So-called “venus figurines”, female nudes standing upright, designed to be stuck in the ground, and then covered with red ochre, were made as an unbroken artistic and symbolic tradition of the Eurasian continent that lastet for at least 30.000 years (between 40.000 B.C-10.000 B.C).
(Red ochre is otherwise known from Paleolithic burials and have been understood to symbolise rebirth of some kind. People were usually buried in fetal position in a rounded grave.)
The tradition stretched from Portugal in the West to Siberian Lake Baikal in the East, and appears to have continued into the Neolithic, where the figurines often appear in shrines and temples, and must be understood as goddesses.
Were the Paleolithic predecessors also symbols of a goddess? Did Ice Age people have a concept of “god” or “goddess” at all? Their spiritual life was almost certainly essentially shamanistic, and we know from Circumpolar shamanistic tribal cultures that survived into modern times, that they commonly had a concept of an “Ancestral Mother” who protected the camp and ruled the hunt, providing the game. The Ancestral Mother was also the hatcher and rebirther, teacher and initiator of shamans. She was a mythical figure that was seen as a “first shaman”, and as the great provider and protector.
Many Siberian tribes are reported to have created and used similar “venus figurines” to which they prayed and offered a part of the game, and which were symbols of the Ancestral Mother -- surely an early form of worship and religion, even if they had no concept of deity.
Not in the movie: Proto-Uralic mythology, originating around Lake Onega, featured as a main figure the so-called Sun Mother and the so-called Death Mother, one situated to the south, the other to the north. The Sun Mother received the souls of the dead, and of the fledgling shamans, whom she bathed in her lake, where they were reborn. The souls were in the shape of water birds. (Naploskikh -- Proto-Uralic Mythology). This myth dates back at least 5000 years and features basically in all Finno-Ugric and Uralic mythologies. It created images of a half-bird, half woman to represent this shamanistic goddess prototype. In Sami mythology, the Sun Maiden is the origin of all souls, which come as rays of the sun to the Earth Mother Matahrakka -- “The Ancestral Mother”…
Some historians have completely disregarded these shamanistic modern continuations, or indeed the Neolithic continuations, seeing them as fully separated by time, and invented a number of other possible explanations with which they feel more comfortable ( “dolls”, “pin-ups”). However, the earliest sacred writings in this world are hymns to a great goddess who is the greatest among all powers. Besides, if the animal figures created by the same people actually represent mythology or even astronomy, as has recently been promoted, it would seem that the venus tradition also represent something more esoteric and spiritual.
I believe that the Ice Age Venus figurines are goddess prototypes, whether they were perceived as symbols of a very important “spirit” among countless spirits, or as an actual goddess. That we are speaking of a singular goddess is absolutely probable. I see a clear continuation to Neolithic goddess cults -- the moment people started to build shrines and temples, they put nude female figurines in them. A tradition that lasted for no less than 30.000 years, perhaps even much more than that, could very well have lasted another 10.000 years…
Sources in the end of the movie.
Note also that I do not in the movie make any claim as to gender roles in these societies. I show a few figurines (and there are very few) that seem to represent portraits of important people rather than mythological prototypes. Two of them are women, two of them are males (at least, one surely is, the other is ambigous), probably representing shamans.
Eurasian shamanistic cultures known from modern times show a slight variation as to gender roles, but are generally quite flexible about it, no gender is more important than the other and both sexes can be shamans. This is even after thousands of years in close interaction with patriarchal civilisations.
Nothing point towards gender inequality among Ice Age people, the extreme dominance of the female in art probably points to religion (a goddess or similar) rather than society.