The famed Minoan Snake Goddess is a truly unique instance of female sculpture. Though there are variations on the specific statue type, status of this type are generally dressed in an elaborate gown with a high waist and exposed breasts. Based on Minoan wall paintings, this type of dress seems to be customary for women of the Minoan culture. The Minoan culture thrived between about 25,000–15000 BCE and was geographically based on the island of Crete. Scholars associate the snakes in her hand as a claim to rebirth and fertility, by virtue of the fact that snakes shed their skin. The goddess also has a headdress adorned with a spotted cat. In addition to the remarkable dress and accoutrements (namely, the snakes), this goddess has a uniquely assertive pose (standing upright and looking directly ahead).
Perhaps the most famous of all fertility goddesses, and so an apt point of comparison, is the prehistoric so-called "Venus of Willendorf," named for the Roman goddess Venus and after the find-spot in the Austrian town of Willendorf. The name "Venus" is a bit of a misnomer; archaeologists gave the statue this name because of the supposed emphasis on fertility.
The distinct difference between this Venus and the Snake Goddess (separated by about a thousand years) are the physiques and supposed purposes. The excavator at Knossos (site of a famous palace on Crete) supposed that the Snake Goddess was central to a religious shrine, while it is supposed that the Venus of Willendorf was a small votive figurine, perhaps carried by men (it has been suggested) to remind them of women at home. The physiques are quite different, too. The Snake Goddess has more reasonable proportions, and the Venus of Willendorf has exaggerated sexual features (leading scholars to categorize her as a fertility goddess). Some scholars suggest that the corpulent physique of these Venus figurines (as their are others from the Paleolithic period resembling the Venus of Willendorf), is a result of the fact that they were carved by women themselves, who could only view themselves from above in the absence of modern mirrors.