|30 July 2005
Ancient stone phallus unearthed in cave
A sculpted and polished phallus found in a German cave is among the earliest representations of male sexuality ever uncovered, researchers say. The 20cm-long, 3cm-wide stone object, which is dated to be about 28,000 years old, was buried in the famous Hohle Fels Cave near Ulm in the Swabian Jura.
The prehistoric 'tool' was reassembled from 14 fragments of siltstone. Its life size suggests it may well have been used as a sex aid by its Ice Age makers, scientists report. "In addition to being a symbolic representation of male genitalia, it was also at times used for knapping flints," explained Professor Nicholas Conard, from the department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology, at Tübingen University. Researchers believe the object's distinctive form and etched rings around one end mean there can be little doubt as to its symbolic nature.
The Tübingen team working Hohle Fels already had 13 fractured parts of the phallus in storage, but it was only with the discovery of a 14th fragment last year that the team was able finally to put the 'jigsaw' together. The different stone sections were all recovered from a well-dated ash layer in the cave complex associated with the activities of modern humans.
The dig site is one of the most remarkable in central Europe. Hohle Fels has produced thousands of Upper Palaeolithic items. Some have been truly exquisite in their sophistication and detail, such as a 30,000-year-old avian figurine crafted from mammoth ivory. It is believed to be one of the earliest representations of a bird in the archaeological record.
There are other stone objects known to science that are obviously phallic symbols and are slightly older - from France and Morocco, of particular note. But to have any representation of male genitalia from this time period is highly unusual. "Female representations with highly accentuated sexual attributes are very well documented at many sites, but male representations are very, very rare," explained Professor Conard.
The Hohle Fels phallus will go on show at Blaubeuren prehistoric museum in an exhibition called Ice Art - Clearly Male.
Sources: BBC News, Iol.co.za (25 July 2005)
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