30-40,000-year-old sculptures made of Ivory from a Mammoth

In light of this and the 30,000-year-old Bosnia pyramid as well as the Earlier Steppe cultures in the Ukraine and Romania. I would say Northern Africa was invaded by Earlier Europeans not the other way around. For years, Egyptologists and archaeologists have thought the Great Sphinx of Giza to be about 4,500 years old, dating to around 2500 B.C. However, some recent studies have suggested that the Sphinx was built as long ago as 7000 B.C. When we do the math there is an obvious contradiction to what we think our history is.

The Lady of Brassempouy

Although now one of the most famous Paleolithic furniture works, the exotic aspect of this small mammoth ivory figurine brought its discoverer headlines.

30.08.13 - 01:21 - JULIO ARRIETA | @JulioArrietaSan
translated by Bret C. Sheppard | bretcolin@gmail.com
source: http://www.elcorreo.com/vizcaya/20130830/mas-actualidad/sociedad/dama-brassempouy-201308291921.html

It is one of the most famous archaeological pieces, has illustrated innumerable covers of prehistory books and for decades was considered the oldest known portrait of a human being. The Lady of Brassempouy, also known as Lady of the hood, is one of the most famous sculptures in history. This diminutive little head is so exceptional that its discoverer, Édouard Piette (1827-1906), came to consider the possibility that it might be a forgery. The thoroughness of his work and the modern studies of the figure have confirmed the authenticity of the piece, whose meaning remains an unknown.

The Lady of Brassempouy is a tiny sculpture carved on mammoth ivory, 3 inches high, 2.2 wide and 1.9 thick. It is the head of a woman depicted in a schematic rather than realistic manner, with a triangular face, nose, and eyebrows well shaped, but without mouth or eyes. It is touched by what some think is a very elaborate hairstyle and others believe it is some kind of cap or hood. The debate on this item remains open. Maybe it's just the mane reproduced in a very stylized way. Its antiquity has been estimated between 26,000 and 24,000 years, belongs therefore to the phase of the Upper Paleolithic known as gravetiense. Although it is unique, this figurine is not an isolated object. It is part of a set of small sculptures found at the end of the 19th century in the Grotte du Pape (Cave of the Pope), a cavity of the various that form the site of Brassempouy, 2 kilometers from the locality that gives it name, in the south of the Landes (France).

"The portable art of the Glacier Era includes thousands of engravings and sculptures of small objects in stone, bone, horn, and ivory," explains Colin Renfrew and Paul G. Bahn in his already classic handbook 'Archeology: Theories, Methods and practice '(edited by Akal). "The vast majority of the identifiable figures are animals, but perhaps the most famous pieces are the so-called 'Venus' figurines, such as the Venus limestone rock in Willendorf, Austria, with frequent emphasis on breasts and buttocks. the figurines possibly indicate a relation of the same with the fecundity ". When the first excavations at Brassempouy were carried out these statuettes were still a novel rarity. In fact, when Piette arrived at the place he was only aware of the existence of one, the so-called Venus impudence, found by the Marquis de Vibraye in Laugerie-Basse (Dordogne) in 1864. There was some other feminine representation, such as Femme au renne , engraved on a flagpole, found in the same field, and were the statuettes of Grimaldi, which remained unpublished for commercial reasons and of which Piette was not yet aware.

Randall White, of the University of New York, makes an exhaustive tour of history in 'The Women of Brassempouy: A Century of Research and Interpretation' (Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, vol. of the excavations of the deposit. The Grotte du Pape was discovered during the reconditioning of a road through the properties of the Count de Poudenx in 1880. The aristocrat authorized the first excavation, which was commissioned by an amateur archaeologist and pharmacist by profession, Pierre-Eudoxe Dubalen, who published an article the following year, animated by Piette, in which he revealed the materials found, labeled "Magdalenians." The site remained intact until 1891. In this second excavation, the pickets were handled by Joseph de la Porterie, a relative of the owner, and Albert Léon-Dufour, who found several pieces of ivory and confirmed that it was a very promising field. The next to intervene was Édouard Piette.

