Engraved rib

Late Magdanlenian, about 12,500 years ago
From the cave of Courbet, Penne-Tarn, France

Line of animal heads engraved on a rib

Small works of art made on bone, antler, ivory and stone are common during the Upper Palaeolithic. They show in miniature the same animals and techniques of drawing and composition as may be seen in the many cave paintings of this period. This example is made on an animal rib bone. Although both ends were broken in antiquity, the engravings of reindeer and ibex remain clear.

All the animals face left. The heads on the left and at the centre have clearly engraved antlers and are both reindeer. The left head is filled in with dots, a frequent shading or decorated motif at this time, whereas the central animal is shaded to show the natural line of its face and neck. Between, and in perspective behind these two, is an ibex with its longer hair and goatee beard clearly shown. On the right is another reindeer without antlers. Both reindeer and ibex were hunted for food and raw materials.

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More information


A. Sieveking, A catalogue of Palaeolithic ar (London, The British Museum Press, 1987)


Length: 11.300 cm

Museum number

P&EE 1864 12-26 747 (Sieveking catalogue no. 505);P&EE 1866 3-3 1



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