Discovered in 1866 as two separate pieces and acquired by the British Museum in 1887, the sculpture known as the 'swimming reindeer' depicts a male and a female reindeer with their heads up and legs extended, and was created at least 13,000 years ago. The sculpture is 22 cm long and was carved from mammoth ivory using stone tools, and then polished and engraved to add detail.
The naturalism of the representation is remarkable, conveying movement and displaying a hunter's knowledge of anatomy as we an clearly tell the sex of the reindeer, and see differences in the coats of the male and female.
The fragility of the connection between the two halves of the sculpture means that they do not form a practical object, as first thought, but instead a masterpiece of figurative art, although its real significance to the society that created it remains a mystery. Possibly designed to ward off bad luck, as a totem for a group or as the focal point of a myth, the swimming reindeer offers us a glimpse into an Ice Age society and allows us to discover an exciting and previously unexplored world of art.
This book details the discovery and dating of this extraordinary artefact as well as exploring the artistic techniques used to create it and its importance both then and now.