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Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Robin Smith

Abstract

Interpretations of Upper Paleolithic Venus figurines pose an interesting challenge for archaeologists. Scholars who have studied these prehistoric representations of the female form have reached a variety of conclusions that may be better seen as a reflection of modern sociocultural values and ideals than being representative of the peoples who made the Venuses. I argue that by transposing our own ideals onto the Venus figurines, we act as colonizers and appropriators of the past. Reviewing archaeological literature regarding the Venuses, we gain a sense of the strengths and weaknesses of current approaches to interpreting representations of gender. These lessons serve as a starting point for constructing archaeological methods of interpreting representations of gender and gender relations in a way that more accurately reflects the ancient peoples who crafted these figurines.

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