28 July 2016

France carving of 'male reindeer bellowing during the rutting season' may have been made on a plaque in the shape of a mammoth body profile with a human face on its posterior as seen in North America

From Abri de la Madeleine, France, Magdalenian, 17,000 to 12,000 years before present

Photos by and courtesy of Don Hitchcock who has an excellent web site featuring the art from la Madeleine and many other "Old World" archaeology sites. If you are unable to see the reindeer carving here, a higher resolution photo is available at Don's web site.

This stone has a detailed etching of a reindeer on it and I have recognized its overall shape is very likely symbolic and represents a mammoth body in left profile with a human face profile on its posterior. This motif is seen in many North American examples featured on this blog like this one and this one from Virginia's Arkfeld Site. This places this art motif on two continents.

The method of stonework is different from that used to create the reindeer but faint traces of it still remain. The 'head bump' of the mammoth may be seen along with curvature of its 'trunk' on the left side.

On the right side, the human face profile has etching and stone removal to define facial features and what appears to be a nicely ground 'eye.'

Illustration of Ken Johnston interpretation of the human face profile on the posterior of the mammoth. Click photos to expand and toggle between the illustrated and non-illustrated photos.

Source: Original, Le Musée National de Préhistoire, Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, 2014

Illustration of the carving 'Male reindeer bellowing during the rutting season' which I propose was made on a mammoth and human combination art plaque.

Here, I processed the photo digitally with the Image-J rock art plug in D-stretch and one of the files generated made the reindeer carving more visible on the plaque. Thanks to the plug-in creator Jon Harman for making this tool available to amateurs for free.

Within the overall frame of the mammoth and human profile, another mammoth has been created by this artist. This mammoth has a trunk line etched into the stone and its head follows the head of the larger mammoth. The mammoth 'eye' element on the stone is also the optimal 'kill point' for a spear to penetrate the reindeer. 

The mammoth and human combination silhouette may be interpreted as "special framing" for the image of the reindeer in this case.

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