In fact, this question was posed almost a century ago when, in 1896, Louis Alexandre Jullien sold one of the fifteen figurines he claimed to have discovered at the Balzi Rossi to the Musée des Antiquités Nationales in France. In 1898, the figurine was presented to the archaeological community. Controversy arose when the eminent French prehistorian Gabriel de Mortillet questioned its authenticity. As it transpired, many of his arguments were based on prudish aesthetic concerns rather than scientific reasoning, and when similar figurines were discovered elsewhere in France during the same period, his arguments were dismissed.
Jullien's work remained under suspicion, however, because of his reluctance to elaborate on the nature of his archaeological practices. For this reason, the question remains: was Jullien a fraud?
The answer might well lie in some archives as yet undiscovered; however, it is more likely to be found through detailed analysis of the statuettes themselves - by identifying the materials used, studying how the pieces were made, and interpreting their intended shapes. Analysis shows us that in 1895 - given the limited knowledge researchers had on this complex topic - it would have been impossible for Jullien to create what we now recognize as a representation of concepts, symbols and archetypes that date back to the dawn of modern humanity.