Prehistoric Figurine Shows Our Ancestors' Appreciation For The Female Form

Buxom beauties with Rubenesque figures have been the subjects of artists throughout history and, it seems even in pre-history. Exceedingly rare, the clay figure found in near Higashiomi in Japan's Shiga prefecture is only the second one of its type to be found in the country - another female figuring was found by researchers in 1996 near the Mie prefecture town of Matsusaka.

Permits for archeological digs are hard to come by in Japan as many of the known sites are imperial tombs dating from the early Yayoi period, when the ancestors of today's Japanese first built a historically documented society.

Before the emergence of the Yayoi culture, however, Japan was peopled by members of the Jomon culture (14,000 BCE to 300 BCE). The Jomon were a Neolithic society who left very little in the way of stone or metal tools or structures. They did create pottery - some of the first known anywhere in the world - and the clay figurine found in Shiga is therefore a very noteworthy find as it is obviously not utilitarian in nature.

The figurine, actually the better part of a torso with a hole at the top of its neck, is just 3.1 cm (1.25") tall and weighs a mere 14.6 grams, or about 1/2 ounce.

According to the Shiga Prefectural Association for Cultural Heritage, members of which discovered the figurine at the Aidanikumahara archaeological site, the curvy and very obviously female torso dates back approximately 13,000 years and bears the hallmarks of the Jomon Pottery Culture. It joins the 25,000-year-old carved stone "Venus Of Willendorf" (above), found in central Europe, as one of the few non-utilitarian sculptures produced by our pre-civilized ancestors. (via Asahi Shimbun and Iabrno)