The Great Court of the British Museum, £9.99
Length: 20.800 cm
Presented by Derbyshire Caves Excavation Committee
P&EE 1933 1-9 1 (Sieveking Catalogue no. 854)
Prehistory and Europe
Pin Hole Cave man
Late Upper Palaeolithic, about 12,000 years old
From Pin Hole Cave, Derbyshire, England
An ancient engraving of a male figure
On the end of this woolly rhinoceros rib is a clear engraving of a man. The figure, five centimetres tall, faces right. Its masculine profile is confirmed by the penis. A thin arm stretches out from the body. A line drawn across the figure at waist height may be a belt. The thick legs are incomplete below the knee. The head looks odd because the nose and jaw stick out from the face. This may simply be an exaggeration of the individual's features such as can be seen in a modern cartoon. However, it has also been suggested that the figure is wearing an animal mask.
This is one of only two pieces of British Upper Palaeolithic art which shows a figure. The other is the horse found in the nearby Robin Hood Cave, also in The British Museum. It is similar to other pictures of male humans known from France at this period. The lack of clothes and the 'cartoon' heads are common features which suggest an artistic fashion.
A. Sieveking, A catalogue of Palaeolithic ar (London, The British Museum Press, 1987)