The Acheulian Ancient Mother: the oldest Goddess in the world

by Lydia Ruyle

Until the past few decades the famous Willendorf Venus, carved in bone 30,000 years ago, was held to be the earliest human-created work of art and veneration [see GA14 p.6]. However, in the summer of 1981 a grooved scoria pebble that had been deliberately shaped was excavated at the Acheulian site of Berekhat Ram. The site is located in the Golan Heights at Israel, where a nomadic hominid tribe, who predated even the Neanderthal era, had been camping in the area between an astounding 232,000 and 800,000 thousand years ago. The figurine was found between two layers of volcanic ash, the upper one 232,000 and the lower one 800,000 years old.

Acheulian Ancient Mother
A report on the find* concluded that the pebble had been deliberately selected and shaped, and went on to say: “The scoria pebble is rounded and partially weathered. Several grooves are discernible on the object. The grooves are considered to be artificial and purposefully human made. The technological and statistic properties … manifest a high degree of manufacture ability. The artifacts were modified with an impressive skill both in terms of technology and values of symmetry and shape. Based on this evidence we assume that the inhabitants of the Acheulian site were both physically and mentally capable of modifying pebbles to achieve a required form. It seems that the occupants of the site selected a pebble that bore some characteristics of a female body. These were enhanced by adding the incised grooves delimiting the head and arms and the vulva.”
Acheulian Ancient Mother

According to the Journal of Israel Prehistoric Society, this astounding figurine, carved from scoria stone (a porous volcanic rock), can be considered as “the earliest manifestation of a work of art”. Although she predates the Willendorf Goddess by an amazing quarter-million years, they are much alike in that both are distinctly female, great breasted with featureless heads and discrete limbs. Also like Willendorf, the Acheulian Goddess appears to have a groove suggestive of the sacred vulva.

I created a Goddess Icon Spirit Banner of the Acheulian Ancient Mother for the 2007 Goddess Conference in Glastonbury which focused on the Crone [pictured on front cover of this GA!]. She also flew for a month of October at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado.

* “A Figurine from the Acheulian Site of Berekhat Ram” by Naama Goren-Inbar of the Hebrew Institute of Archaeology; excerpted from Mitekjaft Haeven, The Journal of the Israel Prehistoric Society, Vol. 19, Jerusalem 1986, pp. 7-12.