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Swimming reindeer carved from the tip of a mammoth tusk
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THIS CARVING IN the form of two reindeer is one of the most beautiful pieces of Stone Age art ever found. The reindeer are depicted with their noses up and antlers back, apparently in the act of swimming. This choice of pose might have been suggested by the tapering shape of the mammoth tusk.

The animals are perfectly modelled from all angles. The front figure is a female and has a smaller body and antlers. Her delicately shaded fur is depicted using feathered strokes to represent the reindeers’ distinctive autumn coat. The larger, male, figure is not shaded but the strength of his body is indicated by the bold, sweeping lines of the carving. On both animals the antlers are laid along their backs and their legs are folded underneath them, with the exception of the back left leg of the male which originally extended behind.

Swimming reindeer carved from the tip of a mammoth tusk

From the rockshelter of Montastruc, Tarn et Garonne, France Late Magdalenian, c. 12,500 years old
L. 20.7 cm
Christy Collection

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