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Ancient figurine said to be oldest depiction of the human form

May 13, 2009 |  1:12 pm

If only all of us could age so gracefully.

A 40,000-year-old female figurine excavated in Germany is basking in the spotlight today because scientists say it is the oldest known example of a figurative (or three-dimensional) depiction of a human being.

The 2.5-inch tall specimen was carved from a mammoth tusk and depicts a voluptuous woman with broad shoulders, prominent breasts and detailed buttocks and genitalia.

Researchers published their findings today in the magazine Nature.

The figurine is believed to be at least 5,000 years older than previous specimens. Scientists say it dates from around the first arrival of humans in Europe.

It is believed that the specimen was worn as an ornament around the neck.

The carving was excavated in September at Hohle Fels, a large cave in the Swabian Jura region of Germany about 14 miles southwest of Ulm.

Read more about the discovery in The Times feature story.

-- David Ng

Photo: Daniel Maurer / Associated Press