs, a full Half Circle Form indicating the upper-world, and a Horizontal Quarter Circle or underside that represented the underworld.
Illustration 4: Her Face, Her Appearance
Illustration 5: Her Body, Color Coded
The fat area of the Waistline are (tan outlines) Arms and Hands that refer to the Eyes and Hands of the Sun, in other words the warrior-stewards (or perhaps warrior-priests in today's terms). On the overall Figure level these hands are the Hands of the earth-female and are placed over the Enlarged Stomach indicating the Stance that the earth was pregnant. The other pair of Hands and Arms, as noted above, were placed on the Breasts which also served as an allusion to the position of the Eyebrows on a Face. When the Breasts are perceived as the Eyes on a Face the Arms and Hands served as Eyebrows. On the next level it is strictly the Large (great) Arms/Hands or the great warrior-stewards of the Sun that were located (positioned) at the Navel of the earth or its cosmological center. We note that the dual holes of the Nostrils are in the (white) Form of Eyes. Further The Oval (dark tan) which is the sign for all incorporated the Eye forms, these, in turn are as the Hands, positioned between the (red) Triangular signs for the earth-female. Thus meaning all or everything between the sides of the earth or in the center. Such centers became a culture's center and were usually located at sites where subterranean water appeared on the surface (water from the underworld) that brought up the spirits of the culture's deceased. It was from such doorways or portals that the spirits arose in their departure to the sky and the stars. This part of the ancient cosmology was based on the water cycle and the part evaporation played in taking up the spirits, by the Sun, along with the water to the sky. We have seen that the Figure's Legs are actually in the Form of (blue-green) Large Water Drops or great water-particles. Attached to the water-particles (positionally where the Feet, a walk or a journey would be expected) are the (light blue) Curved male-spirit signs that were based on the glans penis. The above translation was made on the premise that the Figurine was based in gesture sign language and that the compositional system was non-linear or non sequential thus placing it outside the
awareness of many present day researchers who may be biased toward a view of the imagery as an art form. Also linguistic research (even computerized) is based on the concept that all scripts must be at least sequential.