Recent additions, changes and updates to Don's Maps


Back to Don's Maps


Berekhat figurine
The female figurine from Berekhat Ram, in Israel. It is the oldest known figurative carving in the world. and is somewhere between 233 000 and 800 000 years old, older than Neanderthal man, and probably carved by Homo Erectus. The date is between these values because it has been found between two layers of volcanics, the upper one is about 230,000 years old, and the lower one approximates 800,000 years old. The original pebble bore a resemblance to a female, and this was enhanced by the carver, who cut grooves around the neck and along its arms. Microscopic analysis by Alexander Marshack has now made it clear that humans were responsible. It is carved into a piece of tuff, which is formed when volcanic ash settles on the landscape and is hot enough to weld together into a light, porous rock, often like pumice stone, which is tuff formed on the surface of the ocean.
Photo: P. Bahn, 'Prehistoric Art'

Commercial Berekhat figurine
Commercial Berekhat Ram figurine, bearing not a lot of resemblance to the original.
Photo: What is apparently the oldest figurine in characteristic female form, is a modified piece of lava stone, called tuff . It has been found in the Levantine area of southern Syria between two layers of volcanics, the upper one is about 230,000 years old, and the lower one approximates 800,000 years old. This places the figurine in the Acheulian Paleolithic. Thus it predates Homo Sapiens Sapiens and Homo Sapiens Neanderthaliensis, and has been made by very Archaic Homo Sapiens or Homo Erectus !! Alexander Marshack, who has studied this object using high magnification microscopy, has concluded that toolmarks are present indication modification and enhancements of the natural features of the pebble. I found this photo published in Paul G. Bahn : The Cambridge Illustrated History of Prehistoric Art Published : 1998, Cambridge University Press It is a pleasure and inspiration to read this book and view its many illustrations. Better known than this photo of the genuine object is the one of a slick and misleading commercial replica. This photo can be seen on : "Comparison of the Slick Commercial Replica with the Genuine Object" The Berekhat Ram Figurine Comparison of the Commercial Replica and the Genuine Object Here is the photo of the slick commercial replica of the Berekhat Ram Figurine, that one can find displayed on many web sites, and that I had originally displayed on the "Enhanced Natural Phenomena" Web Page. Next to it is a photo of the genuine object. Berekhat Ram, Israel Older than 230,000 BP, Homo Erectus or Archaic Homo Sapiens !! After much searching I finally succeeded in finding that photo of the genuine object in "The Cambridge Illustrated History of Prehistoric Art" by Paul G Bahn, published in 1998 by the Cambridge University Press. What a pleasure and inspiration to view this book's many illustrations, and reading the text. You can click on the photo of the commercial replica to view its source. Comparison of the two photo's : Looking at the two photo's side by side it is immediately aparent that the features of the genuine object are less anthropomorphic from our viewpoint. Compare the rough texture and dark color of the tuff with the smooth texture and light coloring of the replica. This smoothness and light color are very misleading, because we associate it with femininity !! Homo Erectus, however, was probably dark skinned and still very hairy, and would most likely have had a very different opinion. Beware, we tend to impose our twentieth century sensibilities !! ------------------------------------------------------------------------ UPDATE This figurine has been studied in detail by Dr. Francesco d'Errico (Institut de Prhistoire et de Geologie du Quaternaire, Talence, France) and April Nowell (University of Pensylvania). An article was published on the Sept.25, 2000 issue of the National Geographic News. Unfortunately there are no photos accompanying this article. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ If you like to find out more about this figurine click on: A Dialog with Professor Dhabel

Back to Don's Maps