Head and body of ice-age lion figurine reattached after being found 80 years apart

A lion figurine carved from mammoth ivory, now with refitted head. Found at Vogelherd Cave in southwestern Germany. Approx. 40,000 years old. Photo: H. Jensen. Copyright University of Tübingen

In the summer of 1931, archaeologist Gustav Riek discovered the body of a ice-age mammoth-ivory figurine from a cave in Germany. Eighty years later the head belonging to that same figurine has been found and reattached to the body.

The head was found by researchers from the University of Tübingen during renewed excavations at Vogelherd Cave, site of the original dig in 1931. The discovery of this ivory head helps to complete a figurine which now can be recognized as a lion – and demonstrates that it is possible to reassemble often fragmentary figurines from the earlier excavation. The new discovery is presented in the 2013 edition of the journal Archäologische Ausgrabungen in Baden-Württemberg.

Vogelherd Cave is located in the Lone Valley of southwestern Germany and is by far the richest of the four caves in the region that have produced examples of the earliest figurative art, dating as far back as 40,000 years ago. Overall, Vogelherd Cave has yielded more than two dozen figurines and fragments of figurines.

While the work of fitting together thousands of small fragments of mammoth ivory from Vogelherd is just beginning, the remarkable lion figurine, now with its head, forms an important part of the display of the earliest art at the Museum of the University of Tübingen (MUT) in Hohentübingen Castle.

Source: University of Tübingen

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