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spear-thrower / portable art

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    Palart.551

  • Description

    Part of a weighted antler spear-thrower broken across the shaft below the carving of a mammoth which forms the weight of the thrower. The mammoth has been ingeniously carved from the palmate part of the antler where the shaft broadens out and branches to the upper tines. The character of the raw material prevented the artist from producing a fully three-dimensional naturalistic but the resulting caricature is clearly identifiable. Originally the animal's tail curled over to form the hook of the spear thrower which, when in use, fitted into a depression or 'nock' on the end of a spear shaft. When the tail hook broke the weapon was repaired by its original users by carving a diagonal hole from the top of the back outwards between the back legs and inserting a replacement. The line of the mammoth's back follows the line of the shaft and its tusks are cut in low relief along this, in an unnaturally forward position, while the tip of its trunk and four feet are joined together at the extremity of the weight. There are deep round holes on each side of the head above the base of the tusks which look like eyes although they are disproportionately large and not in the correct anatomical position. On both sides of the trunk above the tusks there is a notch with 4-5 vertically incised lines above and below.

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  • Culture/period

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Length: 12.4 centimetres
    • Width: 6 centimetres
    • Thickness: 1.5 centimetres
  • Bibliography

    • Sieveking 1987 551 bibliographic details
    • Cook 2013 (b) pp. 116-7; 202 bibliographic details
    • Cook 2013 (a) pp. 218-9 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited:
    2015-2016 20 Sep-11 Jan, Kobe City Museum, Kobe, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
    2015 14 Jul–6 Sep, Kyushu National Museum, Dazaifu, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
    2015 18 Apr–28 Jun, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
    2014 23 May-7 Sep, London, Natural History Museum, Mammoth: Ice Age Giants 2013 24 Jun-16 Sep, Spain, Santander, Fundación Botín, Ice Age Art 2013 7 Feb-26 May, London, BM Ice Age Art 2010 Apr-Jun, Leeds, Henry Moore Institute, Ice Age Sculpture 2004 16 Mar- 2005 10 Jan, France, Paris, Musee National d’Historie Naturelle, The Time of Mammoths 1984-1985 1 Oct-31 Dec, France, Paris, Musee de l'Homme, Arts et Civilisations des Chasseurs de la Prehistoire

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1887

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number

    Palart.551

Part of a weighted spear-thrower (antler) broken through the shaft below the carving of a mammoth which forms the weight of the thrower.  The support used, a part of the antler palmate, precludes the sculpture being fully three-dimensional.  The animal is therefore reproduced in two-sided low relief.  Its tail originally formed the hook, the line of its back follows the line of the shaft and its tusks are cut in low relief along this, in an unnaturally forward position, while the tip of its trunk and four feet are joined together at the extremity of the weight.  There is a deep round hile on each side above the base of the tusk, in a position not acceptable for an eye, and a gash with notching around the edge is engraved on each side of the shaft, above the tusks.  When found, the tail hook of this thrower had already been broken and repaired by its original users. Before conservation

Front:Right Side

Part of a weighted spear-thrower (antler) broken through the shaft below the carving of a mammoth which forms the weight of the thrower. The support used, a part of the antler palmate, precludes the sculpture being fully three-dimensional. The animal is therefore reproduced in two-sided low relief. Its tail originally formed the hook, the line of its back follows the line of the shaft and its tusks are cut in low relief along this, in an unnaturally forward position, while the tip of its trunk and four feet are joined together at the extremity of the weight. There is a deep round hile on each side above the base of the tusk, in a position not acceptable for an eye, and a gash with notching around the edge is engraved on each side of the shaft, above the tusks. When found, the tail hook of this thrower had already been broken and repaired by its original users. Before conservation

Image description

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Object reference number: BCR114919

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