Prehistoric Barbie?

I recently spent a weekend in the company of some charming but extremely obese young women, in other words: typical young women. I was actually afraid the wooden bench on my porch was going to splinter under the weight of two of them. I ain’t thin, and I never will be, but I felt positively sylphlike among these Brobdingnagians. (there’s always a bright spot, Hee Hee…)

The Venus of Willendorf came to mind, that gelubby figurine from 25000 or so years ago. I looked her up again, just to see if there’s anything new. Nah. They’re still sayin’ she musta represented a fertility goddess, that’s why the parts of the female body associated with reproduction like her breasts and belly, are emphasized. I love it that she’s made of “oolite” some kinda stone not found in the area where she was dug up, idk, the word makes me think of “oodles” like oodles of fat.

here’s my question, though: how could an actual Palelolithic woman ever have gotten that fat?

now: I’ve been there: very fat!—and I’ve been pregnant. Contrary to what they always say, the VW’s adiposity is not typical of pregnancy. Lookit those thighs, that huge roll of flab from lower belly all that way around to the hips. When a thin woman gets pregnant, you can’t even tell from behind: she just looks like she’s carrying a basketball at her waist. And that big belly is hard, smooth, tympanic. Okay, okay, I myself gained 65 pounds when I was carrying; I may have looked a tad like VW immediately after delivering. But it didn’t last thanks to the miracle of breastfeeding.)

My point is if prehistoric man wanted to create a figurine of a fertile woman, why would they have wasted all that oolite on leg and hip flab? Why doesn’t she just look like a stick figure with a big belly in front? What living woman could have been the model for the prodigiously obese VW?

I’ve been thinking about Barbie dolls cuz we watched the previews of the movie coming out later this month. A laffriot, it promises to be! But I remember when people, feminists I reckon, used to attack that wasp-waisted, perky-breasted li’l figurine as presenting girls with an impossible ideal! No way REAL girls or women looked like that. (Well, idk, models like Twiggy came pretty close…)
In any event, Barbie was an ideal.
Could the VW have been the same kinda thing, a doll in the image of the impossible ideal?
Like, if only we Paleolithic girls COULD all look like her! But we can’t, cuz we have to go out and gather (which is a lotta exercise), and we don’t have grains, processed flour, refined sugar, dairy products, so no way we can aspire to her glorious adiposity! But we can dream…

The other idea that occurs to me, since I’ve been reading about the bees, is: could the VW figure have been kinda like a queen bee, one woman selected to be fattened up by the entire tribe, pampered, worshipped? I mean obvs she couldn’t have produced anywhere NEAR the offspring the eusocial Queen does, but maybe she was saved from burning any calories, overfed, kept in a constant state of pregnancy, refertilized as soon as the (rather unreliable ) prophylaxis of lactation wore off? She would do nothing except gestate, she would have looked so different from the lean sinewy young mothers of the tribe. Maybe any ideal of beauty haste be kinda unattainable.

This present generation of young women all grew up playing with Barbie dolls. Their rooms were stuffed with ‘em, as I recall. But IRL they seem to have modeled themselves along the lines of the Venus of Willendorf (of whom most of them probably aren’t even aware.)

I don’t know…maybe Mattel should introduce a “Willie doll”. (Or maybe it already has, I’ve been outta the toy market for awhile now.)


Stop the presses! There IS a “Curvy Barbie” now, evidently. She’s nowhere near the Venus of Willendorf ideal, but it’s a start…


So what dress size would scaled-up Curvy Barbie be?

You can use the Marks and Spencer’s size guide to give a sense of which dress size would fit each Barbie. Curvy Barbie’s measurements for this exercise were done using thread which was then measured, so there is a small margin for error.

The M&S guidelines include approximate waist and hip measurements. M&S doesn’t go below a size 6, but you can estimate the lower sizes by looking at the difference between the larger sizes. A UK dress size is generally two dress sizes larger than its US equivalent, so a UK size 10 would be a US size 6.

The 1:6 calculations reveal that Curvy Barbie would have a UK size 6/8 waist (63cm or 24.8in) and size 8 hips (91.2cm or 35.9in). Her waist-to-height ratio, which is considered by many a more accurate health measurement than Body Mass Index (BMI), is 0.38 - slim indeed.

She is far slimmer than the average 16-24-year-old woman in the UK. The average British woman of this age is 164.5cm (5ft 5in) and has a waist measuring 79.5cm (31.3in), according to the 2012 Health Survey of England. Those figures on the M&S scale would equate to a dress size 14.

But Curvy Barbie has been praised by commentators as a marked improvement. By the same scaling, if original Barbie were a real woman she would have a size 2 waist (54cm) and size 2 hips (78cm). It’s possible to imagine her having difficulty standing upright.


There are populations where women really do have massive bellies and, especially, buttocks, and are considered desirable for this (among others, Kalahari bush people, sorry, I’m blanking on their name). Now, some will, of course be genetic, with tendency to deposit fat. Although I’ve never managed to carry to term and therefore can’t speak directly from personal experience, a lot of women have serious morning sickness where they can’t keep anything down. Voila! Fat reserves to the rescue! It could also be a survival trait in areas of periodic feast and famine during the year.
Ergo, maybe it was a ‘talisman’? Oh, and oolitic stone? ‘OO’ as in egg?


