30 November 2010

Aurignacian art

"A woman views what is claimed to be the oldest known art work at the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann, Germany. The ivory carving of a mammoth, 35,000 years old, was found in southern Germany."
Discoveries in this area were reported in Der Spiegel in 2007:
Archaeologists at the University of Tübingen have recovered the first entirely intact woolly mammoth figurine from the Swabian Jura, a plateau in the state of Baden-Württemberg, thought to have been made by the first modern humans some 35,000 years ago. It is believed to be the oldest ivory carving ever found...

In total, five mammoth-ivory figurines from the Ice Age were newly discovered at the site of the Vogelherd Cave in southwestern Germany... The geological context of the discoveries and radiocarbon dating indicate that the figurines belong to the Aurignacian culture, which refers to an area of southern France and is associated with the arrival of the first modern humans in Europe.
Additional photos at the link, and further discussion at John Hawks' Weblog.

Via Found Here.  Photo: Martin Meissner/AP


  1. In reality it's not "Neanderthal art", but "art in the Neanderthal Museum". :) This little figure (3.7 cm long) wasn't made by Neanderthals but by modern humans that lived in (nowadays modern) Germany.

    Although Neanderthals, specially the later ones, already buried their dead (with associated rituals) and manufactured some ornaments, the kind of more developed pieces of art (like the mammoth figure in the photo) is typical of the first known “Homo sapiens sapiens” culture in Europe: the Aurignacian.

    You can find out more about this particular find in John Hawks Weblog (a great blog to follow if you are into prehistoric archaeology / paleoanthropology).


  2. I forgot to thank you for posting this photo, that I didn't know. Great image, that I'll be using on my own classes.

  3. Thank you so much for the clarification, MJ. I remember as I was posting the piece being puzzled by the Neanderthal tag, because my understanding had been that Neanderthals sites have never yielded crafted material. I was in too much of a hurry (as usual) to track the history of this piece.

    And thanks as well for the link to John Hawks' blog. I have an amateur's avocational interest in archaeology -- and I note that John is a fellow Madisonian. It's a small world...

  4. From the same time and region - oldest musical instrument - article includes a sound clip (from a replica)


  5. SlartibartfastibastJune 15, 2011 at 1:20 PM

    From a 2006 article on livescience.com:

    The trouble is that this trend leaves "a great big hole" in the fossil record when it comes to the early Aurignacian, Hawks said. The only group in Europe at the right time and place to have made the jewelry and tools attributed to early Aurignacian culture is the Neanderthals, he said.
    Most likely, the later Aurignacian "was made by a population with genetic input from both Neandertals and modern humans from outside Europe, because the skeletal remains of later Aurignacian people have the features of both groups," Hawks says. "I would predict that the early Aurignacian people were actually more Neanderthal-like. Until we have skeletal remains, we won't know.


  6. That elephant is galloping. Elephants cannot gallop in our present world...


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