Engraved rib

British Museum

British Museum

Small works of art made on bone, antler, ivory and stone are common during the Upper Palaeolithic. They show in miniature the same animals and techniques of drawing and composition as may be seen in the many cave paintings of this period. This example is made on an animal rib bone. Although both ends were broken in antiquity, the engravings of reindeer and ibex remain clear. All the animals face left. The heads on the left and at the centre have clearly engraved antlers and are both reindeer. The left head is filled in with dots, a frequent shading or decorated motif at this time, whereas the central animal is shaded to show the natural line of its face and neck. Between, and in perspective behind these two, is an ibex with its longer hair and goatee beard clearly shown. On the right is another reindeer without antlers. Both reindeer and ibex were hunted for food and raw materials.

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  • Title: Engraved rib
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 113.00mm; Width: 22.00mm; Thickness: 5.00mm; Weight: 19.20g
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Subject: mammal
  • Registration number: Palart.505
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Courbet Cave
  • Period/culture: Upper Palaeolithic
  • Material: bone
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Lastic Saint-Jal, Louis Marie de