Faster than, as it's said, a hound dog jumps on a bone, press writers around the world leaped to prurient conclusions about the archaeological discovery in mid-July of a phallus-shaped piece that dated back as much as 8,000 years - or even earlier since dating is not yet conclusive.

Uncovered at a particularly rich Mesolithic site in Motala, in the Östergötland area of central Sweden, at a Swedish National Heritage Board dig headed by archaeologist Fredrik Molin, the dark brown, weathered piece is presumed to be made of antler or bone and measures a bit under five inches (12 cm) long and 0.8 inches (2 cm) in diameter. It was found in riverbank clay that sealed the object remarkably against decay over thousands of years.


Although the shaft was cracked into two parts, both were alongside one another and the fissures fit together perfectly. One end resembles an erect, uncircumcised phallus tip while the other is mildly curved and slopes to a rounded point at the tip, where it is under 1/2 inch in width.

Certainly it resembles some sort of erotic toy at first glance, and possibly one with multiple insertion possibilities. Indeed, other similar finds dating even earlier were ascertainably used for sexual pleasure, such as the stone phallus found recently near the present day city of Ulm in Germany. Pegged at 28,000 years of age (which would place it at a time when its design might have been shared with Neanderthal hominids who still mingled with our type of humans), that piece measures about 1 1/4 by 7 3/4 inches (20 by 3 centimeters).

In more recent millenia, Egyptian and - in profusion - Roman concoctions of both male and female genitalia abound, and these were unequivocally meant to deliver erotic pleasure to user. Notably, the considerably smaller size of the Swedish object casts serious doubts on practical aspects regarding its prehistoric purposes.

While some archaeologists suggest that this recent Swedish find might have been used for fine tuning flint tools, for forming clay pots, for weaving fabric or even in cooking, none of these attempts to disguise the object's resemblance are wholly digestible. It could arguably serve for early pubescent use as a training device, but any mature satisfaction from the Motala piece of masculinity must evoke high skepticism.

Its most probable usage entailed religious practices. Phallus worship was not uncommon in prehistorical eras throughout Europe. One well known example of this is the god Oden (Odin, Woden, etc. - our day "Wednesday" is named after him), who was sculpted in a squatting position with an exaggerated erection. Ranging from statues to pendants, and adorning decorative carvings and reliefs, Odin's erection was never intended as any sort of erotic plaything, but rather, merely as an expression of the power and perseverance possessed by prehistoric male deities.

Still, the sensational claims that today's media attributes to the newly found "Swedish dildo" demand closer scientific examinations and logical studies. For one thing, neither Sweden nor the Svea, for whom the nation is named, existed when the object was being used. Irrefutable conclusions may never be drawn.

By Thure Blomqvist