Skip to comments.World’s Earliest Figurative Sculpture - Ice Age Lion Man (40,000 Year-Old Mammoth Ivory Statue)
Posted on 02/08/2013 8:19:54 PM PST by DogByte6RER
Ice Age Lion Man is worlds earliest figurative sculpture
Work carved from mammoth ivory has been redated and 1,000 new fragments discoveredbut it wont make it to British Museum show
The star exhibit initially promised for the British Museums Ice Age Art show will not be comingbut for a good reason. New pieces of Ulms Lion Man sculpture have been discovered and it has been found to be much older than originally thought, at around 40,000 years. This makes it the worlds earliest figurative sculpture. At the London exhibition, which opens on 7 February, a replica from the Ulm Museum will instead go on display.
The story of the discovery of the Lion Man goes back to August 1939, when fragments of mammoth ivory were excavated at the back of the Stadel Cave in the Swabian Alps, south-west Germany. This was a few days before the outbreak of the Second World War. When it was eventually reassembled in 1970, it was regarded as a standing bear or big cat, but with human characteristics.
The ivory from which the figure had been carved had broken into myriad fragments. When first reconstructed, around 200 pieces were incorporated into the 30cm-tall sculpture, with about 30% of its volume missing.
Further fragments were later found among the previously excavated material and these were added to the figure in 1989. At this point, the sculpture was recognised as representing a lion. Most specialists have regarded it as male, although paleontologist Elisabeth Schmid controversially argued that it was female, suggesting that early society might have been matriarchal.
The latest news is that almost 1,000 further fragments of the statue have been found, following recent excavations in the Stadel Cave by Claus-Joachim Kind. Most of these are minute, but a few are several centimetres long. Some of the larger pieces are now being reintegrated into the figure.
Conservators have removed the 20th-century glue and filler from the 1989 reconstruction, and are now painstakingly reassembling the Lion Man, using computer-imaging techniques. It is an enormous 3D puzzle, says the British Museum curator Jill Cook.
The new reconstruction will give a much better idea of the original. In particular, the back of the neck will be more accurate, the right arm will be more complete and the figure will be a few centimetres taller.
An imaginative sculptor
Even more exciting than the discovery of new pieces, the sculptures age has been refined using radio-carbon dating of other bones found in the strata. This reveals a date of 40,000 years ago, while until recently it was thought to be 32,000 years old. Once reconstruction is completed, several tiny, unused fragments of the mammoth ivory are likely to be carbon dated, and this is expected to confirm the result.
This revised dating pushes the Lion Man right back to the oldest sculptures, which have been found in two other caves in the Swabian Alps. These rare finds are dated at 35,000 to 40,000 years, but the Lion Man is by far the largest and most complex piece. A few carved items have been found in other regions which are slightly older, but these have simple patterns, not figuration.
What was striking about the sculptor of the Lion Man sculptor is that he or she had a mind capable of imagination rather than simply representing real forms. As Cook says, it is not necessary to have a brain with a complex pre-frontal cortex to form the mental image of a human or a lionbut it is to make the figure of a lion-man. The Ulm sculpture therefore sheds further light on the evolution of homo sapiens.
Conservators experimented by making a replica of Lion Man, calculating that it would take a highly skilled carver at least 400 hours using flint tools (two months work in daylight). This means that the carver would have had to be looked after by hunter-gatherers, which presupposes a degree of social organisation. There is an ongoing debate on what the Lion Man represents, and whether it is linked to shamanism and the spirit world.
Initially, it was hoped that the original of the Lion Man would be presented at the British Museums exhibition, but this has not proved possible because conservators need further time to get the figure reconstructed as accurately as possible. The Ulm Museum now plans to unveil it in November.
I seriously doubt that it took that long to carve. Were any of these conservators actually real artists?
Yeah, I could knock that out in a couple hours with my Dremel Moto-Tool.
Settles that, I guess.
Was she blind, or was she a spinster who never saw a male or a picture of one? It's obviously equipped as a male.
Beautiful piece of work.
It`s not a lion- It`s a tiger; look at the stripes. duhhhh.
No, it’s Liger.
Pretty nice workmanship. Imagine what it would be worth if it were for sale on the open market.
No,no. This is a representation of an ancient alien who was considered a god by the primitive humanoids.
From the comments at the end of the article. (Another one pointed out that male European cave lions didn't have manes, per various cave paintings.)
5 Feb 13 21:32 CET WULF HEIN, GERMANY
In 2009, I replicated the Lion Man from a tusk with authentic flint tools as an archaeological experiment on behalf of the Ulm Museum, the documentation can be seen here: http://www.echtzeitmedia.de/referenzen.php?id_c=loewe It took me more than 360 hours to carve the statuette, but once I started to work I liked to see it finished. I think the expression "work at daylight" used by the author of the article is mistakable, he just meant modern daily worktime (9 to 5). But I´m shure this artwork was made in more or less one go - as a reindeer hunter living a nomadic life you won´t carry around a statue weighing more than 1 kilogram for years and years. I could imagine that it was made during one winter by one specialized person being capable to do this - not everybody is a Michelangelo. "You carve for us, we pay for you". And I´m definitely shure that this statuette is sexless - where else are the female attributes depicted so impressive and often on venus carvings from the same time?
Beautiful..almost looks like its smiling.
It was probably made in a cave factory in what is present day China and imported.....
This makes it the worlds earliest known figurative sculpture.
It is always assumed that the earliest thing found is the earliest that ever was. For individual pieces it doesn't start 'wars" when something a bit earlier is found and confirmed. For larger things, like cities and populations, that assumption of "earliest" and "oldest" becomes a line defended to the death of the generation of archaeologists that made that determination of "earliest."
And the female Kzin were not sentient, so they were probably chasing Earth kitties!