The whole world did, and recently, when some interesting home decor was found at Abri Castanet in France at the site of a 37,000 year old rock shelter – a carving that appears to represent a vulva, reports Stephanie Pappas of LiveScience.
The artists who put the vulva on the now-collapsed shelter ceiling would have been the Aurignicians, the first humans in Europe who arrived from Africa, hunter-gatherers who also made wearable art: jewelry made from ivory, shells and pierced animal teeth. Archeological expeditions at the site have been going since 1911, but less advanced techniques made them unable to determine the age or origins of carvings that had been previously found. Pappas writes that “The researchers weren’t sure there was much left at the Abri Castanet site after 100 years of excavation, but the underside of the rock ceiling met their wildest expectations.”
Randall White, a study researcher and an anthropologist at New York University told LiveScience that homo sapiens left evidence of art as long as 40,000 years ago though they’ve been around for 200,000 years. In fairness, it takes awhile to get settled into a place before you really start getting a feel for decorating.
And thinking of it that way, as “quotidian art, it’s every day art,” as Randall describes it – the things they looked at all the time, like you look at whatever you have on your walls makes it really intriguing. It’s also important White says, to see it as an invention, since what the Aurignicians, were doing was “groundbreaking”. Whether they are really vulvas is debated about anthropologists – but isn’t the meaning of art always a subject for debate?. Depictions of the vulva may have represented a a “preoccupation with fertility and the mystery of birth”, according to White.
It also makes us think how crazy it seems for modern humans to worry about depictions of nudity in our culture when clearly our own human sexuality has been fascinating to us ever since art was invented.