Shamanic transit and the prehistoric hard-on

If you were ever wondering about the representation of the penis in prehistoric art and what this reveals about “the meaning of erection in Paleolithic minds”, wonder no more. The study has already been done.

Male genital representation in paleolithic art: erection and circumcision before history.

Urology. 2009 Jul;74(1):10-4.

Angulo JC, García-Díez M.

OBJECTIVES: To report on the likely existing evidence about the practice of circumcision in prehistory, or at least a culture of foreskin retraction, and also the meaning of erection in Paleolithic minds. The origin of the ritual of circumcision has been lost in time. Similarly, the primitive anthropologic meaning of erection is undefined.

METHODS: We studied the archeologic and artistic evidence regarding human representations performed during the Upper Paleolithic period, 38,000 to 11,000 years BCE, in Europe, with a focus on genital male representations in portable and rock art.

RESULTS: Drawings, engravings, and sculptures displaying humans are relatively scarce, and <100 examples of male genitals are specifically represented. Some depict a circumcised penis and other represent urologic disorders such as phimosis, paraphimosis, discharge, priapism, or a scrotal mass. In addition, a small number of phalluses carved in horn, bone, or stone, with varying morphology, has survived to the present and also reveals a sustained cult for male erection and foreskin retraction not limited to a particular topographical territory. The very few noncoital human or humanoid figures with marked erection appear in a context of serious danger or death. Therefore, erection could be understood as a phenomenon related to the shamanic transit between life and death.

CONCLUSIONS: The erection in Paleolithic art is explicitly represented in almost all the figures defined as unequivocally male that have survived to the present and in many objects of portable art. Circumcision and/or foreskin retraction of the penis are present in most of the works.

I suspect that “erection could be understood as a phenomenon related to the shamanic transit between life and death” is a woefully underused chat-up line. Thank you Science!

Link to PubMed entry for prehistoric pecker study.

One Comment

  1. Junemarie
    Posted June 14, 2010 at 3:37 am | Permalink

    it seems that once a penis is erect, given the effects of weathering alone an ancient sculpting would fail to distinguish between a cut and an uncut representation of the male charm


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