Ice Age Art: 35,000-Year-Old Mammoth Sculpture Found in Germany
In southwestern Germany, an American archaeologist and his German colleagues have found the oldest mammoth-ivory carving known to modern science. And even at 35,000 years old, it's still intact.
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. "You can be sure," Tübingen archaeologist Nicholas J. Conard told SPIEGEL ONLINE, "that there has been art in Swabia for over 35,000 years."
Among the new finds are well-preserved remains of a lion figurine, fragments of a mammoth figurine and two as-yet-unidentified representations. These, the University of Tübingen Web site explains, "count among the oldest and most impressive examples of figurative artworks from the Ice Age."
Conard said that "the excitement and thrill were immense." He and his colleagues Michael Lingnau and Maria Malina in the Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology reported their findings in the journal Archäologische Ausgrabungen in Baden-Württemberg.
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. Multiple radiocarbon dates from sediment in the Vogelherd Cave yielded ages between 30,000 and 36,000 years ago, the University of Tübingen reports. Some methods give an even older date.
The preliminary results from the excavation will be presented in a special exhibit at the Museum of Prehistory in Blaubeuren from June 24, 2007 to January 13, 2008. In 2009, the figurines will be displayed in a major state exhibition in Stuttgart entitled "Cultures and Art of the Ice Age."
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