Pascal Raux - Father of the Phalangeal Figurine Hypothesis

A Neolithic phalangeal figurine from Louis Siret’s 1908 book, Religions Néolithiques de l'Iberie.

Like “Supernatural Pregnancies1, an earlier peer-reviewed paper called “Palaeolithic Whistles or Figurines?2 presented evidence for my “Prey-Mother” hypothesis.

But it set the stage by trying to prove that many phalanges and other distal limb bones that were perforated by humans during the Upper Paleolithic were actually simple anthropomorphic figurines. The conventional interpretation of these artifacts since the 1860s has been that they are simple whistles – even though many of them can hardly produce a sound. Clues ranging from engravings on ancient specimens to ethnographically studied phalangeal figurines all indicate that many of the objects really represent human, and most commonly feminine, figurines – vastly increasing the number of Paleolithic “venuses” if the argument is correct.

But, unbeknownst to me, the first part of the paper, which only concerned phalanges, echoed earlier publications by another prehistorian, Pascal Raux. Starting from different inspirations and using different methodologies and examples, he has generously agreed that we independently arrived at complementary conclusions, reinforcing the likelihood that Mr. Raux’s original insight about phalanges was correct.

Readers interested in the complementary variants of the Phalangeal Figurine hypothesis should read pages 143-152 in Raux’s stimulating and informed 2004 book “Animisme et Arts Premiers – Historique et nouvelle lecture de l’art préhistorique” published by Éditions Thot Expert, as well as my article.


The two versions of the hypothesis differ in a few ways.

For example, Pascal’s finds that there is enough evidence that phalanges were deliberately perforated by Neanderthals to suggest that these archaic humans could have been making figurines. My paper, on the other hand, focuses on establishing a protocol of tests for demonstrating that such holes were made by a person instead of sedimentary crushing or carnivore gnawing and gastric acids, and dismisses several well-known Middle Paleolithic candidates as being natural. We agree, however, that prehistorians will have to consider the possibility that some Neanderthals made hitherto unrecognized anthropomorphous figurines if even one Neanderthal candidate passes the gauntlet of microscopic analyses.

Second, Pascal and I extend our conclusions in different directions. Pascal ends his phalangeal hypothesis by wondering whether the choice of reindeer phalanges for so many of the perforated examples, as opposed to those of other animals, could be linked to a deer’s ability to regrow its antlers, perhaps linking reindeer with the feminine capacity for regeneration and a belief in rebirth through the “Mother-Earth”. My article, on the other hand, tries to show how phalangeal figurines had a contemporaneous stylistic impact on the simpler ivory figurines and develops an economic and social explanation for commonalities among Paleolithic feminine imagery –  my “Prey-Mother” hypothesis.

Although the variants of the phalangeal figurine hypothesis contain such different approaches, examples, and directions, they also contain two overlapping images, which were found in data bases separated from Pascal’s text. Luckily, this prevented me from repeating a reference for an engraving of an incised phalange that ascribed it to Alentejo and credited A. Garcia and A. Puente. Instead, the phalange turned out to be from a collective tomb at Pijotilla, Badajoz, Spain, that was excavated by Victor Hurtado3.

The second image - a sketch of two Inuit phalangeal dolls - appears without a citation in both works, but during the preparation of this page, Pascal informed me that it is based on a figure in Yvon Csonka’s book, Collection Arctique4.

Both the father of the Phalangeal Figurine hypothesis, Pascal Raux, and I invite readers to consult our corroborative publications, the latest of which reinforces and adds to Raux’s insight while independently developing a comparable hypothesis.

To order copies of Pascal Raux’s book, Animisme et Arts Premiers – Historique et nouvelle lecture de l’art préhistorique”, which contains a revolutionary analysis of Paleolithic art, please contact:

Editions Thot

3 Quai du Drac




Or go directly to:

1 Caldwell, Duncan (2010) “Supernatural Pregnancies: Common features and new ideas concerning Upper Paleolithic feminine imagery”. Arts & Cultures, Barbier-Mueller Museum, Geneva.

2 Caldwell, Duncan (2009) “Palaeolithic Whistles or Figurines? A preliminary survey of pre-historic phalangeal figurines”. Rock Art Research, Vol. 26, No. 1: 65-82

3 Hurtado,  Victor (1986)  El Calcolitico en la cuenca media del Guadania y la necropolis de la Pijotilla, In Actas de la mesa redonda sobre el megalitismo  peninsular, Madrid, pp. 51-75.

4 Csonka, Yvon (1988) Collection arctique, Musée de Neuchâtel, Suisse,  fig. 121-122, pp. 92-93.

PDF: Palaeolithic Whistles or Figurines? A Preliminary Survey of Pre-Historic Phalangeal FigurinesRock Art Research. (2009) This is a PDF of the article which uses different lines of evidence and reasoning to arrive at some of the same conclusions that Pascal Raux had arrived at earlier in his book, helping to confirm his insights.