Facebook Apologizes for Censoring ‘Dangerously Pornographic’ Venus of Willendorf, World’s Top Prehistoric Female Figurine

The Venus of Willendorf was made with flint tools about 29,500 years ago. Photo: Natural History Museum Vienna

Facebook has apologized for the “mistake" it made when it recently censored an image of the world’s most famous prehistoric female figurine, the 30,000-year-old Venus of Willendorf kept at the Natural History Museum in Vienna.

The Venus of Willendorf was discovered during archaeological excavations in 1908 at a Paleolithic site near Willendorf, Lower Austria.

The nude female figurine, which is 11.1 centimeters tall (4.4 inches) is estimated to have been made between 28,000 BC and 25,000 BC.

The controversy over Facebook’s censoring of the naked Venus of Willendorf as “pornographic” began in December 2017 when Italian arts activist Laura Ghianda posted on the social network a picture of the prehistoric art masterpiece which went viral.

In censoring the image of the world-famous Paleolithic Venus of Willendorf back then, Facebook even labeled it “dangerously pornographic".

The censorship of the Venus of Willendorf has led to widespread outrage against Facebook, with the Director-General of the Natural History Museum in Vienna (Naturhistorisches Museum Wien), Christian Koeberl, lashing out against the social media in an emotional statement earlier this week.

A Facebook spokesperson officially apologized on Thursday for the company’s censorship of a post showing the voluptuous statuette from the European Upper Paleolithic, i.e. Old Stone Age, named the “Venus of Willendorf", AFP reports.

Facebook’s spokesperson explained that Facebook’s policies do not allow depictions of nudity or even suggested nudity.

“However, we make an exception for statues, which is why the post should have been approved,” she is quoted as saying.

Facebook is regularly criticized for banning certain content while allowing other controversial posts to be published.

29 500 years ago the stone figurine was covered with red ochre and hidden in the ground near Willendorf (Lower Austria). Photo: Natural History Museum Vienna

“An archaeological object, especially such an iconic one, should not be banned from Facebook because of ‘nudity,’ as no artwork should be,” the Vienna Museum of Natural History had declared in its official statement the day before.

“There has never been a complaint by visitors concerning the nakedness of the figurine,” the museum’s director Christian Koeberl has told AFP.

He points out that the figurine, a fertility symbol, is not only considered the “icon” of the museum, but the most well-known prehistoric depiction of a woman worldwide.

A French court is to decide on March 15 on the case of a Facebook user whose account was shut down after he posted Gustave Courbet’s “L’Origine du monde” (The Origin of the World), a 19th-century painting depicting a woman’s genitalia.

Relevant Books on Amazon.com:

The Great Goddess: Reverence of the Divine Feminine from the Paleolithic to the Present

Paleoart: Visions of the Prehistoric Past


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