Venus figurines—such as the famous Willendorf
Venus--provide a possible window into the reproductive preferences of ancestral
humans. These figurines cover a period of about 20000 years of human history
and have been found across ice-age Europe. There are a number of unknowns about
such figurines. For example, they may be votive offerings, idealisations, or
have some as-yet, unguessed-at function. Ancient figurines typically display
body types typically considered obese by modern standards of medicine and aesthetics.
While some have averred that such figurines show a marked change in human body
preferences over thousands of years it is possible that this has been an
artifact of particular approaches to measuring such figurines. Measuring a
fuller extent of the markers of fat deposition seems to support a case for
arguing that male preferences have broadly tracked fertility markers over
ancestral time. The waist-to-hip ratio is arguably a more important fertility
marker than obesity per se—and a 0.7 ratio has been found cross-culturally and
in this sample. It is likely that such preferences have been further calibrated
by local ecological variations—for example as regards food supply—but these
calibrations would not have a great impact on proportionality preferences.
Great caution must be taken in reading too much into such a limited sample.