The !Kung bushmen,I think is the tribe you’re referring to. Yes they have adorable butts. I reckon it’s of the same usefulness as a camel’s hump.
I’ve been thinking of this for a while now. My BMD says being fat is just in style now. Maybe that’s true. When I see pictures of my grandmother and great aunts as young women, they were definitely plump. Dumpy. But they had no trouble gettin*married. They weren’t as fat as the brides we see today, though. They waddle down the aisle looking like the Pillsbury Dough Boy. but maybe now, as back then, the young men don’t find fat unattractive. Or don’t have much of a choice.

But the VW’s fat looks more like she just eats too much. It looks like flab. I just don’t see how a real Paleolithic woman could’ve gotten that much food to eat!

It just is sad to see adiposity being encouraged nd celebrated. I mean, it’s a killer. And you’re lookin’ at knee and hip replacements. And obesity onset diabetes. Well, it’s their lives, I reckon.


This has occurred to me as well – particularly as the “venus” figures seem to be associated with the spread of agriculture via the Early European Farmers (EEF). If you have rapid (in evolutionary time) increase in caloric availability, lots of things change equally rapidly without due genetic (or even cultural) adaptation. Even today, we see a decrease from south to north in the ability to metabolize starch without becoming obese or developing diabetes, which is why the “Paleo” diets became so popular. But that’s kind of side-tracking my point, which is this:

The early Eurasian hunter gatherers probably coevolved with wolves to take better advantage of the limited areal calories which, in turn, tended to select for individuality (and greater interspecies empathy). So both the WHG and EHG had these predispositions. The WHG, when confronted by the incoming EEFs, didn’t stand a chance because the EEFs were not only higher population density, hence had more of them to fight off – but had coevolved with other humans in unusually high densities, which tended toward eusociality given the enormous population densities supportable by cultivated calories. So we see in the paleogenetic record a retreat of the WHG as EEF advanced – and this probably explains why the largest freestanding structures 7000ybp were longhouses in north central Europe.

But then the EHGs evolved into what became the Yamnaya on the strength of their own “wolfman” horse hunting culture and their own evolutionary tendency toward individualistic hunting packs. Their consequent domestication of the horse resulted in a lot more mobility than either WHG or EEF. Plus, their autotrophic calories came from grasslands, which they didn’t have to cultivate. So they had some advantages over sedentary societies, and were able to go develop a raiding culture which, while gang-oriented – retained a good deal of inter-gang mobility for individuals based on martial reputation. That’s probably why, when they invade Europe, there was a WHG resurgence with both WHG and EHG driving EEF back nearly to extinction (now pretty much isolated to Sardinia).

Moreover, if you have many thousands of years headstart in adapting to high population densities, even if not grain-based, you may just end up going all ant-farm on your own ass.


I have always been intrigued by one answer to the question of why men whose lives revolved around hunting & fishing would ever have given that up for the hard work of growing grain.

Answer – because they learned how to make beer from grain. And man likes beer!

But filling the appetite for beer meant giving up a lot of the independence of the hunter/fisher, and instead submitting to rule by a community. Hence the development of “civilization”. If the hypothesis sounds far-fetched, it is notable that the first immigrants to North America never discovered beer – and never developed the kind of city cultures seen in beer-swilling Europe.


You’re not alone in your conjecture, however everyone seems to overlook brewer’s yeast as a protein source! Think about your paleo diet. For my own part (complete DNA indicates WHG w/EHG admixture), I always have my carbs first and then eat protein, otherwise I get an insulin over-reactions (I’m not diabetic). The earliest fermented grains were more like a gruel even before Gobekli Teppe – so one could make the argument that alcohol was a side-effect of getting protein for peoples accustomed to high protein diets.

PS: It wasn’t “Europe” proper in which beer first “pacified” some of the hunting cultures, unless you want to include the Levant and/or Sumer as “Europe”.


In Patrick E. McGovern’s 2009 book, Uncorking the Past, there is discussion as to why natives in North America never developed fermented beverages (while those who continued on further south did). It is pretty much a mystery, since North America had plenty of crops which make fine beer and wine. One theory is that tobacco and hallucinogenic mushrooms used for shamanistic purposes filled the niche that alcohol did in other lands.


Yes. And the fact is, humans have always altered their states of consciousness and they always will.
Sometimes they do it with self-torture. In the North American Indian tribes men used to suspend themselves by stakes driven through their skin, in order to induce visions. A few years ago I read that there are now gyms in our country where people can do the same thing: attendants insert a buncha steel hooks in the customer and she is gradually lifted off the table suspended by those hooks. Sheesh, lady, whyncha just have a beer, have several!

Hey maybe there should be a “Body Suspension Barbie” with little holes in her body and gleaming miniature steel hooks …on second thought, nah, that wouldn’t be fair to parents. Stepping on one of Barbie’s hard-plastic spike heeled tiny shoes with your bare feet was agonizing enough!


Maybe also a “Diabetic Barbie” – thinking about your experience with those Brobdingnagian young ladies on your groaning porch bench. Just think about all the add-ons which could generate extra revenue! There would be Barbie’s Continuous Glucose Monitor, and Barbie’s insulin injector (giving the young girl the option of injecting in Barbie’s stomach or posterior). Maybe even Barbie’s MedicAid Sign Up procedure?

If the original idea of dolls was to accustom young girls to the idea of looking after babies (back in the days when motherhood was in style), then a suitably chip-enhanced Diabetic Barbie would accustom them to what looks like will be the future of so many of today’s young Western females. Maybe some toy manufacturer in China is already working on the concept?


Oh, don’t get me STARTED…one of the toys my daughter had was just a large Barbie head—y’know, you could style the hair, make up the face….and I’m afraid I couldn’t resist calling it Thalidomide Barbie🫢…