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The Venus of Frasassi, Venere di Frasassi

Frasassi Venus

Carved from a piece of stalactite. Upper Paleolithic, between 28 thousand and 20 thousand years ago. Dimensions: 87 mm high, weighing about 66 grams. Its color is pearl white.

(The face is barely shown. Breasts are large, and placed high on the chest. A navel is shown on the full abdomen, and the vulva is clearly shown in relief. Legs taper to about below the level of the knees, which are not shown, when they are broken off or were never carved.

Most unusually, the forearms extend well in front of the body, as though they were used to hold something. It is difficult to be sure from the photo, but it seems that the head has been carved in two portions, with a groove between the front and back - Don

Source: On display at the Archaeological Museum of Ancona, Museo Archeologico di Ancona.

Frasassi Caves
Frasassi Venus


Frasassi Caves Frasassi Caves
Grotte di Frasassi are a remarkable karst cave system in the municipality of Genga, Italy, in the province of Ancona, Marche.

They are among the most famous show caves in Italy. The formation on the left is known as the organ pipes. The caves, discovered by a group of Ancona speleologists between 1948 and 1971. Rich in water, the cave system is particularly well endowed with stalactites and stalagmites.

Photos : Kessiye, 12 September 2006
Permission: Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence.

Text: Wikipedia

venus tolentino venus tolentino
The Venus of Tolentino.

This piece was also on display with the Venere di Frasassi at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale Delle Marche di Ancona, in the exhibition from November 27, 2009 to March 30, 2010. This is a figure carved with a burin on thin chert, height about 13 cm. The drawing depicts a woman with zoomorphic features. It has legs, breasts, and a geometric vulva, but the body is surmounted by a cow's head (or a herbivorous animal, bovid or equid).

It was so called because it was found in a clay pit east of Tolentino, in 1883, and then donated to the Museum by Count Aristide Silverj Gentiloni, who immediately realised what an extraordinary exhibit he had.

The Venus de Tolentino has been dated to a period between 5 000 and 12 000 years ago, between the Pleistocene and Neolithic, when agriculture developed in Europe. The stone on which the Venus is carved was probably used as a tool striker, or to crush seeds. Both ends are chipped from use.

Photo (left):

Photo (right): scansione da Tuttitalia, enciclopedia dell'Italia antica e moderna (volume Marche) Sansoni-De Agostini, 1963
Permission: Public Domain

Frasassi Caves
Tolentino Venus


Text below adapted from Massi et al (1997)

Tolentino Venus
Line drawing of the Venus of Tolentino. Note the pairing of the venus with a herbivore's head, as well as the aurochs head on the other side.

Photo: Massi et al (1997)

The piece has been exposed to weathering, probably in the bed of a stream.

Current location: Museo Archeologico Nazionale delle Marche, Ancona
Inventory Number 8803
Support: An elongated sub-triangular stone, with a cross-section that tends towards planoconvex, smooth but with some natural depressions.
Raw material: chert
Length 127 mm, width 41 mm, thickness 21 mm
Weight: 150 g
Conservation: There are no modern changes
State of the surfaces: very glossy. Presence of deposits of calcium carbonate (pseudomycelia) and holes from lichens (perithecia).
Colour (Munsell): 10 YR 5/6. 10 YR 4/3
Front side The piece is engraved with a female figure, in a frontal position, with the head of herbivore in profile, turned towards In the left and upward. The muzzle is elongated, with rounded ends and slightly convex.

The eye is indicated by a short curved line. The breasts are small and triangular, suggesting a pointed shape and a pendular position. They have no nipples and are perfectly symmetrical.

The arms are shown folded on the torso, with no detail in the elbows. The arms intersect at the waist, with the left forearm delineated more clearly than the right. The left hand ends with three fingers side by side, with the right arm and hand less clearly shown. The right hand is incomplete and schematic, with only two fingers side by side. It is unclear whether the missing fingers were deliberately omitted. The line of the left hand has two downward projections which might be interpreted as the thumb and the index finger. In this case, however, the hand would be depicted with the palm forward, and thus in an unnatural position.

Immediately below, the pelvis, at a point a little below the waist, is crossed by a double row of short vertical dashes 6 above and 10 below, connected by a transverse finely engraved line. Below there is a nearly equilateral triangle, face down and heavily engraved, which marks the pubis. This pubic triangle has the two upper vertices rounded, and the lower vertex open at the point where the line of separation of the legs begins.

The line of the flanks is interrupted by one of the hands, which partially overlaps it. The hips are not marked and the line continues to indicate the outlines the thigh and the leg, after a slight inflection at the knee. The two legs are clearly separated by a double line which meets at the pubis and continues down towards the feet which are not shown. This part of the stone has been removed by chipping, but it seems certain that the ends have never been shown and that the delineation of the legs was always incomplete. Also from the knees, the figure has dashes, mostly transverse, superimposed on it, which partly protrude, and partly continue on the inside of the legs.

Reverse side

A profile of a herbivore is engraved on the side. Only part of the head is shown. The face is squat, without a clear indication of the ears and horns. The eye, the nostril and the mouth are outlined.


  1. Massi A. et al, 1997: La 'Venere' di Tolentino ed i pionieri della ricerca archeologica, Origini, 21, 23-61

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