Ivory mammoth and other art from Vogelherd

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Der Spiegel reports on recent portable art finds at Vogelherd, Germany:

The figure of the woolly mammoth is tiny, measuring just 3.7 cm long and weighing a mere 7.5 grams, and displays skilfully detailed carvings. It is unique in its slim form, pointed tail, powerful legs and dynamically arched trunk. It is decorated with six short incisions, and the soles of the pachyderm's feet show a crosshatch pattern. The miniature lion is 5.6 cm long, has a extended torso and outstretched neck. It is decorated with approximately 30 finely incised crosses on its spine.

Nick Conard at Tübingen is quoted; he's the responsible archaeologist. The story is on occasion of the mammoth and other artifacts going on display at a museum exhibit. They are dated Aurignacian, which makes them among the earliest examples of figurative art in Europe.

It's likely that these include the figurines that Conard was presenting in 2003, as reported by Rex Dalton, although a mammoth was not mentioned at the time. A series of portable art figures were discovered at Vogelherd by Gustav Riek, who excavated the cave in 1931. Several of these are housed at the Museum Schloss Hohentübingen, including another mammoth. Conard (2003), in his description of portable art from Hohle Fels, includes a table listing 10 figurines from Vogelherd, all found in the original excavation by Riek.

Conard and colleagues (2003) reported on the radiocarbon chronology of the Aurignacian at Vogelherd, finding a range of AMS dates between around 29,000 and 36,000 radiocarbon years, with most dates clustering between 30,000 and 31,000. Figurines from other caves in the region date to the same age range, including those from Hohle Fels, Geissenklüsterle, and the Löwenmensch, or "Lion-man" from Hohlenstein-Stadel. This area preserves an exceptional sample of early Aurignacian art objects.


Conard NJ. 2003. Palaeolithic ivory sculptures from southwestern Germany and the origins of figurative art. Nature 426:830-832. doi:10.1038/nature02186