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The Swimming Reindeer

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    Palart.550

  • Title (object)

    • The Swimming Reindeer
  • Description

    Tip of a mammoth tusk carved as two reindeer depicted one behind the other. The leading, more detailed figure is a female with smaller body and antlers. Finely incised notching and shading outlines the variation of colours in her coat. The following male figure has larger antlers and equally detailed carving of the ears and eyes but its body is unshaded. Both animals are depicted with their chins up, the antlers laid back, the front legs extended forward and bent at the knee and the back legs extending back. The male genitalia are clearly represented.

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  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 11000BC
  • Production place

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Length: 207 millimetres
    • Height: 30 millimetres
    • Width: 27 millimetres
  • Curator's comments

    Sometimes also referred to as the 'swimming reindeer' from Bruniquel. This sculpture was found and originally published as two separate pieces which were not recognized as conjoining until the 1930s. When photographed in the 1860s, one of the back legs of the male reindeer extended out and back from body but has not survived. The representation of the animals may have been determined by the tapering shape of the mammoth tusk although the interpretation that the piece depicts the animals swimming has parallels in painted art of the period. The presence of the antlers, the shading of the female coat and the male-female juxtaposition suggest this might be an autumn-winter depiction when animals migrate, cross rivers and mate.Ice Age art

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  • Bibliography

    • Sieveking 1987 550 bibliographic details
    • MacGregor 2010 cat.no.4, pp.19-25 bibliographic details
  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited:

    2013 24 Jun-16 Sep, Spain, Santander, Fundación Botín, Ice Age Art
    2013 7 Feb-26 May, London, BM Ice Age Art
    2012 19 Oct-17 Dec, Worksop, Creswell Crags Museum, The Swimming Reindeer
    2010-2011, London, BM/BBC, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'

  • Conservation

    See treatments 

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1887

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number

    Palart.550

Before conservation, old repairs visible. Tip of a mammoth tusk carved into the shape of two reindeer, swimming one behind the other; the leading figure, a female with smaller antlers, has a series of notches along each flank and hatched shading for her heavy coat line; the following, male, figure has larger antlers but is unshaded; on each figure the antlers are laid along the back and the legs folded beneath the body, with the exception of the left hind leg of the male which once extended behind the figure; the genitalia of each animal are sculpted in relief.

Before conservation, old repairs visible. Tip of a mammoth tusk carved into the shape of two reindeer, swimming one behind the other; the leading figure, a female with smaller antlers, has a series of notches along each flank and hatched shading for her heavy coat line; the following, male, figure has larger antlers but is unshaded; on each figure the antlers are laid along the back and the legs folded beneath the body, with the exception of the left hind leg of the male which once extended behind the figure; the genitalia of each animal are sculpted in relief.

Image description

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Object reference number: BCB12978

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