Evidence of Early Women Artists

"In the beginning, god was a woman."
- Mary Kilbourne Matossian

Probably Inanna, Sumerian, c. 2,000 BCE.











Historic Context
Prehistoric Period
2,500,000 - 230,00 BCE
Paleolithic Era - "Old Stone Age"
Earliest cultures form
Humans begin to make basic tools and earliest works of art
200,00- - 40,000 BCE
Mesolithic Era - "Middle Stone Age"
Humans begin practicing ritual burial
123,000 BCE
Human populations migrate out of Africa & Near East
40,000 - 3,000 BCE
Neolithic Era - "New Stone Age"
Cro Magnon man (anatomically modern) replaces Neanderthal
Humans make more refined tools
Shift from migratory to agrarian lifestyle
Modern language developed along with earliest forms of writing












Prehistoric humans employed a diverse range of materials and techniques while creating what we now call "art."
They drew and painted
Bison from the Altamira Cave, Spain, c. 15,000 - 10,000 BCE.











utilizing both abstract & realistic imagery.
Shaft of the Dead Man
Lascaux Cave, France
, c. 19,000 BCE.










They often stamped
Palm dots, Chauvet Cave, ca. 30,000 - 28,000 BCE.











and stenciled.
Hand stencil from Chauvet Cave, France, c. 28,000 BCE.











They made subtractive sculpture
Engraved Ochre
Engraved Ochre from Blombos Cave, South Africa.
c. 75,000 BCE.  Length 4".











additive sculpture,
Neolithic Chinese Pot  c. 3500 BCE.












and even installation art!
Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England, c. 2000 BCE.












Given this diversity, why have we assumed for so long that only prehistoric men made art?


Joseph S. Venus, Artisans of the Rock, contemporary.
Gravettian women and interior
What we commonly imagine
Why not this as well?


More information on the possible roles of women in prehistoric cultures












Mesopotamian Vessel  c. 4500 - 4,000 BCE
Pomo Treasure basket, before 1837.











Venus or Woman of Willendorf,  25,000 – 20,000 BCE. 4 3/8” high. 


More on the discovery and object






















Why would a prehistoric person (of any gender) have taken the time to make this?

Why then, carry the object?

Venus or Woman of Willendorf,  25,000 – 20,000 BCE. 4 3/8” high. 











Possible Moravian Hairstyles











Venus or Woman of Willendorf,  25,000 – 20,000 BCE.

pregnant woman











  • Over one hundred such figures found, from Siberia to Spain
  • Made out of soft stones, small in size, and dating between 35,000 to 11,000 BCE
  • All having pronounced breasts, buttocks, and bellies, with no faces or feet.
Woman of Willendorf and the Venus of Lespuge,
Mammoth ivory, height 7 13/16".
Venus of Dolni Vestonice 29,000 - 25,000 BCE, Ceramic.












Venus of Hohle Fels
Venus of Hohle Fels (Germany)c. 35,000 BCE











Womanly form with Bison, Chauvet Cave

Werner Herzog, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, 2010.

42:30 and 1:07:20