Neschers Antler

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.

1 thought on “Neschers Antler

  1. This is very interesting find because it the potential to give insight into the social aspect of early humans in France. I am wonder if they will be able to identify where humans being started doing artistic work. I mean it appears that in especially France the ability to create art was the greatest. I mean the antler is just one example, but even more impressively are the caves of Chauvet in Southern France. I assume that there appears to be a large quantity of artistic quality that comes out of France is the fact that the area must have been perfect conditions for humans to live in. I mean the weather and temperature had to stay relatively constant. There had to be plenty of hunting and the land had to be very welcoming when it came to crops. This availability of both crops and game meant that the early humans in France probably had excess amount of leisure time. I can only imagine how the first person that carved in the antler felt. I imagine he was just really bored after a full meal and looking for something to do.
    I wonder how early humans dealt with art. I mean art is very in the eye of the beholder. I guess that’s why early humans usually ended up drawing animals, something the whole tribe could relate to. I am wondering who was the first human to create art that was outside this realm and how the locals treated it. Since art is in the eye of the beholder it was be quiet interesting.

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