Polynesian objects from early European exploration, £19.99
Length: 13.800 cm
Purchased and presented by the Christy Trustees
P&EE 1959 12-3 1
Prehistory and Europe
Decorated horse jaw
Late Upper Palaeolithic, about 10,000 years old
From Kendrick's Cave, Llandudno, Gwynedd, Wales
This horse jaw is the only piece of artwork dated to the end of the last Ice Age or Late Glacial period in Britain. It was dug up by chance by Thomas Kendrick in 1880, but its age and significance have only recently been recognized.
Kendrick was clearing a cave in his garden on the Great Orme Head, Llandudno, to extend his workshop. As he worked he found human and animal bones, bear teeth perforated as beads or pendants, some flint artefacts and the decorated horse jaw. These were thought to be about 6,000 years old although the jaw was considered unusual. When the jaw was bought for The British Museum in 1959, it was compared with art objects dating anywhere between 8,000 and 28,000 years old. Only recent developments in radiocarbon dating have solved the problem, showing that the horse jaw dates to the Late Glacial period.
The carefully incised blocks of zig-zag decoration that cover the underside of the jaw were drawn with a flint tool. How the piece was displayed, or even worn, is unknown.