Saturday, March 23, 2013

Antler art

Look closely at this antler and you will see an image of the front half of a horse. It's taken 160 years to recognize its significance. A local village priest in Neschers, France, found it sometime after 1830. In 1848, it was purchased as part of a larger collection for £440 by London's Natural History Museum. It was put on display for a time, then went into storage. Mammal curator Andy Currant realized the antler's value in 1989 and moved it to secure storage, but it was again forgotten until an audit of possible worked bone and antler in the fossil collections began in 2010. It was then the research team realized that they had in their hands one of the earliest discoveries (not one of the earliest examples) of representational art. The engraved reindeer antler is 14,000 years old, and with today's micro 3-dimensional technologies scientists can see exactly how the Stone Age artist prepared the surface and scratched out the stylized horse. Human origins expert Chris Stringer states, "The remarkable story of this forgotten specimen shows how careful study and detective work can belatedly give an important relic the significance it deserves."

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