The oldest of all goddesses is known to historians of religion and mythology as the Great Goddess. She is the one supreme being, who was later subdivided in many lesser goddesses. She is all that existed at the beginning of time.
Art is widely believed to have been made first in Africa and then in Europe, when that region was first settled, perhaps forty or fifty thousand years ago. When and where did the Great Goddess first appear in art? We will never know exactly, but it was sometime during the Old Stone Age. The earliest temples of the Great Goddess were caves; to be inside the great earth was to be within the Great Goddess.
In the oldest times, the Great Goddess had no name. One of the first names we know is Gaia, from the earliest creation myths of Greece. At least as old is Durga, in India, and Nu-Wa, in China. In the best-known Paleolithic images, such as the Goddess of Willendorf, the Great Goddess is represented as a fertile, motherly female. People, animals, plants, sun, moon, and stars are all offspring of the Great Goddess. The Goddess of Lespugue has the most exaggerated female features of all the known statues, reminding us that this art is primarily symbolic, not naturalistic. In other Stone Age images, the Great Goddess is represented as a slim young woman. This seems to be the "virginal" aspect, forever young, as continued in the myth of Demeter and Persephone - the same goddess in two aspects. Less well known are images of the Great Goddess as the Androgyne, in which the upper half of her body is a phallic symbol. She who is self-created and self-fertilizing is thus symbolized as being both female and male.
Graham, L. (1997). Goddesses in art. New York, NY: Abbeville Press.
Photo Credit: Both images borrowed from heartgoddess.net