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The Swimming Reindeer

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • Bibliography

    • Cook 2010 bibliographic details
    • Sieveking 1987 550 bibliographic details
    • MacGregor 2010, pp.19-25 bibliographic details
    • Cook 2013 (b) pp. 174-7; 208-9 bibliographic details
    • Cook 2013 (a) pp. 267-73 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history

    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'

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number


COMPASS Title: Swimming reindeer


COMPASS Title: Swimming reindeer

Image description



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Object reference number: BCB12978

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