Sculpture is one of the oldest forms of art – prehistoric people even carved sculptures before they painted. But only a few objects remain to display what sculpture was really like thousands of years ago. From surviving prehistoric pieces, we can determine that sculptures were not originally made to be visually appealing; they were instead used to provide spiritual support.
Sculptural work from the Paleolithic period consisted mainly of figurines, beads and decorative objects constructed with stone, bone, ivory, clay, and wood. Most sculptures from this period were found in caves, as they were commonly the locations for ritual gatherings. The caves also helped to protect these items over time.
The oldest known prehistoric piece of sculpture art is the Venus of Berekhat Ram, found on the Golan Heights, which dates back to the Acheulean culture. Made of volcanic rock, the sculpture is intensely primitive in style. The sculpture is one of many Venus figurines found in Europe, dating from the Upper Paleolithic period. They were quite small, only measuring between 4 and 25 centimeters, an ideal of beauty from that time. They were oval shapes, lacking hands and feet, with large bellies, breasts and wide-set thighs. Although initially thought to be symbolic of fertility, the true significance of the Venus figures remains obscure, similar to a vast amount of other prehistoric art.