Piette (1827-1906) was not an archaeologist. He was a lawyer, never left the laws and became a judge, although archeology was for him much more than a hobby. He was interested in the prehistory of the Pyrenees during a stay for health reasons in a resort of Bagnères-de-Luchon, in 1871, and when it arrived at Brassempouy already had excavated in several caves, works that had paid of his pocket. The most important of these deposits was Mas d'Azil, in which he had begun to excavate in 1887 and where, in addition to identifying the Epipaleolithic culture he christened Aziliense, he discovered a beautiful horse head carved in ivory, one of the works most notable of Palaeolithic furniture art. Piette ended up forming a superb collection of this type of art that would dominee in 1902 to the Museum of National Archeology of Saint Germain en Laye.

"Archaeological Razzia"

The first steps of Piette in Brassempouy were unfortunate, not to say catastrophic. The organizers of the Congress of the French Association for the Advancement of Science (AFAS), which was to be held in Pau, asked him for a deposit to which the participants could go for 'archaeological excursion'. That is, to spend a joyful day of excavation. Piette advised them to go to Brassempouy, considering it to be one of the "most interesting sites in the Pyrenean region". The idea was that, after the passage of the congressmen, the formal excavation was resumed by Piette and De la Porterie. As an advance, on September 10, 1892, De la Porterie, Piette and an AFAS member spent the afternoon excavating at the entrance of the cave in the company of Emile Cartailhac, an omnipresent personality - and overwhelming - in the French archeology of the time.

Two days before the tour, the cave was 'prepared' to welcome the expeditionaries. The preparation consisted of the emergence of a group of peons who cleared and raided part of the entrance of the cavity without any supervision, to the horror of Piette, who discovered the mess when there was no remedy. The workers deposited the archaeological remains that they considered of interest in a nearby house. Among them was the first statuette found in Brassempouy, broken into several pieces by a blow of tool given by one of the workers. But the worst was yet to come.

The visit of the congressmen, on September 19, 1892, can only be described as a ferocious plunder and in fact Henri Delporte, who would resume the excavation of the site in 1981, defines it as an authentic "archaeological razzia" ('Brassempouy, histoire of a gisement ', in' Pyrénées préhistoriques, arts et societes', 1996). A small horde composed of forty feverish scientists threw themselves into the entrance area of the cave with spikes, pallets or whatever they had at hand, each in its corner and without losing sight of the advances of the neighbor until they filled their bags with everything they found interesting. At least three pieces of ivory came to light in this 'excavation', one of them an anthropomorphic figure baptized by Piette as l'Ebauche (The thinned). To make matters worse, the next day the site was attacked by furtive excavators.

Piette discovered that a statuette had disappeared to reappear shortly after in the possession of Cartailhac, in Toulouse. The story of this figure is anything but clear because there are at least three versions of what happened, which were also aired with rejoicing by the press giving rise to a phenomenal polemic, with its inevitable cross-accusations. In a letter, Piette explains that the workers who prepared the site for the visit of the congressmen had found the statuette and had broken it into several pieces, which they left in the house with the rest of objects. The day before the arrival of the hikers, and always according to Piette, "Mr. Trutat, accompanied by Mr. X, arrived at the site, where he met with Mr. Dubalen." The three went to the house and distributed the loot, "they took everything, both fauna and artifacts" (...) "Mr. Trutat is guilty of robbery and Mr. Dubalen of complicity and abuse of trust."

The version of Cartailhac is different: the finds were made available to the hikers at tables, as a kind of 'serve yourself' archaeological courtesy. In fact, Cartailhac uses the word 'buffet' to describe it. According to Dubalen, the figure was discovered during the 'excavation' on the 19th, he left it and sent it by mail to Emile Magitot, who sent it to Trutat, who entrusted it to Cartailhac. In any case, the prehistorian of Toulouse hurried to reconstruct the statuette, well-known like La Poire (the pear), and to present it in public. In addition, it began to maneuver so that they granted the permission to him to excavate in Brassempouy and to leave to Piette without field. Perhaps thanks to his ability of lawman, Piette won the battle and forced Cartailhac to return the figure and publish it in an anonymous article, edited in 'L'Anthopologie' in 1894. This statuette, La Poire, was baptized by Piette as the Venus de Brassempouy, a name with which, through a confusion, is often called the Lady of the hood.

