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November 19 2012

'Palaeo-porn': we've got it all wrong


Which Palaeolithic images and artefacts have been described as pornography?
The Venus figurines of women, some with exaggerated anatomical features, and ancient rock art, like the image from the Abri Castanet site in France that is supposedly of female genitalia.

You take issue with this interpretation. Who is responsible for spreading it, journalists or scientists?
People are fascinated by prehistory, and the media want to write stories that attract readers - to use a cliché, sex sells. But when a New York Times headline reads "A Precursor to Playboy: Graphic Images in Rock", and Discover magazine asserts that man's obsession with pornography dates back to "Cro-Magnon days" based on "the famous 26,000-year-old Venus of Willendorf statuette...[with] GG-cup breasts and a hippopotamal butt", I think a line is crossed. To be fair, archaeologists are partially responsible - we need to choose our words carefully.

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