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The Venus of Willendorf is one of the world’s oldest and most renowned pieces of artwork dating back more than 25,000 years.
Since its discovery in Austria’s Wachau region in 1908, the 4.4-inch figurine has puzzled archaeologists about its real origins, Cosmos magazine reported. That’s because the statuette is made of oolite, a type of limestone that is not native to Wachau, which prompted scientists to search for the source of the raw material.
In a new study, a research team used micro-computed tomography to produce high-resolution images of the stone’s internal structure to determine the stone’s origin.
They then scanned for oolite deposits across Europe and pinpointed the oolite’s origin to northern Italy, near Lake Garda.
The findings showed that the material traveled hundreds of miles over or around the Alps tens of thousands of years ago. But it’s unclear if the Gravettian people – the toolmaking culture of the period – traveled with the stone in its raw form or had already crafted it into a figurine.
But the analysis also showed that the oolite could have originated in eastern Ukraine, although the samples didn’t match as closely as those from Italy.
Even so, the authors said the study shows that the ancient inhabitants displayed impressive long-distance networks of communication and travel across Europe before the Last Glacial Maximum – the peak of the last Ice Age.