A meticulous excavation

Piette managed to remove from the middle his easy rival and keep the permits of excavation, work that would be carried out in collaboration with Joseph de la Porterie between 1894 and 1897, in a very methodical and, by the standards of the very meticulous, since it gave an exceptional importance to the stratigraphy. The two archaeologists worked on the part of the entrance that had remained intact, but also inside the cave. During these excavations, the archaeologist lawyer found eight other statuettes, none of them complete. Among them is the Lady of the hood, whose exotic aspect left him baffled and plunged into uncertainty. In a letter he wrote after the campaign of 1894 (July 31), addressed to the director of the Saint Germain museum, he explained that "our excavation has been productive, M. de la Porterie and I have recovered more than 40 rhinoceros teeth, some mammoth teeth, some hyena jaws, numerous punches, and five fragments of human statuettes. " Among these is "the head of a woman adorned with an Egyptian wig." It is not the only 'strange' piece, because there is also a 'fragment of a figurine similar to the Egyptian dolls' and a third piece 'of statuette with a cape or a kind of hooded shawl', perhaps also Egyptian.

Piette cannot help but think of the possibility of a forgery. At worst someone has 'planted' these flashy pieces. The others do not pose any problem, they are figures of the "steatopic race", "obviously authentic.2 If the 'Egyptians' are also' the coexistence of two different races is confirmed." But what if they are not? a matter of La Poire, the statuette that comes and goes mysteriously, has won several enemies, some especially furious, and perhaps there are those who want to discredit him.But the looting of the congressmen had made him very cautious in his excavation to detect possible intrusions "I have no doubt that we do not see any removal on the surface, and I have so much experience excavating that I'm sure I would have seen it if it existed," he says in the same letter. "It is only for prudence that I express some doubts, since I noticed that there was no removal of sediments related to the introduction of objects in the reservoir. This discovery has been so unpredictable and so unusual that we have to confirm it. "

In a more detailed letter, signed on August 21, 1894, he reflects on the question again to conclude that the 'exotic' statuettes, one of them the "mongoloid woman's head with an Egyptian wig", are authentic. "The fraud hypothesis seems highly improbable." After describing the layer of earth in which the Lady appeared, he ruled that the figure was introduced from above and even from the trench opened by the congressmen. The piece showed traces of being buried long, and in fact the ivory "has acquired a yellow hue of the surrounding sediment". Piette would have liked to know that the most recent studies, such as those made by the aforementioned Randall White in the twenty-first century and with the current technical resources, confirm that indeed the Lady and the other figures of Brassempouy who troubled him so much authentic, but certainly not Egyptian.

The Lady of Brassempouy

Reproduction of the Lady in an exhibition of paleolithic furniture art.
"They are not works of the imagination"

When Piette wrote his first formal publication on Brassempouy ('The station of Brassempouy et les statuettes humaines de la période glyptique', published in 'L'Anthropologie', 1895) no one had yet formulated an interpretation of the anthropomorphic Paleolithic figures. They had not been given any meaning, nor had they been associated with deities or any cult connected with fertility. Piette did not care about this kind of analysis. As Randall White Piette explains, "it seems almost obsessed by two issues: racial differences in the collection of figurines and the resemblance of some of them to African populations." Indeed influenced by racial studies, in vogue at the time, Piette wanted to identify the 'races' that populated the region in prehistory. In his opinion, these races could be recognized through works of art, which he understood as realistic representations. "They are not works of the imagination, but copies of reality," he said in his article. Through the statues he concluded that in the region two types of populations lived during the Upper Paleolithic, a race related "with the Bushman race," which was characterized by steatopigia - the accumulation of fat in some parts of the body -, and another flat-belly and "thin thighs", "more civilized", to which would belong the woman represented by the Lady of the hood.

This racial approach quickly fell into disuse and was replaced by others who, in general, have seen a symbolic meaning in these pieces of furniture art. The meaning of the Lady of the hood and her sisters continues to be discussed. At the same time, the figurine is preserved in the Museum of National Archeology, in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, to which Piette bequeathed its magnificent collection.