Vogelherd Cave

After talking about and looking at the small, carved horse figurine in class, I decided to look  into where it came from and how it was made. The horse was discovered in the Vogelherd cave in Stetten, Germany by a German archaeologist Gustav Riek in 1931. It is the earliest sculpture of a horse known to man thus far.  It is now one of the most well know artifacts created by early man during the Aurignacian period. The horse measures only 4.8 cm. long and is 2.5 cm. tall with a width of 0.7 cm and is estimated to be 32,000 to 31,000 years old. It is carved from the the ivory of a mammoth’s tusk and is thought to represent an aggressive stallion because of its curved neck. There are many engraved symbols and shallow cross marks on the horse’s neck, back, and left chest that are assumed to represent hunter signs or killing points. Only the head has been perfectly preserved; the width has been reduced due to the flaking of the ivory and the legs have fallen off. The figurine is now located at the Museum Schloss Hohentübingen in Tübingen, Germany.

Vogelherd cave, where the horse was discovered, is located about a kilometer northwest of Stetten, Germany at the edge of Lone Valley. The caves cover an area of 170 square meters and is believed to have been a location for early humans to gather and eat after hunting. The Big Vogelherd cave is spacious and has three entrances, two that are large enough to walk upright through and one that is much smaller. The Small Vogelherd cave has one large entrance, but four meters in the ceiling drops down very low. The entrance is carved into the side of the rock giving it the appearance of bring invisible. It was discovered only after a badger dug up Stone Age artifacts while burrowing. The artifacts found in the cave range from Middle Palaeolitic period to modern times. The horse is only part of a larger collection of ivory figurines discovered which include a bison, lion, mammoth, panther, and a snow leopard.

The mammoth, another very well know artifact, measures 5.0 by 3.1 by 2.2 cm and is also carved from ivory. It has been identified to be an adult, male mammoth due to the detail carvings of its bulky head. Just like the horses legs, the mammoth’s trunk was broken off from the sculpture. It also has many of the shallow cross marks along its sides and back.