One of the first discoveries of Stone Age art is a 14,000 year old reindeer antler with an engraved horse from Neschers in France. This specimen of archaeology was discovered in the 1800s and has been kept in the Natural History Museum.The antler was found between 1830 and 1848 by a local village priest named Jean-Baptiste Croizet. Scientists are reporting today on how it was made and its importance.
It is known that the engraving of the horse was made by modern people near the end of the last ice age. There was no doubt that the stone age people were not only hunter-gatherers, but skilled artists and technicians as well. Since the Neschers antler was found in 1800s, the significance of its discovery went unrecognized at the time. Also in the 1800s there wasn’t much known about the early history of humans or Neanderthals.
The Neschers Antler has traveled to many museums. It was first placed in the Natural History Museum,then to the British Museum in 1848. In 1881, the antler was moved to a new building in South Kensington. A year later the antler was on display and put in a Museum gallery guide, but its great importance was still not recognized. It wasn’t until 1989 when it was rediscovered by by a mammal curator named Andy Currant and it was placed in secure storage. But it still was ignored and forgotten until an audit of possible worked bone and antler in the fossil collection began in 2010-2011. This is when the Nescher antler’s scientific importance became apparent over 160 years after its discovery.
Professor Chris Stringer, who is part of the research team, says: “The remarkable story of this forgotten specimen shows how careful study and detective work can belatedly give an important relic the significance it deserves.”
Results from a micro-CT scanner and 3D microscopy has revealed evidence that the antler had been prepared before being carved. The Museum scientists could see how the creator made an incision and then repeatedly scratched it to enlarge the engraving. The team could also tell that the horse’s head and body were carved out first and the other features were added afterwards. It’s nice because these methods of study are non-destructive and can be used to identify one ancient artist’s work from another one.
Researcher Dr Silvia Bello, lead author on both studies says, “The use of micro 3-Dimensional technologies allows for a more objective evaluation of the metrical characteristics of an engraving, thus facilitating the quantification, rather than the mere description, of the technical procedure adopted.”
Finally the 14,000 year old Neschers Antler is getting attention that it deserves in the Archaeological world.