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21 January 2020
17,000-year-old Venus statue in Romania stirs controversy

The alleged discovery of a 17,000-year-old Venus figurine in site near Piatra Neamt, in North-Eastern Romania, has stirred controversy after journalists reported that the figurine was found by two amateurs, not professional archeologists, raising questions about its authenticity. The team of archeologists who was in charge of the Paleolithic settlement (called Piatra Neamț 1) staged the discovery and made photos suggesting that they were on site when the figurine was found, thus aiming to make the discovery more credible.
     The circumstances in which the statue was found, the impossibility to date the material from which the statue is made, its nearly perfect state, and the style that doesn't match the period when it was supposedly created point rather to a fake than to an authentic discovery, according to specialists.
     The discovery of the Venus figurine took place on June 21, 2019, and was announced officially on December 11, 2019. The discovery was announced by the Museum of Human Evolution and Technology in the Paleolithic in Targoviste, whose team of archeologists, coordinated by professors Marin Carciumaru and Elena Nitu, was in charge of the Piatra Neamt site.
     In order to specify the exact age of the statuette, several series of radiocarbon dating were made in two different laboratories, and the item resulted 17,000 years old. This would mean that the figurine could be the oldest stone sculpture ever found in Romania and in this part of Europe. An exceptional feature of the statue from Piatra Neamț is offered by its intact preservation, especially since the vast majority of paleolithic stone statues discovered so far have been found in a more or less fragmentary state.
     Made of sandstone, the statuette measures about 10 cm and keeps various traces of processing. The sculpture went on display at the Museum of Human Evolution and Technology in Paleolithic on December 18, 2019.
     However, journalists found that after its original discovery made by by two amateur archeologists who had been working with the team from Targoviste on the Piatra Neamt site, the professional archaeologists went back to the site the next day to bury it and stage the discovery and take photos. The reason they did this is that the law doesn't allow amateur archeologists to dig in official sites without supervision from specialists. Thus, news that the statue was discovered by amateurs would have compromised its scientific value. Initially, professor Marin Carciumaru denied that the statue was found by amateurs but, when confronted by journalists, admitted to staging the discovery, which he called 'reconstitution'.
     Mircea Anghelinu, a professor at the Valahia University in Targoviste and one of Romania’s specialists in the Paleolithic, challenged the discovery of the Venus due to the controversial context in which it was made."The statue from Piatra Neamț clearly refers to the Gravettian style, while the chronology specified by the discoverers is many millennia younger (17,000 years), indicating an Epigravettian context. Thus, as a consequence, there are two possibilities: either the statue is a fake or its dating is wrong!" Anghelinu explained.

Edited from Romania Insider (6 January 2020)

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