Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Lion man of Hohlenstein Stadel

The lion-headed figure, first called the lion man (Löwenmensch) and later the lion lady (Löwenfrau), is an ivory sculpture that is one of the oldest known sculptures, determined to be about 32,000 years old by carbon dating. It is 29.6 cm tall, 5.6 cm wide and 5.9 cm thick. It was carved out of mammoth ivory using a flint stone knife. It has also been interpreted as anthropomorphic, giving human characteristics to an animal, or it might have been a deity.

Its pieces were found in 1939 in Stadel-Höhle im Hohlenstein (Stadel cave in Hohlenstein Mountain) in the Lone valley, Swabian Alb, Germany. Due to the Second World War, it was forgotten and rediscovered after thirty years. The first reconstruction revealed a humanoid figurine without head. During 1997-1998 additional pieces of the sculpture were discovered and the head was reassembled and restored.

The sculpture shares certain similarities with French cave wall paintings, though the French paintings are several thousand years younger. Later, a similar, but smaller, lion-headed sculpture was found, along with other animal figures and several flutes, in another cave in the same region of Germany. These findings indicate the possibility that the lion-figure played an important role in the mythology of humans of the early Upper Paleolithic period. The sculpture can be seen in the Ulmer Museum in Ulm, Germany.

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