The oldest sculptures made by man and having passed through time are small rudimentary figurines carved, stone or bone2, which were probably used for magical practices, ex-voto, exchanges, rituals that allowed to carry out transactions with supernatural or social forces.
The Venus of Lespugue, on mammoth ivory, is a fine example. Some larger sculptures have survived the millennia that separate us from their creator, such as the raw clay bison found in the cave of the Tuc d'Audoubert in Ariège, the bas reliefs of the rock shelter of the Roc-aux-Sorciers in Vienna or the carved monoliths of Gobekli Tepe in Turkey.
It is likely that modeled objects, in earth, also existed, but in the absence of techniques of perpetuation (cooking), this remains a hypothesis. Other sculptures, such as those of the Roc-aux-Sorciers, depict wild animals, probably representations of the diet of the peoples of the Magdalenian hunter-gatherers.
Although this use, arguably shamanic, has declined, human representation remains a frequent theme of sculptors. Depending on the time and civilization, the artists performed these figurines realistically, or, on the contrary, took greater freedom to interpret their subject.